A little high school wisdom which works at any age

We rarely stop to really be mindful of where we are or who we are with.  Is the relationship you’re in worth it?  Is the job you have want you want to be doing, or is everything you are doing what is just expected of you because you demonstrated talent with a task or chemistry with someone?

The heart wants what it wants, folks.  If we listen to it, we can arrive at some interesting answers.

Here’s how I liken life sometimes.  It truly is like a high school dance because, honesty, the vast majority of us never outgrow our high school days.  Deep down, we still want to do what we wanted to do in high school, be it either the queen ruling, the jock being the boss, the stud being worshipped, or the nerd or geek just looking for acceptance.  That being said, here’s something to think about.

Forget all this “love yourself first” stuff.  That comes with time.  Instead, Forgive what you can’t do or haven’t been able to achieve and whose heart you won’t win.  Those things are beyond your control.  Next, focus on the matter at hand and think back.  In my case, I ask myself about when I used to help out on high school projects.  I was usually first in, last out, and always working, joking and laughing.  Above all, I was helping.  Whether it was showing someone how to do something, handling a repair, or simply offering a shoulder for a friend, I was helping.  Yes, I was loud, occasionally obnoxious, and high energy, but I was me.

When I look at my life I ask myself who was there with me.  Who was there at the beginning, helped with the tables, the drinks, keeping the energy high and everyone laughing?  Who was there with me?  Some of my friends would leave early, mostly because they were off to the next party or adventure.  Some of them had homework and studying.  Some of them stayed out to help clean up.  The last set were the ones I remembered most.

That’s when the real fun happened.  The deep conversations and connections.  We learned about each other, and we realized we weren’t all that different.  We all wanted to help.  We loved doing what we did and, despite an occasional complaint, we were grateful that we each stayed there to help clean up.  In the end, we almost always left together. 

That’s the yardstick I’m learning to measure my friendships by.  The ones who stay and clean up the mess, even when they have other things to do or places they’d rather be, they are the ones I know are always there.  If you have a handful of friends like that, count yourself as fortunate and take a moment out of your day to thank them.  You might be surprised how they react.

Male infertility: five things to consider

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Infertility in men is just as devastating as it is for a woman.

There are a great many things in this life I have struggled with in recent years, but none so difficult as my own infertility.  Based on my own personal struggle to square societal-driven notions of manhood against my inability bear children with the woman of my choosing, I’d like to offer up five profound struggles men who face infertility deal with on a daily basis.  There are a ton of websites out there supportive of the female end of the equation, but precious little for men.  I figured I’d offer my own insights and story, in the hopes it can comfort my brothers who are unable to help conceive.

  1. Constant feelings of inadequacy.  Men who are infertile face a fundamental problem in their lives, even if they put up a brave face about – we feel inadequate.  We live in a society where adoption is offered as an alternative, but it never completely substitutes for the feeling of joy  knowing a baby is on the way.  Also, for those fathers whose adopted children have so many mental and emotional scars from being in “the system,” being called “Dad” is often elusive, if it happens at all.  That leaves us with the trauma of feeling “close, but no cigar” on so many occasions. Yes, some men feel happy they don’t have children to tie them down, but many of us really would have loved the opportunity to have a family.
  2. “What did I do wrong?” A man who cannot conceive often has no clue why.  If it is something easily correctable, such as a blood vessel wrapped around the ducts leading from the testicular region, that’s one thing. In many cases, young boys suffer physical trauma at the hands of pediatricians who are either poorly skilled or, worse still, hostile towards the issues facing young boys.  For this reason, examinations of reproduction areas frequently cause damage which is either irreversible or requires extremely expensive and risky surgery.  No amount of herbal supplements, boxers, ice or fertility enhancement can make the testicles produce more sperm if they are either damaged or genetically abnormal.  This leaves a man who is clinically, not functionally, infertile wondering what could have been done differently.  The answer is, sadly, nothing.  It’s what it is, and it hurts deeply.
  3. A pervasive feeling of unattractiveness. Scientific studies have shown women emit more pheromones when fertile, making them more attractive due to their “Scent” among men.  There are very few studies done with men when it comes to fertility and attractiveness, but any man who knows he’s infertile will tell you this – we feel a distinct disadvantage in the dating and mating pool.  We could be the most physically and mentally attractive person on earth but, when it comes down to it, “missing out” on that one person we really care for will always raise that question in the back of our minds as to whether our inability to conceive is something a woman can sense.  It’s not uncommon, at least for me, to see a pregnant woman and be happy, but also wonder if I’m lacking something and that’s why I struggled socially growing up and into my early twenties.  Yes, it does affect confidence, and that can cause myriad issues for a man in today’s world well beyond relationships.
  4. Profound sense of loss. Losing the ability to bring new life into the world is more than just a death, it is the feeling of never being given the opportunity.   There is no way to compare it to the death of a living being because, rather than being able to bring that life into the world, the option was seized from a man before he even had a say in the matter.  Learning one is infertile can only be described as having a rite-of-passage stolen from under your nose in the night while you slept.  You wake up, and you know that, deep inside, you’ve lost something and there is absolutely no way to get it back.  Grieving requires constant support, and many simply do not know how, or lack the ability or patience, to offer that sort of support.
  5. Legal and moral dilemmas. Catholic Canon Law is specific – impotent and infertile men cannot be married.    Many states and other faiths allow for uncontested divorce by the wife if the man is found to be incapable of bearing offspring, and many women choose to divorce their husbands when they learn they cannot have bring life into the world.  To these individuals, adoption is not an option and for the men who love them, it’s a wound which cuts so deep, it’s often takes a lifetime to recover.  In a society which prizes nuclear families above all else (at least on the surface,) this sort of thing is like a thermonuclear device being set off within the psyche.