Boys love to hunt, and play adventure games in the backyard pretending to be heroes who save women from the clutches of evil. They pretend to be courageous, honorable, and strong because built into all of us is the desire to be those things. Sometimes though as boys grow up to be men they are told or experience things that pierce and jab back, taunting them, and stomping on their bravery and they begin to question their heart’s desire. Because honor has a price. Strength can be mistaken for brutality and arrogance. Courage can put them in the untenable position of getting all the blood drained from their hearts. The monsters come in all shapes and sizes, all wanting to devour and suck away the dream, the very belief, that courage, honor, and strength are possible at all.
But I have to believe that even in the most jaded, that heart’s-desire to be a better man, somehow survives. And life is a search for a key that will unlock that belief once again. Vigorously and then laboriously. Faithfully, and then almost sarcastically. To cover up the pain it is even sometimes mocked, ridiculed, or sabotaged. But no matter what the acting out, alive in each man and woman is a molecule left of hope. Sometimes buried deep under layers of life experience that showed them otherwise.
People leave. Promises are broken. Love is lost. Sickness is inevitable. Death will surely come…pessimism sets in and it becomes difficult to imagine ever relying on anyone other than themselves ever again.
And for that matter…does a woman even exist worth the price courage, honor, and strength cost?
Many women think that if they are pretty enough, skinny enough, funny or trendy enough they will somehow magically attract their prince charming who is willing to sacrifice their very life to save them. Worrying more about their make-up and hair, purses and clothing than getting and keeping a good job or behaving themselves with dignity, integrity, and humility. Playing a weak and needy victim who needs to be rescued. But I think many women have it wrong. Cause once you get saved, then what? You have to keep getting saved? You have to continue to be weak and needy? The prince is conditioned into believing he is only valued for his ability to rescue. And it’s the “once upon a time” vicious cycle. And it’s empty.
Women begin to think there are no prince charmings and men begin to think there are no women worth the battle. So everything descends into shallow interaction from a distance far away from one’s heart’s-desire.
It becomes that game of make-believe again that is acted out but whose belief is so buried it’s almost forgotten. You just go through the motions. You know your role. You play the game….
Maybe this cycle happens to all of us because it is a part of aging. Losing belief is part of growing up. And some people once there, they remain.
But if we really believed that, we would stop going to the movies all together and if we did go we’d never cheer or cry at the end. We’d stop reading Shakespeare, and we’d build little huts where we can hide as hermits far away from the monsters aiming their swords in our direction.
No, I have to believe it’s still there however faint.
I’ve seen that hope in Harry’s eyes that have seen so much of life in his 43 years. Hard, painful things. For some reason though, when he looks at me, part of his brain believes. Maybe it’s because I’m not playing the role of damsel in distress as it is traditionally been played. The evil that he is saving me from is not my own weakness or neediness. The “evil” he is saving me from is that of selfishness and self-reliance.
“Let me help you” this time is met with “Let me help you too”. You give me support, I’ll give you encouragement. You give me insight, I’ll give you honesty. You give me a voice to an ear that will listen and yet also likes to be nibbled and I will hear. You be brave enough to let me in, I’ll be brave enough to take the first step. I will fight the monsters with you with my eyes, my mind, my heart, my soul, and every ounce of strength in my body and I know you’ll do the same for me. Because what I’m looking for is a fellow soldier to lock arms with and partner with. Someone who will have my back as much as I will have theirs. Someone who will both receive and take.
Someone who at the end of the day, is up for the challenge of looking out for someone other than just himself because he wants to be a better man.
This girl is done being a princess. She is done needing to be saved from herself. But she does need to be saved from thinking she can do it better all on her own. With no one to stomp on her dreams or kick her when she’s down. Only timid, scared, and weak men do that who have no honor. And a better man does exist.
Believing in the better man is something I almost lost. First from a husband who tried hard for years to be who he thought I wanted…but in the end lacked the courage to stand his ground, the honor to be faithful and keep his promise, and the strength to not give up. Second from a man from England who is now abed and cursing the day I’m sure….who lacked the courage to tell the truth, the honor to do the right thing in the right order and in the right timing, and the strength to put what is right before his own needs and wants.
I want a true partner for once in my life.
I’m remembering a day about a month ago when Harry was realizing he loved me. He knelt before me and I could tell he was overwhelmed and he told me he was afraid. And I took his head and kissed the top of it and then held him close wondering what was to become of us. This big giant guy was kneeling before me telling me he was afraid. It was as if that moment he decided he was in and it scared him because what if he lets himself believe and then finds out he is wrong. What if the other shoes drops?
Courage is the ability to act in the face of fear. Harry is choosing to trust me with his heart everyday. It is something he’s guarded for years. And that takes guts. And everyday the part of his brain that is still the skeptic tries to get in a few jabs when it can. It is a battle this life and he’s fighting hard. And something tells me he is willing because when he looks into my eyes he sees something of a key that unlocked that part of him allowing him to once again believe. Perhaps it is possible to find the someone who will prove to be worth the fight.
Tonight Harry told me that his favorite Shakespeare play was Henry V. I asked him why and I should have known he would give a response that would leave me speechless. He said because Henry V was his favorite king, that the battle of Agincourt was his favorite battle and the St. Crispin’s Day speech is also one of his favorite motivational speeches of all time which he then quoted to me parts from memory.
Henry V leads about 6,000 soldiers in a battle against over 30,000 French to victory. Because of Henry’s ingenuity, he exploited the supposed strengths of the enemy and turned them into weaknesses. He made decisive choices that gave England tactical and technological advantages. And perhaps most importantly, with his leadership, he inspired his men with a speech saying in part,
“That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us…
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that shed his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon St. Crispin’s Day.”
It’s hard not to get chills when you realize the depth of sacrifice these men faced and yet were willing to go forward believing their efforts and their blood shed would be honored and remembered. And it got me thinking that is all we really ever want. Most of us don’t mind the scrapes, and bruises. We can even take getting pummeled a time or two. But we are just looking for people who believe in the same things we do enough that we don’t get stabbed in the back by the people we are supposed to be fighting along side. We are all looking for a band of brothers. People we can trust.
People we can open up our hearts to wide open knowing they are going to protect us not hurt us.
I want to believe that it is still possible to find a man with courage, honor and strength who isn’t trying to feed his ego by being the rescuer of the princess, but instead be someone who is looking for a true partner he can trust with his very life.
And every day and in every way Harry is looking more and more like a Henry V to me.