I Can't Do It: Feelings and More


I Can’t Do it – Feelings and More

When I say to myself and/or to another person (or other persons) the simple words:

I can’t do it” – it can mean a variety of things.

I want to share more – related to this, but first have a personal introduction of myself, as I approach my 71st birthday in May, 2022.

With Michael Franti


My memories of early childhood are very minimal!   Mostly, I remember things that were told to me as an adult about my childhood.   My mother told me once that as a baby, I had to be constantly reassured.   My brother evidently could just “chill”, but I needed to be held a lot and soothed.   I don’t remember that, of course!

Relatively late in her life, my mother told me a story of myself at age four.   Weekday mornings I was the first boy to arrive at the childcare center. I played happily alone with toys until other boys arrived.   Then, they took most of the toys away from me.  There was no adult intervention. My mother told me that they wanted to find another, more suitable, childcare center for me.   I told them that I wanted to stay there, and they relented.

In retrospect, I feel that this was a part of my emotional isolation; my detachment.  They could compare the pros and cons of the choices.   I was limited to my narrow age four view.   I lacked the capacity to make an “adult” decision, which was their responsibility.

As a child I never bonded with either parent or anyone else.   I was an Aspie though I didn’t know this until December, 2019.   My mother never bonded with her mother.  In December, 2019, my partner and I also first realized that my often boundaryless mother had been an Aspie (also).   She could embarrass others and me, without shame.   She died in 2014.

My childhood homelife was a “Mecca” of book learning and intellect.  It was a “desert” for me to be aware of, and to express my feelings.   Reading books at the dinner table was only not appropriate for our Friday, Sabbath supper.   The only expressed emotions I recall were my father exploding when his worktime was interrupted by me being too loud.

Circa 2010

We were very, very different!  

Television was big in most American homes of the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  Television for me was limited to watching Wide World of Sports at the lounge tv in the Purdue Union.   Television would detract from our reading.   By the time we got a portable tv in 1965 (the year after my father’s death), I only had minimal interest in it.

My clothes were hand-me-downs from the H’s older son, as well as the cheapest stuff from Sears and Penneys, hardly places for “fashion”.   Other boys had the paisley shirts, when they came into fashion, and new clothes as the weather changed by season.

I loved participatory and spectator sports.   My brother and parents had no interest in them.

We weren’t allowed to have squirt guns, because they were guns.

We were in a Civil Rights march in Lafayette, Indiana in the summer of 1961 or 1962.   Neither parent ever attended a little league baseball game I played in (only two years) or anything sports related when I was a high school athlete.

I dreaded, but faced, bullying by three boys, two years older than me, who lived nearby.  I didn’t complain to my parents when one or more of them punched me.  I never thought about it!   I felt powerless.

I was the last boy chosen for kickball, during recess.  I was big and clumsy.   Boys were scary!   Girls weren’t “dangerous” like boys, but they weren’t friendly, either.

My childhood memories of friendships include a period of perhaps a week to a month in first grade when I hung out with a neighboring boy and girl.   The boy – somehow – had access to a large appliance box, and we showed each other our “privates”.   I remember my seventh birthday party, where I was the only boy who didn’t eat his candle.   Summer camp, after second grade, I remember the ridicule from other boys.   I remember a different camp later on, where I wasn’t ridiculed, but had no friends.   I remember the summer of 1964, at Stanford University, when there was a group of four or five of us, who hung out together.  

During my Junior year I had my first girlfriend Carol.   I picked her up in our (old) car and we went on dates for seven or eight months. I held her hand, but never kissed her.   We didn’t talk on the phone or otherwise share together.  I found out that we’d (evidently) split up, when I heard from another boy, that she was going out with someone else.

My father died on Friday, the 13th, when I was 13 years old!  I didn’t cry then.  After that, when I felt sadness, I said to myself:

“How does this compare to the loss of my father?”   My next tears came when I was in my second men’s group, and had already attended my first men’s gathering.   I was then 30 years old!

I became a pro-feminist activist co-founding Men Stopping Rape, Inc. and doing anti-rape work in my early to mid-30’s.  We talked  lot about the importance of our feelings.   I still, remained distant from my own feelings!  When facing emotional challenges, commonly, I minimized them in my mind.   I distracted myself with reading and later on with being on the internet.

My first depression seriously hit me when I went away to the University of Wisconsin at age 18.   Depression hit again after I transferred, due to unhappiness, to Macalester College, the following fall.   That didn’t work – and I came back to Wisconsin.  The following summer I had classic “speed freak” manifestations – alienating others around me.   I wasn’t on any drug though!

My therapists over the decades dealt with the surface problems of the moment.  I never began making progress with them until January, 2020.  For the first time, I had a therapist, who was and is a fellow Aspie!   She can relate to me and I to her.

My first real “Friend” was my ex-wife.   She was my first girlfriend who lasted more than briefly.   I was not a good life partner!   Emotionally, I wasn’t in touch with myself.   It is hard to give to others, when one lacks insights about oneself and doesn’t accept oneself at a deep level.

