Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Impossible Man

This morning as I was driving to work, it struck me: I want an impossible man. I want a man bursting with confidence, the kind of man who really gets things done, a driven, decisive, executive sort; someone, I suppose, who would not only complement me but also exceed me in the things I already do and like to do. This might look something like Mr. Command Man from this list. My friends have told me that someone like this would be ideal, and until now I never questioned it.

I realized, however, the problem is that I also want a man who is sensitive to my needs, who truly cares and will put me first, and who enjoys listening and responding to me on a personal rather than objective level. So far, this is unsurprising--I am a woman, after all. What is surprising, though, is my revelation that the two qualities may not be reconcilable in one person. How can a man be primarily dominant and hard-hitting as well as gentle and loving? Which one do I really want?

In my morning muddle, I looked to real-life examples of men I have known and admired. My father, for instance, does not really go for the jugular, either in business or personal situations. Perhaps because of his height and confident demeanor, he seems like he would be one of your ruthless, executive types, but he's really a lamb in wolf's clothing. In college, I was most drawn not to the professors who would assault the students with the material as if it were a sledgehammer or a nasty surprise round the corner, but rather to the professors who really cared most about my learning and about me as a person. My first professor "crush" was not on the hotshot philosophy professor whom everyone found so dreamy, but instead on one of the more unassuming and humble teachers. Finally, in my work life, I've been blessed to have two bosses who really exhibit an effective servant leadership. The first one definitely was not a commanding personality type, and he was a real joy to work for, as his understated style gave me to focus on the positive rather than negative aspects of the task at hand; on the other hand, my current boss unwittingly fills others' lives with stress with his imperatives. I like him, and can deal with it, but at the same time it's nice to go home at the end of the day.

I skirt the dangers of making a false dichotomy. Nevertheless, it seems that if you are going to live with and be married to a man who is always out conquering the world, you must be prepared to make some sacrifices. This guy will not be home a lot. He will be too tired to remember to bring you flowers. Perhaps the real question to ask is whether I want someone who will make that big of an impact on visible realities. Do I want the man whom people will see as the obvious leader and shaper of things in the world? Or do I want the man who, while doing his best in the world of work and play, fundamentally realizes that the most important things he does are in the spiritual and personal realms? It is a rare man indeed who can embrace his vocation to be a man in every sense, not shirking, shrinking, or deferring unnecessarily; while at the same time realizing that this work he puts himself into so fully is but straw, even on the level of the work to be done in this life, compared to the work of loving and bringing souls to Love. It is difficult to imagine, but as the Angel Gabriel proclaimed to Our Lady, "No word shall be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).