By Wes Annac, Openhearted Rebellion
Alright. I’ve published my first blog post in a looooong time; a post expressing to my readers that despite my long absence, I’m ready to reignite the creative spirit and get back to blogging. It was a heartfelt post explaining where I’ve been, where I am in life right now, and what I intend to do with this desire to express myself through the undeniable power of the written word. Now that I’ve built up all this momentum, it’s time for blog #2. To quote one of my favorite YouTubers – let’s just jump into it!
Now that I’m finally getting back in the swing of things, it’s leading me to question what I want from writing. What benefit will I get from it? How can I use it to help or inspire those poor unfortunate souls who’ve been searching for an interesting blog, only to be led to me of all people?
As an art form and a therapeutic tool, writing can help us work through difficult problems in life and in our relationships. It’s similar to how exercise can free up space in the mind for us to think clearly and rationally about said relationships, or anything causing unnecessary stress. If we let it, that stress will build and build until, in my case, it erupts in an explosion of suppressed rage that – let’s be honest – nobody wants to be around.
For men, sensitivity and expression are considered weakness. Men are discouraged from feeling and expressing our emotions because that’s what girls do!
Don’t be a pansy. Quit whining about your feelings; get out there and work. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and provide, like a man is supposed to do. This generation has become so weak…
This attitude is a relic of a time in which segregation, homophobia, and countless other social ills were believed to be normal. It sadly leads to suppressed emotions and abusive behavior toward oneself and others. This suppression can create mood disorders in men who are never given the space nor compassion to know that it is okay to be sad, to talk about why you are sad, and even to cry.
I won’t pretend this only affects men. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s focus on how it creates a dysfunctional adult male by fostering a false sense of bravado reinforced by a society stuck in the past. Men are expected to be strong; letting your feelings out is considered a sign of weakness that someone “manlier” can exploit to take what you have. It’s as if we’re expected to be in a constant war with each other at the expense of good mental health and emotional maturity.
It’s no surprise that this leads men to suppress our emotions – and especially our trauma – creating a shitstorm of emotional immaturity that regularly erupts onto the people in our life. Here’s a radical idea: maybe we men should stop covering our loved ones in our emotional shit. Just maaaaybe, we should get professional help with all the heavy feelings our social norms have taught us to suppress.
We’re living in a time in which rights for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks are on the chopping block. This, combined with the general behavior of men for the past – well, forever – does not make us cisgender males look too great. For good reason, women and non-binary folks are rising up against the patriarchal standards that have dominated America since this country’s inception. Why not join the rising tide of change by confronting everything in us that makes our gender notoriously toxic?
In my opinion, the only way to do this is to open up to our emotional side, however feminine it may seem. Despite the many setbacks we’ve encountered, times are changing. We are looking forward to a world in which men can express the full range of human emotion and experience. We could continue to live as cave people with no real emotional depth, or we can open ourselves to aspects of the human experience from which we’ve been programmed to run far away.
For me, this is where writing comes in. It is an outlet for me to say all the things men are not supposed to. I can write all the fluffy spiritual stuff some of you have come to expect from me. I can express my joy at the beauty of nature or share photos of flowers from my back yard, or of a sunset. Most importantly, I can, and probably will, write about some complex emotional issue I may be going through in that moment. It doesn’t matter if my words come across as strong or masculine.
I discovered during the pandemic that I love to work out. I will never be as obsessed as some people, but by my standards, I am dedicated. I do it nearly every day because I have to. If I don’t, then my mind will start playing tricks on me or I’ll be too restless to function. While there is no substitute for real therapy with a professional; exercise has become a form of personal therapy, and boy, does it work. I can get through my heavy feelings by lifting heavy things. That may sound like toxic masculinity, but the beauty of working out, as well as writing, is that it lets me work through my aggression so I can be a better male and a better overall human.
Without writing and working out, I risk reverting to a toxic version of myself.
Another motivating factor for me to pick up the pen is the thought of using my art to bring awareness to meaningful social/political causes. Though you might not know it based on what little of my politics I’ve shared in this space; I don’t always jive with the left. I am more in the center. Liberals have adopted many causes I care about, and to be fair, conservatives push me further to the left with just about everything they do these days. But I don’t try to lean left. I care about issues that affect the poor and working class, as well as disenfranchised people of every color and creed. If I write about anything political, I always try to approach it from this angle.
If enough people read my posts, it would essentially give me a megaphone to put attention on causes people might not know or care about until they read a fresh perspective. I’m not out to change anyone’s mind, but if I can encourage someone to take a more empathetic approach to an issue that affects a lot of people, then I’ve done my job.
I’ve always admired artists and musicians who can raise awareness without standing on a soapbox and preaching. Plenty of creators – famous or otherwise – have led me to change my mind on an issue I didn’t fully understand. I’d like to be there for others in a similar way – again, if not by changing their minds, then by encouraging a little more kindness, compassion and sensibility in their thinking.
Though I see writing as a tool for raising awareness and spreading positivity, it is also an effective way to explore the darker side of being human. Let’s be honest: everyone is struggling. It’s hard to be a person in this world. Try as we might to survive and salvage a little happiness; we’re all dealing with varying degrees of stress, anxiety, and depression. We crave acceptance but don’t always get it. Even when people treat us well, our own brains can create so much stress and drama that it makes our very existence unbearable. Sometimes, we just need someone to listen to us or a pillow to scream and cry into. Or we need to experience art from a creator who shares our pain and can offer a little relief.
I’m fortunate to have people I can turn to when life gets tough. I also have this outlet, which lets me express myself in any way my heart desires. I can share joy or get out some seriously heavy feelings if need be. I can start on a blog post that never makes it to print, simply because the things I write are too personal to share with the public. The point is that I get my feelings out. If I’m lonely, I can express that. If I’m angry about something in my life or in the world, nothing is stopping me from writing it down. It doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows; grey skies and dark clouds are just as valid. I can indulge whatever thoughts and feelings I want as I put pen to paper. In this way, writing is freedom.
When I do manage to sit in front of the computer, I’m instantly reminded of why I wanted to write in the first place. If I can manage to organize my thoughts and keep my mind from running wild, I can produce a string of words that may not be great by other writers’ standards – but it makes me feel like I have potential. The mere act of writing affirms there is a part of me that really wants to do this for a living. The allure of a successful life funded by my independent creative work should be enough to keep me coming back every day, but if a part of me didn’t love to write, then making a living from it wouldn’t be enough. What matters is the satisfaction it gives me.
As I brainstorm what to share in this blog space, I realize there is limitless potential. I can write whatever I want, and I can approach the act of writing in whatever way suits me. I can research and share interesting information, try to make something entertaining, or get out my heavy feelings when they overwhelm me. I can and will continue to encourage empathy while bringing awareness to issues that reflect a clear need for compassion in society, but I’d like for it not to be all preachy or guided by personal philosophy. No matter what I end up making, the important thing is that I show up every day. I appreciate all of you who continue to show up, too.