Emotions. Vulnerability. Embracing hurt, pain and grief. These are things that have been taught to certain men and generations of men to hide and tuck away. Being emotional or showing emotions is feminine. Men don’t cry. Who wants to see a man cry? It’s weak. I’m sure you’ve heard these sayings and statements before. I know I have.
Being brought up around a copious amount of women was my normality. Emotions and openness flying around me on a constant basis. I loved it and it really opened me up. It forced me to not close myself off to people and emotions. I allowed life experiences to fully envelop me. My mother was everything to me – she was the benchmark of life and how people should be, an example for me to follow. She taught me what love was, she was my first love and it’s a love that I’m always secretly chasing because she’s not here on this earth anymore. I miss her in so many ways that randomly manifest themselves to me at various stages in my life. I miss her love. Her stability. Her closeness. The way she eased my worries and fears. It’s hard to fully comprehend and put into words what my mother meant to me, but she meant more than what I have expressed so far. I can’t do her justice. I try my best to keep her legacy going to give her and myself a sense of pride – I try to do things that would make her proud and sometimes I fall short, but at least I’m trying.
After my mother passed away, my normality was taken away and I had to grow up without her – without my constant. Externally, I had it all worked out in the short term. Be respectful and do her justice at her funeral and uphold her good example and show love to everyone, especially my family who felt distant to me at the time (showering me with money and not love). Keep focusing on my education and pursuing that (we had an education plan that we put together to help me visualize my future and what needed to be done to achieve certain things). Live with my aunt and enjoy spending time with my cousins. But I couldn’t predict that life would throw in so many things to test me, make me lose control and mess me up. Life got very real without my mother around. I was scared, fearful and so vulnerable. I was bullied by my cousin. He also threatened me at knifepoint. He thought I was trying to take his girl. He sold my TV and clothes for drug money. I also got mugged twice. I got cheated on twice from the same woman who took my virginity. That heartbreak sent me to counseling. I didn’t know myself, I was naive – I thought everyone was nice because that’s all I knew with my mother. I had no one to truly comfort me at any of those times and other future times. I tried to confide in friends to advise, listen and help me (a reason why a lot of my friends are family to me). I had no one else.
Internally, I was a mess. I lost my way. I had no emotional direction. I turned my emotions off. Short tempered, confused, in pain, still grieving, dealing with so much hurt. The problem was that I kept numbing myself to everything that was happening in my life. I tucked away feelings and emotions and never fully dealt with them. I became the type of man that didn’t cry, especially in public. I always stopped myself from crying and always stopped myself from showing open emotion when things got too deep. I bottled everything up so that I didn’t have to deal with it. It wasn’t healthy but it allowed me to cope and move forward on the outside.
It’s been such an internal life struggle for me to be openly emotional and vulnerable. Not having my dad around and the circumstances surrounding that didn’t help me either. From 1985 to 2013, I had no dad. He wasn’t here, he wasn’t around, he was so absent. Trying to explain what that can do to an already emotionally unstable man is so hard to do. I can’t hug or talk to old photos. There’s a barrier, there’s no way to build an emotional bond, no way to physically bond with my dad and do “dad things” with him. The thing is that he never even came back to see me or my mother. He stayed in Iran and made a life for himself, marrying again and building his own family unbeknownst to them that he already had a family in London. I struggled with all of this growing up. I tried to make sense of it, it never worked. I was angry and frustrated at him, I saw him as a sperm donor. My gradual maturity, faith and growth allowed me to change that view to something more understanding where I tried to see things from his point of view whilst understanding the circumstances he was in and also hearing the good things about him as a man from people he encountered. In order to heal, I had to move past the anger and frustration because at the end of the day – he’s the only father I have. I love him no matter what. When I found him, it was a relief that happened to me at the right time and it allowed me to grow and truly move forward emotionally and tie up some loose ends. I wish I could have more of a relationship with him and my two younger half-sisters, but it’s something that I’m not allowed due to the circumstances of me being the secret he has never told anyone about in his family. But I’m okay with this as finding my father and my half-sisters has been such a blessing to me – a sense of clarity that I can talk to my wife and daughter about. I can talk openly about my dad and be fine. My mind has peace and understanding. And after the internal emotional mess, my mum’s passing put me in – I’m so glad that I’ve got to that place especially for the sake of my daughter as I’m healed and I can give her my all in every sense of the word.
Because of this, I’ve been able to talk things out in the open with people (as well as in my poetry book). Information, emotions, sensitive things, vulnerable things that I was scared to release out into the world. In life, I’ve been blessed with some amazing people in my life that I needed at certain points to get me through the madness I call my life. However in recent times with this new maturity, wisdom and emotional awareness – God has really upped the ante with the people I’ve had. I’ve been blessed with people who have made it easier for me to open and pour out my heart, to truly embrace my emotional side, and to openly cry out my hurt and pain and feel no shame. People who have helped me to not always bottle up my feelings and store it away for later. Even as recently as this week, I talked to my work colleague and my dad came up in conversation. A moment of realization came because this person just expressed that my mindset and thinking is so mature and that my understanding of the situation and my father is admirable in terms of not a lot of people coming to such peace. I thank God for that. He made me like this. I just never thought about it like that. I just did what was right in my mind. I went to my car, played the song Illusion of Bliss (the scream and the last 2 minutes of that song make me so emotional) by Alicia Keys and just cried all the way home copiously. I couldn’t stop. I cried for my mum and I really cried for my dad and I cried out in gratitude to God for bringing me so far. I’m embracing crying out my hurt and pain, because there’s years of it bottled up. I’ve already cried more in 2017 than I have in 2015 and 2016 combined.
I tell you this because without getting through and over all of this, I wouldn’t be the man, friend, husband, adviser, listener, mentor, author and father you see before you today. Everyone benefits from this, especially Lily. I can’t be the father that my daughter deserves without sorting myself out first and dealing with my own issues. I don’t want to be passing that down to Lily. She doesn’t deserve that. If I’m here for her, I have to be present in all senses of the word. I’m starting to feel whole again and it feels good to say that.
Men, be in touch with your emotions – everyone around you will thank you for it. All your relationships and friendships will naturally be richer. It will make you a better dad with even more awareness. It may be scary but it’s worth it.