MenWeb - Men's Voices Magazine

A Letter of Resignation

Copyright © 1997 by Jim Bracewell

WebMaster, Men's Resource Network. Founder, Orlando Men's Council and Florida Men's Gathering

This article appears in Vol. 1 #1 (Winter 1998) of Men's Voices Magazine.

Brothers,

As a young boy, I remember feeling inadequate, unworthy, unintelligent and alone. It always appeared to me that everyone else had it all figured out. They seemed to know where they were going and how to get there. I almost felt like I was an alien who had crashed landed on earth and didn't have a clue about what was going on.

As I physically grew into manhood, I encountered the usual expectations that our society holds for men who strive to be "real men." Don't cry, show fear or admit to uncertainty about anything. If you have an emotion, don't talk about it. Acquire success: good job, money, possessions and beautiful women. Once again I felt inadequate, unworthy, unintelligent and alone. Clueless and filled with shame.

I don't believe now that I was born that way. I believe that I learned to feel that way from the way I was treated by my family and the other adults that I encountered in our society as I grew up. I rarely felt that the world was a safe place for me to be in. I thought that it was somehow my job to make it safe for every one else. And I tried to do that by becoming a nice guy! You know… one of those guys who apologizes if you step on his foot.

It took a near death experience with cocaine and a romantically addictive relationship to make me realize that an equally important part of my job as a man is to make the world safe for me too. I needed to become the authority for my own life. I needed to get a life!

I embarked out on a painful yet healing journey with a therapist who literally loved me into self-love and allowed me to find my own path. She would not allow me to speak badly about my self. She encouraged me to discover my own voice and my own path, having faith all along that it would be a strong voice and a true path.

With the help of therapy, 12-step recovery programs, hundreds of self-help books and tapes, dozens of workshops and seminars, and a new world of wonderful friends, I began to find my voice and my own path.

In the process I discovered what some call the men's movement(s). It has proven to be one of the most important discoveries in my life. I have had the opportunity to meet and in some cases become friends with some of the leaders of the movement. My involvement with these loving men inspired me in the creation of the Orlando Men's Council, the Florida Men's Gathering, the newsletter MEN ALIVE AND WELL! and The Florida Men's Resource web site. My involvement has been a rite of passage that has allowed me to finally, at the age of 56, become and feel like a man. I have learned to love being a man.

In 1989, I attended the First National Men's Movement Leadership Conference in Minneapolis sponsored by Wingspan magazine. The Orlando Men's Council grew out of that experience. I also met Robert Bly for the first time.

I conceived the idea for the participant-led Florida Men's Gathering in 1991 while returning from the First National Men's Conference in Austin, Texas with my friend Peter Carlson. The format was borrowed from a similar gathering in New England and given a local flavor by the involvement of the men who helped organize it.

The First Florida Men's Gathering, in 1992, was a one day men's council and discussion session with John Lee. Subsequent Florida Men's Gatherings were planned and facilitated by a group of loving, dedicated men who sacrificed their time, money, and energy to bring about a once a year weekend event. No one is paid for this effort. No one claims to be an expert in what we are doing. We all learned by doing and sharing. It is a labor of love. I wish to extend my undying gratitude to all of those men.

Before the gathering started this year, I was having some nagging doubts about my ability to lead this gathering any further. My area of strength, in my opinion, is in the commitmment, networking, planning and logistics. At the opening ceremony I felt uncomfortable and unfocused. I lost my concentration several times and forgot to say some of the things that I needed to tell the participants. I didn't feel as present and connected as I have in the past. I was also worried about communicating with the young men who were attending for the first time.

When I went home I started thinking about where we were going from here. I mentally made an inventory of the last 9 years of my life. I tried to honestly look at all aspects of my involvement..

When the Orlando Men's Council started seven years ago, it was a large local monthly men's gathering with 60-70 men at each event. Fourteen men were on the planning committee that met two weeks before each council meeting. Over a three year period, attendance slowly dropped until we finally had to cancel the monthly meeting.

At one time we incorporated the Council but it cost more money than we could afford and no one had the expertise, time, or desire to take responsibility for filing the paperwork required to become a non-profit organization. Eventually the Orlando Men's Council existed only in name and my unwillingness to let it go. This has left me exposed to any liability that might arise.

At the last Florida Men's Gathering, a number of people praised me by saying "If it wasn't for Jim, this gathering wouldn't exist." That felt good, but part of me kept wondering that maybe that is not such a good thing. Does it really depend on my continued leadership to keep it going? The words were soothing to my ego but the responsibility was beginning to be a burden to my soul.

I have been trying for the last few years to delegate more and more responsibility. On the other hand, a part of me believes that if I really do let go of control nothing will get done.

The newsletter which I conceived and which I publish, edit, print, copy, fold, label, stamp, and mail every month at one time had over 100 subscribers. My idea was that it would be a vehicle for networking, a source of resources, a way to advertise men's events around the state and a source of information on positive masculinity.

I was saddened when I looked at the records in my data base of some 900 names and discovered that there are currently only eight subscribers. Out of the 60 men who attended the recent Florida gathering, there were only four subscribers.

The more I thought about the situation the more I began to believe that I had carried my vision as far as I could take it in this area. I had started once again feeling like that young boy I used to be who felt inadequate, unworthy, unintelligent and alone. Fortunately, I now recognize that I am not any of those things… I just feel that way at times.

So I have decided to cancel the meeting that was scheduled for Sunday, April 27 and to let go of what is left of the Orlando Men's Council, to cease publication of the newsletter (MEN ALIVE AND WELL!), and to relinquish my leadership of the Florida Men's Gathering. It is my hope that someone or some organization will continue the tradition of the Florida Men's Gathering. I believe that what we are doing is right but it is time for new leadership. I offer my continuing involvement and support in what ever way I feel is appropriate.

I have a number of things in my life that I need to devote more time to, including my self, my wife, family, friends and other interests. I feel that I am in a transition stage in my life and need to look at where I have been and what I want to do for the next stage of my life.

I wish to thank everyone who I have encountered in this amazing journey.

Love to you all,

Jim Bracewell

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