Published in Issue #6 | AUTUMN 2016

R a c h e l To a l s o n

Maybe we’ve been expecting it for far too long, this stoicism. This bravery. This “everything will
be alright” as long as you can act like it will be.

You sit on your great white horse, holding on for dear life, like the knight, like the savior you are, and every time we have a problem, or every time we feel bent, or every time we are afraid, it is to you we look. We pressure, and we expect, and we define what cannot, in fact, be defined. We
don’t let you feel what you need to feel, and we don’t permit you to walk through the depths of depression and come out on the other side, and we don’t invite you to share what’s hidden in your heart, because it’s scary, and it’s dangerous to see someone who’s supposed to be strong act so weak and vulnerable. What do we do with it?

We pretend it doesn’t exist. We expect you to solve all the problems, not be the problem, and it’s too much, too much, too much for anyone, especially you, brothers. I know why you’ve tripped into a place where you cannot stand vulnerable, because that vulnerability pushes your sisters away. It makes your wives uncomfortable and it makes your daughters afraid, and no man wants that, does he? You must be the pinnacle of a superhero, and you must be able to handle everything and you must have all the best ideas for how to lead a family and how to support their livelihoods and how to pick up the pieces when the whole damn world has fallen apart.

And what about when you can’t?

Well, then you feel like less of a man.

Maybe it’s your sisters who have made you feel like less of a man, or maybe it’s your fellow brothers, but it doesn’t really matter who’s done it, because we’re not pointing fingers here. The only thing that matters here is the what, because it’s only when we can point out the problem and speak freedom over the chains, breaking them for good and forever, that you can begin to find your feet again.

Tweet “You know what, brother? It’s okay to fall off your white horse.”

I know you’ve been told all your life that crying is just for sissies and that showing who you really are at your greatest depths is just for pussies and that doing what it is you dream of doing is for men who are not really men at all. But the truth is, the best thing you can do is fall off your white horse and land in the mud and dirt and let it cake your face, and stand up, face to face with the people of your world, and say, I need help washing this off. Because then we’re able to help you to your feet. Then we’re able to get your boots unstuck from the mud. Then we’re able to walk you back home.

And if you don’t fall? The mud will still find you, except this time it will be quicksand, and it will close over your heart and your arms and your head, and you will be only a small shell left, writhing in bed, or writhing while you walk, trying to hide what you think is your weakness, because you don’t want the world to see you, since they won’t understand. You will implode, but you will not even show it, because showing your implosion would mean proving you’re less of a man.

The truth is, saviors sometimes need to be saved. Heroes sometimes find themselves in a whole lot of trouble and need a little help. You don’t have to pretend that everything is okay, and you don’t have to push those emotions down into a deep, dark place where they threaten to explode another day at another time in another place. There is no shame in falling off your white horse. There is no shame in failing. There is no shame in showing your weakness. Because then you can show your real strength.

It’s a skewed world in which we find ourselves, where the definitions for strength and success and courage look so much different than they should. What is true strength but unveiling the dark parts of your heart, the fears you hold, the sadness you carry, the anger that simmers to nearly boiling? What is true success but the recovery from failure, time after time after time? What is true courage but the ability to say This is who I am and I am unashamed and unabashed, and I don’t care what you think?

But these are not the attributes that the world celebrates in its men, and it has you bending, cracking, splitting clean apart with the pressure it takes to “just be a man.”

When I was a girl, I watched the world tell my brother what kind of man he needed to be. I watched it say that he shouldn’t cry, because this was not something men do, and if he ever wanted to be a man, he would have to nip that in the bud, he would have to close himself off to the things that could hurt him, he would have to deny that there was a part of him that fell into sadness, hard. But sadness turned inward is depression, and so it is that you, my brothers, find yourself drowning in the merciless waters of depression, and you can hardly lift your head, and you have walls all up and around, but they don’t work to dam the tide, no matter what, they just close you off from all the people around you, because it’s too risky to let them know this you.
But the thing about closing yourself off to the things that hurt you is that the more you love and the deeper you open yourself to love, the greater risk involved. You will get hurt if you love. It’s just a fact of life, and, sure, you can close yourself off to that but you will, essentially, push away love in its greatest manifestations. And it is not a life worth living if it is a life without love.

So go ahead. Fall off your white horse. My sisters and I will be there to help you back up. We will lend you a hand, and we will think nothing less of you. We will let you fall, and we will dust you off, and we will walk with you along the road to deeper understanding of who you are and who you were made to be.
This is, after all, love.


Laura Olsen

Houston, TX