THE BURNING MAN BLUES…
So…as you know on Friday’s I kind of talk about whatever happens to be on my mind…as it relates to being a better man of course.
Right now what’s on my mind is the fact that I am going to be a bachelor until next week, because my wife went to work at Burning Man. For those that don’t know what burning man is, its a huge art and music festival out in the middle of a dessert in Nevada. It’s huge…there are like 80,000 people out there.
For the past 12 or 13 years my wife has volunteered as a Ranger at Burning man. What the rangers do, is they are kind of an interface between the participants and law enforcement. They help keep people safe and the event running smoothly.
We went together last year and it was quite an experience. I couldn’t go this year because I’ve got too many things going on. So when she told me she was going to go, without me…it caused a little problem for me.
It was one of those moments when I had to check myself, I had to take a nice long hard look at myself and make sure of what I thought and felt about it, so that I could communicate it well…without causing more problems. In other words, it presented an opportunity for me to be a better man.
I told her I wasn’t happy about her going alone. Initially she assumed it was because I didn’t trust her or something but I quickly corrected that, because I trust her more than I have trusted anyone, ever.
I explained to her that the problem for me was that she is traveling outside of my bubble of protection. I feel personally responsible for her physical safety at all times and when she is away from me physically, in another town another state, surrounded by people that I don’t know…I can’t help her, she’s out of my reach, and that feeling makes me very uneasy.
She listened politely, and then said something like, she went there alone for years before she met me and she was fine, she knows how to take care of herself, and don’t worry.
So then I had to explain that my feelings in no way reflect my opinion of her competence. On the contrary I think she is brilliant, and extremely competent, and she knows how to deal with other people very well…but, believing all that doesn’t change how my protection bubble works. Her level of competence is irrelevant because the bottom line is that she weighs around 125 pounds…she’s an attractive woman, and there are a lot of very bad people in the world, and if anything were to happen to her I would feel responsible.
Now…a lot of guys in a similar situation would just put their foot down and forbid their wife from traveling outside of their protection. They wouldn’t “let” her go. I put the word let in quotation marks. I did that because I hate that word when it is used in a relationship.
Whenever I hear people say things like “My wife wouldn’t let me” or “My husband would never let me do that” it makes me cringe. It makes me cringe because these are adults talking about other adults. They don’t own each other.
If I respect my wife and believe her to be an intelligent, rational, responsible adult human being on the same par as myself, then I feel I should trust her to make decisions about her own life, even if I don’t agree with them. If I didn’t think she was all of those things, then I would not have married her in the first place.
In return, she gives me the same consideration. She never uses the word let with me, she trusts me, even when she doesn’t agree with me. I have never told my wife what to do or what not to do, and I never will. I expect the same treatment in return.
Instead, what we do is have conversations. We express our concerns, motivations and thoughts to each other in a calm respectful way…and we listen to each other. Sometimes that will have the other person change their mind of their own will.
Like if I want to do something and my wife expresses to me that she doesn’t like it, and tells me why, and how it makes her feel…there’s a good chance I won’t do it simply because I don’t want her to feel bad, I want her to be happy, and that usually matters more to me than the thing I want to do.
Sometimes though…like with this Burning man thing, the other person goes ahead with what they want to do anyway.
So we had our conversations, she heard my side. I explained my protection bubble philosophy to her until I was blue in the face, and she told me in the most loving way she could that she is going anyway.
So what does a better man do in this situation?
Well to be honest at first I got all moody and sulked around a little bit. But then I remembered to stop and take some inventory of myself. I started by remembering the things she had said in our conversations, she had told me a lot of things too…She told me how she feels obligated to perform this service, and to help the other rangers. She told me how it fulfills her, to do a good job that she knows is helping people. She explained all of the safety protocols that are in place and how she will always be surrounded by other rangers.
As I was doing this inventory I realized that by decided to go against my advice that she was giving me an opportunity to grow as a person, and a man.
She was right, after all…she will be extremely safe there. I had these irrational fears that she recognized as irrational, and it was uncomfortable admitting to myself that they were selfish on my part. I was thinking more about how I would feel if anything happened to her, I was really being concerned for myself.
Once I realized that, once I saw it for what it was…now I could make corrections. So I got behind her, I supported her, I helped her pack, I got tools and stuff that she needed and I sent her off on a happy note. Because I did that she is down there right now not having to worry about how I’m feeling, sh can do her job with peace of mind.
I always say we can’t fix things we don’t know are broken, I tell you to look in the mirror and take an honest look at yourself, find something thats wrong and then fix that thing. thats how you become a better man than you were yesterday, and I’m sharing this story with you because it’s an actual recent example of me doing just that. That is how it works.
Now I just have to deal with the fact that I’m not used to feeding myself. I threw my lunch together this morning because I almost forgot to make it at all, and I wound up with a banana, a cucumber and a string cheese…that’s it. I’m a little out of practice, but I’ll survive until she gets home.
Now head out into the world and always be looking for opportunities to be a better man today, than you were yesterday.