"Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred let me sow your love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love with all my soul."
- Excerpts from The Prayer of St. Francis
This work is dedicated to my father, Eugene Paul, a brilliant man who got lost somewhere along life's path, and died before realizing his dreams. My father was not a frequent church-going man, so I was surprised one day in his later years, to find the Prayer of St. Francis hanging on his wall. The words of this 12th century mystic offered my dad peace, and comfort, and became the words he aspired to live by.
My father was a traditional man. I guess you could call him a "man's man". For most of his life he embraced more traditional views on men's and women's roles. Man provider. Woman homemaker. He chose to forego his own dreams at an early age in favor of supporting his wife and children by staying in a job he didn't enjoy very much.
There was an emptiness deep within my dad's soul that he couldn't quite seem to fill. Ultimately it was this emptiness that swallowed him up. He died of a heart attack at the age of 62.
My father and I had a complex relationship. The softness of my feminine nature, coupled with my fierce determination to make my own way in the world, served to create a strong an interesting connection between the two of us. From time to time the innocence and sweetness of my little girl nature, was able to pierce the veil of his gruff exterior, causing him to reveal his softer side. It was during these moments that I was able to catch glimpses of the depth of his longing, his pain, and his heart. As tough as my dad could be at times, he was my hero.
I learned much from observing my dad. I learned that his tough exterior often served as a mask, hiding feelings and yearnings that he wasn't quite sure how to manage. I learned that he believed that by criticizing someone you helped better prepare them to be strong and not be taken advantage of. I learned that my dad didn't always know the best way to make people feel comfortable around him, particularly at work. And, I learned that somewhere along the way my dad made the tough choice of providing for his family, instead of pursuing his dream, and this created a big hole in his heart.
Being vulnerable was not easy for my dad. He had a tough time touching the tender places inside himself. He and my mom never learned how to console and hold each other through life's twists and turns. They never found comfort in one another's arms.
Sometimes my dad would open up to me. But being vulnerable scared him. He couldn't bear touching the sadness inside. He simply wasn't able to bear the pain. After expressions of vulnerability he would often quickly close back up, and find some reason to be angry at me to push me away. But I knew that he cherished our connection and that he truly loved me.
My dad found solace in nature. It was in the solitude of the natural world that he felt at peace; that he felt at home. It was in the natural world that he found respite.
Two years before he died my dad had his first heart attack. This served as a wake up call which prompted him to retire and travel the countryside. During the last two years of his life my dad learned much about himself and life's delicious mysteries. Traveling helped him learn to open his heart more fully to other people. He came to appreciate their uniqueness, and ultimately seemed to make peace with his own. He finally engaged in a deep exploration that transformed his views on life and honored the wanderlust in his soul. They were a good two years.
I often wonder how different his life would have been if my dad would have opened his heart sooner, and learned to how to better tap into his genius, honor the longings of his soul, and create a solid and lasting love in his life.
My dad's life story serves as the inspiration which has ignited my passion to partner with men to help them tap into their inner wisdom and discover how to passionately live into their dreams AND create partnerships that truly feed their soul. I am honored to work with, and learn from, the incredible men who are willing to dive into this work.
To these men I would like to say, I honor you. I respect you. And I deeply admire the courageous work you are doing and the choices you are making to honor your wisdom, genius and the longings of your soul. Thank you for allowing me to accompany you for a brief period of time on your journey of self-discovery.
I deeply honor the hero in you!
Dr. Jeanne Michele