I was attending my business networking breakfast group one morning when the idea was floated of a Men’s Table: a place for men to be able to meet on a monthly basis and share a few personal things that you would not mention to anyone in the world.
As we started, we had in excess of 12 men come through. As we developed some rules of listening without comment unless invited, the men who were only there to deepen business relationships dropped away. This was when The Men’s Table really began to start as we had a committed group of 12 members.
We then started to really introduce ourselves; not who we are professionally or who we are perceived to be, but to really talk about ourselves personally and drop some of the masks we wear, and show a deeper more authentic version of ourselves.
I remember being asked initially how many children I had as a simple question and the emotion welled up inside me. I had always wanted to be a father, however my wife and I at the time were unable to produce a child and then in my fifties I could feel the grief of a life ambition that had drifted away. For this first time at the Table I struggled to speak and my eyes watered as I had never shared this feeling with anyone else in my life, including my wife.
This was a beginning for me to let it go! A place where I was no longer a senior corporate man or a successful small business owner. I began to share things at the Table I would never say even to schoolmates who I had stayed in contact with over many decades. The important point for me was the absolute privacy! It was ‘in the vault’ of the Table where I could ask for advice if I wanted it. Or just simply share, get things off my chest and drive home after a good meal and a glass of wine – knowing that what was said at the Table remained at the Table. I’ve left the Table sometimes feeling uplifted, but drained. But afterwards, that offloading has really helped because I’d unburdened myself. It was better than confession, with no judgement!
From when I first joined the Table, my marriage was troubled. By sharing about it I got to move through different ways of seeing what was happening. For a time, I got clearer that I should really give it my all and try to make it work.
By having the Table and the monthly opportunity to get real, this helped me make a decision that could have taken me 10 years longer.
When, later, my new partner was diagnosed with a terminal illness that took her from me in four months, I could let go of my emotions, and cry and sob at the Table without fear. Recently when I found one of my staff had been sabotaging my business I could feel the empathy of the other men, I could say “F***!” and drive home relieved.
Each and every member has had their own roller-coaster ride. We have seen it all from divorce, losing children, losing partners and parents, to our work or businesses thriving and crashing. There have been a few wins along the way for us all, however, the roller-coaster ride continues.
We all have diverse backgrounds, education, interests, faiths, beliefs and outlooks on the world. I do not agree with all men at our Table all the time, however, this is a very unique space where we get to be the people we are as individuals, irrespective of social standing or life circumstances.
We’re now almost nine years on, and if I had to endure on my own the trials and tribulations of what has happened in that time, life would have been much more difficult and I fear would have resulted in me having a much harder outlook than I do today. Instead my outlook is more calm and considered, and I feel privileged to be part of my Men’s Table.