The Second Third, Week 30: Male Bonding

I’ve written a number of Second Third posts about the reasons I need to scale back my work hours and volunteer commitments, but this week drove it home, and gave me a new reason to seek better balance. The past few weeks have been intense at work — a number of major and important projects to bring to a close, a handful of goodbyes to colleagues leaving for new jobs in this time of transition, plus those of us accompanying my boss on his next adventure were supposed to be packing our offices for the move.

Add to that the start of soccer for two of our children, and of daily weightlifting for a third. Then layer on Albertville Friendly City Days this weekend — our KC council sponsors the softball tourney, the beer tent and the pedal-power tractor pull, and appears in the parade. (I have direct involvement with two of these events and at least some vested interest in the success of all of them.) Plus we are trying to organize the annual parish-wide weekend at Camp Lebanon and need to meet with our co-chairs. It’s no wonder I’ve come down with shingles (seriously).

I need to scale back for my family, for the new baby, for my bride, and for my future as a writer. And now I need to do it for my health. But last night, I realized I have yet another reason. I swung by a friend’s place to discuss the fact that I probably didn’t have time to hit the shooting range with him this weekend (and to ask if his family wanted to hand out candy in the parade). He was enjoying the Twins game in his garage, sipping a Summit India Pale Ale. He offered me one, but I was too tired already and had to be up early. We talked about shooting (no), retrieving a deer stand at his brother-in-law’s this weekend (maybe), and other things we ought to get on top of this summer. I told him something I’ve said many times over the past year: “We’re overcommitted. We’ve said ‘yes’ too much.”

“I know,” he said. “You do a lot. It’s good…and it’s bad.”

“It’s bad,” I said.

“You’re needed,” he said.

I don’t know for sure what he meant: needed by the people and organizations we work with and for, or needed by our friends we don’t see. But I know how I took it.

I’ve never had a lot of close male friends, because I’m not a sports nut or a partier; I don’t tell dirty jokes or golf; I don’t build much or have a motorcycle or anything. I love being married, dig my kids, and enjoy reading, writing, music, and faith.

Only now, living in “The Bubble,” I have men around be to whom I can relate, who are walking the same road with the same end in mind. And they like to hunt and fish and enjoy a good beer (and maybe even brew one). They love their wives and balance doting and discipline with their kids. I like these guys. And they deserve more than me swinging by their garage to say I can’t go shooting this weekend.

A while back, another friend was asked by a third if he had seen me around lately. “Nah, I haven’t seen him,” he said. “He’s probably at the church. They volunteer for everything.” That’s gotta change.

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