Welcome to "Ask Joe," our RealJock advice column, written by our regular contributor, Joe Weston. Joe is a life coach, workshop facilitator, lecturer and peace advocate with a deep commitment to the possibility of individual personal fulfillment. Looking for some clarity on tricky issues in your life? Share what's on your mind with Joe—concerning work, personal awareness, love and romance, meditation and spiritual exploration, or just about anything else that's getting between you and your life goals.
Write to Joe:
Reaching Joe couldn't be simpler: just email your question to email@example.com. Your identity will be kept anonymous, but do note that questions may be edited for length and clarity.
I'm 26 and just got news that my grandfather isn't doing so well. Frankly, he's going and probably soon. I've had deaths in the family before, but either when I was very young or when I was in college and didn't really have time to focus on it. Now, with only my job and martial arts classes, I've had way more time to process this and it is hitting way harder than anything I could have imagined. Having mortality being shoved down my throat, knowing that the change will happen and realizing that nothing in life is guaranteed and that in the end we all die, I've started questioning everything that I am and everything around me.
I mean hell, I'm going to die someday and I have no clue when that is. So are my parents, friends and my cat (who is like my baby). One day, it'll all be gone and time will likely erase what marks may have been made... so I'm left asking what is the point of it all and how do we deal with the void that these losses bring with them? I'm not even sure what the point of my actions, challenges and achievements is. Between that and just not being sure what to think or believe anymore, I'm at a loss. At this point, I'm kind of taking some time away from people just because some days I can barely keep myself together... it's at the point that when I hear certain songs, it takes all the strength I have to hold myself back from breaking down and crying.
So at this point, I'm living day-to-day wondering what it all means. It's supposed to get better, but what can I do to bring some sense of value back in and make sense of this all? Is there anything other than time that will help heal?
—At a Loss
Hello Brother at a loss,
I am moved by your email. My father passed when I was 25 and I went through a similar process. I can now look back and see that it was one of the richest moments of my life. To be part of the dying process of someone so close to me was life-changing. And it seems like you are in a similar place. According to what you write, you are questioning everything that you have seen as true, and now see that some of it may not be. You are opening up to some major growth, healing and transformation. What a gift!
You say that you are living day-to-day and wondering what it all means. Well, brother, that is what spiritual seekers spend their lives trying to get to. And you have already achieved it! The way you are viewing life at the moment and the questions you are asking are exactly how one approaches a spiritual practice. It sounds like you are ready to find one that suits you, and begin your journey to discover who you truly are and what this universe is truly about. Congratulations!
You say that you practice martial arts. Great! Did you know that traditionally most martial arts were taught as a spiritual practice? At its core is the idea that the only way to reach enlightenment, or heaven, or your highest potential was to learn how to fight in order to defeat your only true “enemies”—your disturbing emotions, like fear, hate and grasping, and your false views, like prejudice and judgment. So, you have identified one of your own enemies—the part of you that says, “what’s the point?” and wants to give up. Well, use your martial arts techniques to defeat it! Defend yourself against its attacks and find a way to disarm it. I use this approach with my clients and with my students in my work with Respectful Confrontation. I see how they find ways to overcome obstacles and open to growth and personal freedom.
You say you are feeling the desire to withdraw. That is your soul asking you to go within to seek answers and not focus on the outside. Honor it. Ask yourself what you truly value and wait for the answers to emerge. I would also suggest you check out different spiritual paths and see what resonates with you. If you find someone at these centers to talk to, you may get different answers than what you are presently getting. Find other friends who also ask these questions. And let yourself feel!
One of the central themes of most Eastern traditions is the understanding that nothing is permanent. My understanding is that the more you can be at home in the fact that everything must change, the more peace and fulfillment you will find. So, use this time now to find your peace. And remember, like your grandfather, this feeling of hopelessness will also pass.
Many, many blessings to you and your grandfather, brother,,
I'm 54. Out for 32 years. Went through a lot of the usual playing and hurt during the younger years, and been trying to just stay away from all that as I've gotten older. I'm also HIV-positive for the past 12 years. I've been trying to put myself out there a little more in recent years as I've realized I'm not doing myself any good by remaining a recluse with just my cats. Got onto some of the websites, and finally met someone I've chatted with a few times that is closer to my age, seems to be ok with my status, and (as one of my prerequisites for myself) lives nearby... in fact within three blocks of me.
We finally met in person this past weekend. I really wanted to just meet and go from there, but, well, the sex did happen. He spent the whole weekend at my house, 12 hours of sex the first night (surprised myself, even), slept, etc. We did talk in between, it wasn't just sex. In fact, unfortunately I had some issues of erectile disfunction throughout. I could get erect, but I'm guessing some anxiety crept in. And I'd already told him with my meds I sometimes have difficulty. But, now I'm at a point where I haven't heard from him since he left.
After not putting myself through this for years, I'm kicking myself because I'm at a point again where I don't know whether to try contacting him again and seeming needy. Do I still call him and just figure that maybe he's been busy? Or, just let it go and figure he was being just a hornball?
This is why I stay home alone a lot and just masturbate.
Dear Coming Out
Thank you for sharing your story. You are one of many, many gay men who go through the same thing, and what you have done could be an inspiration for many. The hardest thing to do after isolating yourself is getting out there again. It ain’t easy. I find that one of the largest groups that add to the wounding of gay men is gay men. Without knowing it, we can be ruthless and insensitive to the needs and feelings of others. But you got yourself out there and you acquired what you were looking for. Do you hear that, all you men out there?
Now you are just going through what happens in the dating scene, gay or straight. Yes, you too have to go through the jitters, excitement, confusion and fun and torture of dating. Yes, it is awkward. Yes, you have anxiety that may result in temporary lack of getting an erection. This happens to all of us. The important thing is to ask yourself what you want. Do you want to call him again? Then do it. Did you like him? If so, then let him know that you would like to get to know him better. Take it slow, though. You may be ready to go full force, but he may not be.
If he doesn’t respond and cuts you off, then let him go and be grateful for the function he fulfilled in getting you out of the house and back in the game. You could say he was your “heart plumber” that came along to unclog your pipes. It is rare that an internet connection goes any further than a first date, or the desire for sex. If it does continue and the two of you live happily-ever-after, great.
I hope you can stay open and continue to reach out to make contact with others. Yes, it would be easy to stay at home by yourself and masturbate. That is safe. But if you think that is truly making you happy, then all you are doing is staying at home and jerking yourself around.
Take safe risks and live your life,
About Joe Weston: Joe Weston is an international workshop facilitator and personal life coach. Born and educated in New York, Joe lived in Amsterdam for 17 years and now lives in California. He is committed to helping others embody spirituality and supporting them on their journey towards personal fulfillment and empowerment. Joe brings a wealth of insight to his work based on many teachings, including Tai Chi Chuan and a variety of spiritual traditions—plus his experience in theater and various organizational trainings. He is currently writing a book entitled “Respectful Confrontation: the Path to Compassionate Engagement, True Power and Personal Freedom.” He also volunteers for the Liberation Prison Project, teaching Buddhism to inmates. To find out more about his workshops and his personal coaching, visit www.joeweston.com.
Joe leads lectures and workshops in Respectful Confrontation around the world. He regularly holds Respectful Confrontation Workshops in Oakland, Ca. He will also be leading RC Workshops in Texas in January: in Houston on the 15th, and in Austin on the 18th and 22nd. For more info, click here