The Masculine Diaries Day 4

He eased open the sliding glass door leading outside to his back stoop, stepped out, sat down, and breathed in the gathering dusk. He looked down at his calves, certainly not the cannonballers he’d dreamed of long ago. He’d actually looked into calf implants while at college, not seriously but curiously. That was a time in his life when the bodybuilding lifestyle was front and center, he spent hours in the gym bang clanging the iron. He quite literally built himself into a certain kind of man in those days, the residue of which remained described by words like pain, suffering, sweat, grit, strength, accomplishment. The thought of calf implants now made him chuckle. They would have been a mistake, for they would have been a shortcut. They were not earned. Without suffering, there can be no art.

An arrow of ducks shot over his head—low, clean, almost bat-like in the growing darkness. They would be headed for the creek just below the railroad tracks. Ducks always caused him to recall Jim Dodge’s classic fable Fup. A friend loaned him the slim volume years ago, said This reminds me of you. He read it, loved it, and it did remind him of himself and he was glad his friend came to the same conclusion. He had wondered which character his friend saw the most in him, whether Granddaddy Jake, or his grandson Tiny, or Fup Duck (yeah, say that fast three times). Of course, his friend may have seen a little of each of the characters in him, which was no doubt closer to truth of things. He’d learned that rather than being this or that, most things were a little of both, at times even a lot of both.

As he watched the ducks make their dusky sorties toward the creek’s surface, he thought about the marriage counseling session from the day before. He and his wife had agreed they were stuck in some places, needed another set of eyes and ears to help them, hopefully, get unstuck. A mutual friend said Aw, I think you two just need a tune-up. You should meet with Lee and Laura. Although marriage counseling via Zoom was less than preferred, they did have some open spaces in their stay-at-home days, as apparently did Lee and Laura. So they set it up, and started one afternoon in early April. At Laura’s encouragement, they used the same computer on the Zoom call, sitting actually quite close to one another so both their faces could fit on the screen. Oddly enough, he’d felt a little less stuck simply sitting that snug with his wife for ninety minutes. And while the first few sessions did indeed feel promising to him, yesterday’s time felt of something different altogether.

For some reason the session was punctuated by de—as in words that either began with those two letters or had those two letters imbedded so it was still the major sound he heard. As the session started, Lee and Laura said they believed they needed to Destory certain facets of their marriage, edit out pieces that weren’t working and write anew. At first he thought he heard destroy (his wife did too) but Lee was quick to clarify: No, destory. Lee and Laura had two destorying exercises they prompted them with which seemed okay he guessed, as he’d never destoryed before. But then out of nowhere, or rather in the middle of their destorying attempt, Lee addressed him bluntly and asked if he’d ever had suicidal ideations. Wha?! The question was a semi-showstopper, but also, there was that sound again. Do you mean have I ever thought about committing suicide? His wife knocked her knee against his. She knew he hated it when anyone in any profession used big words, but especially anyone in the helping professions. Lee clarified: Yes, that is what I mean. So, have you? He said No, I can honestly say I’ve never thought about it. Lee went on to wonder aloud if there were possibly places where he was in denial (Ack—that sound again!) and that those places might have something to do with what they had called “the stuckness in their marriage.” Laura redirected to destorying, and while his wife seemed to recover, his mind had gone off the rails by then and stayed off for the remainder of the session. Relief was the overriding emotion when he finally clicked leave meeting. Even his wife commented That was strange.

He thought about that session as he sat and watched the ducks. He thought about the de sounds he kept hearing. He thought about destorying, which after Lee and Laura explained it he could understand but upon further reflection thought sorta sad when it came to marriage. Destorying might end up destroying if one wasn’t very, very careful. He thought about Lee’s suicide question, and while he believed he wasn’t immune to such ideas creeping into his life, he’d sure never had any, ever. And while he had blind spots, no question, the word denial felt different than that, like intentional sidesteppings of vital somethings that might be gumming up the works of their marriage. He’d give Lee and Laura another try, maybe yesterday everything was just off, as some days are, a little of both this and that. But as he stood up to stretch, raising up high on his slim but dutiful calves before going back inside, he agreed with himself that session with Lee and Laura was fup duck.

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  1. abby on May 24, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    “Without suffering, there can be no art.” truth.

    praying for you and yours .

  2. Annie B on May 24, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Fup duck is pretty much what I would be thinking still and am.

  3. Roslyn Bourgeois on May 24, 2020 at 11:41 pm

    I’m not coupled, but I believe I have been “ Destorying “ in my own life these past few years And it doesn’t feel good

  4. Laura Anne DeFilippo on May 25, 2020 at 5:47 am

    So Beautiful…

    and funny. Thankful for the humor.

  5. Susan Awes on May 25, 2020 at 7:31 am

    John, this has left me with reason for pondering and conversation. First thought is that the painful episodes which might need “destorying” turn out to be the crucibles of personhood.

  6. Nate on May 25, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Keep writing please and thanks.

  7. Marilyn on May 25, 2020 at 11:41 am

    If it was me, yeah.
    It may be Fup Duck.
    I may not willingly show up again,
    but I’d sure be wanting to know why it provoked me so much.

    And just as soon as I was done
    being so po’d….I’d set to thinking on that,
    pull out fresh journal.
    What part of my identity took a hit there?
    First sentence.

    • Marilyn on May 25, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      Not suggesting he isn’t justified to be po’d. Just saying there’s something in paying attention to why. I know why I’d be, but each person has their own reasons, and they are worth knowing.

  8. Diana Trautwein on May 25, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    I hope he says EXACTLY what the question and the accusation did to him at that next session. Sounds like a shot-in-the-dark question that should not have been asked and the accusation?? Completely shuts down any opp for openness, which should be the goal of such a session. At about year 26 of our 54 we did about 18 months of counseling. Ended it for exactly such reasons – inappropriate assumptions and shut-down questions. I had been in therapy for a year or more and have remained with that therapist ever since. There is a HUGE spectrum of ability/skill/giftedness in this field. We all need help talking to one another from time to time, and empty-nesting time is one of those seasons. Get better therapists or read a good book together. Walter Wangerin’s is a classic. I do agree that the whole conversation should spark some serious thinking and talking, but wow.

    • Marilyn on May 25, 2020 at 1:24 pm

      Yes, let Lee know, absolutely. I don’t mind Lee asking the question or clarifying the question, since clarification was asked for. But to muse about whether someone is in DEnial is to accuse them of being either a liar or not self-aware. Best counselors I’ve known have asked questions and left those questions with me to consider. If I come back and call it DEnial, that’s a different story.

      (Diana, your sentence “Get better therapists or read a good book together” is a great sentence.)

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