Men articulate their inner feelings at Wemindji wellness conference
“The old adage that ‘men don’t cry’ no longer applies,” said Rev. Rod BrantFrancis of Wemindji’s Anglican Church. “In fact, it takes a strong man to be able to show his feelings, to articulate his emotions and to admit that he doesn’t have all the answers.”
At the second event of its kind in Wemindji since summer 2011, Rev. Rod BrantFrancis and other participants at the Men’s Wellness Conference spoke about the contrast between the manner in which they’d been brought up, and the positive changes for men that have occurred over time.
“I can remember what it was like for me,” shared Pastor Randy DeCarlo of the Wemindji Christian Fellowship. “There wasn’t any unconditional love. There was only conditional love. If I performed well, if I did a good job, then my father was pleased. If I couldn’t perform, I was a disappointment. As a result, I learned not to take risks. I only did the things I could do well. I didn’t want to disappoint. I learned to pretend that I was well. If another man asked me how I was, I’d say, ‘Hey there, doin’ good’. Men do this. No one of us would ever share that 10 minutes ago we wanted to jump off a bridge.”
“To me, men’s wellness means we are self-aware and balanced,” said Wayne Rabbitskin, who travelled from Chibougamau to participate in the conference. “Old-fashioned beliefs about men’s roles, added to a turbulent past we cannot change, caused a lot of fear in generations of Cree men. Fear can wrap a man up in chains. And it can cause men to behave in toxic ways that result in much shame, sadness and regret. The time has come to dismantle that armour and use love as our most important tool. Love has a ripple effect that goes on and on, for our children and grandchildren – and for their mothers.”
“Wellness means men sharing the mistakes we have made in our lives and supporting each other through them. We men have a hard time admitting to our mistakes. Today, it is so good to be able to share our regrets with each other. Even at 50, I still need support,” said Abraham Matches of Wemindji.
He added, “We need to polish our relationships, especially as fathers and grandfathers. We want to see our children move on, thrive and have all the happiness and security they deserve.”
Together, the men talked about what they would advise young men today, especially those who are daily barraged with violent songs, aggressive, addictive videos and false-promise advertising.
Here is their sage advice:
• There are excellent personal men’s only workshops that teach wonderful wisdom in short, impressive bursts. Many men combine such opportunities with their vacation time and meet new friends in the process.
• Young men can also benefit by quiet retreats into the bush with experienced Elders to learn the skills of hunting, fishing, resting, eating well and talking. There is much to learn from the birds that sing, the wind, the water and the land.
• Find a wise listener. There is enormous gain in confiding in one mature man, whether he is an Elder, or a young man who has become wise, early. Choose a man who is capable of respecting your confidentiality.
• Find or create a men’s support group. You might ask your community to establish a meeting place. When you return from an out-of-town Men’s Wellness Retreat, there should be men in your own community ready and waiting to greet you and to support you on a regular, on-going basis. You shouldn’t have to go out of town for your support.
“It really boils down to feeling loved enough that you can finally tell others who you really are,” said DeCarlo as he grabbed a 20-pound bag of potatoes and began to peel in preparation for a hearty men’s dinner.