I am most ashamed about how bad a father I was to my son, who was born on my 36th birthday!    In important ways I was the “bad parent” that my parents were to me.   Though I went to all his games, and most of his practices, his concerts, and more, emotionally I (also) wasn’t there for him.   Today – he can’t hear me- beyond a narrow, surface level – significantly related to my failures.

I’ve also struggled with my (current) wife!   The only way I knew how to relate seriously to her was through physical touch- superficial, sensual and sexual.   I have repeatedly hurt her in ways that cut to the core of her life concerns, seemingly never learning from my mistakes.

In November, 2018, after a major betrayal, ironically I began a serious growth process, for the first time in my life.   I immediately realized how I used dysfunctional tit-for-tat logic to justify bad behavior.   Unfortunately, I’ve made serious mistakes again several times since then. 

Moving Towards Closure:

I’m finally, slowly learning of the importance of:

1.   Living within my heart, not my head,

2.   Living within my body – experiencing my physical and emotional pain,

3.   Recognizing that I’m a very emotional person,

4.   Experiencing my feelings – being in them – when they are more than very minimal – not rushing myself,

5.   Knowing my tendency to feel both negative and positive feelings intensely-  “making a mountain out of a molehill” ,

6.   Not – reacting –immediately emotionally -fully taking in my feelings, reflecting, then deciding if to respond, and if so how,

7.   Realizing that anger is big in my life – on a vast continuum.  Previously, I rarely felt my anger as it is!

Most of my life is amazingly good!   I hope to learn (asap) multiple ways to be a better life partner!   This is most important!

What does “I can’t do it” mean?

1.   Emotionally I can’t do something.  Example:  I can’t avoid – reacting strongly inside when I feel put down.   It doesn’t matter whether I really was put-down.  My feelings matter.  Until I do my own work – I can’t accurately see the intent of the other person.

2.   Physically I can’t do something.   Example: I can’t sleep more than 2-3 hours, without waking up and needing to go to the bathroom.   This relates to my prostate, me being an aging male.

Most of the time, I really “can” do most things (despite my resistance).  This may be:

1.   Doing the thing is very emotionally challenging.

2.   Not recognizing my full physical potential.

3.   My resistance to trying – usually related to past failures.

4.   Feeling – emotionally alone – my pain, loneliness, and desire for human connection feel threatened,

5.   I am (otherwise) scared – something in my past – particularly from childhood – immobilizes me, at least at first.

6.   I don’t want to do something – related to a variety of feelings.

I have multiple life priorities.   Feeling – really – deeply – heard – is primary here!   My feelings relate to the impacts of others’ words and actions.  Often, the impacts aren’t the same as what the other person intended.   Here – I must work on myself.   Important things include: How I present, When and how I ask for support, as well as How I take in the words and body language of others.

When I say: “I can’t” or “I must” or “I need” – to myself (as well as to others), I often alienate others.   I need to minimize harm!

I’m a weird person!

I’m seriously involved in a lot! 

I enjoy sharing common interests with my life partner!   It is important that I listen deeply to her and be consistently present.  I need to do better!  I need to be less emotionally dependent on her.

Starting to build a few intimate friendships with fellow men helps a lot.   This is challenging and important.   Oft times, I talk far, far too much, when feeling unsure of myself, or otherwise unsettled.   This can easily sabotage my efforts.

A lot of my “work” is important.   I write and publish at:  www.GeorgeMarx.org and www.WorkingTowardsEndingRacism.org . Some of my writings are also – readable on Medium – such as at: https://marxgeo.medium.com/a-primer-for-today-and-tomorrow-bfb28f6f4eb1 .  Several are published also through The Good Men Project (https://goodmenproject.com/).

My mutual aid work is precious!!!   When I don’t have time conflicts, I work at a church serving meals on Thursdays, do bag preparation for Saturday food (and essentials) distribution on Fridays, and help with the distribution on Saturdays.   I learn – a lot from the mostly much younger people – who similarly – support radical systemic change.   I struggle with repair – when I mess up.  Not infrequently, they feel to me like they are “in” with each other, and I’m way outside.

Caring White Men Sharing Together – www.CaringWhiteMen.com – is one meaningful group I co-founded and co-facilitate.   Organizing White Men for Collective Liberation (www.owmcl.org) is both helpful, and at times frustrating.  I am actively involved in it nationally and locally (through its Chicago Chapter).   There is also more political work~!

Duplicate bridge is “fun” – though I have little time for games much of the time.   Reading – and writing reviews – is important.   My beloved mini-golden doodle – Zoey – gives me a lot of pleasure, along with some frustration at times.   Our walks are an important time for me to be really out of my head.

Heart and spirit growth is challenging!   I’m trying and will continue to try!   Thanks!




  1. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. I enjoyed getting to know you better through this writing. I have also struggled with being with my feelings and it has caused challenges in my relationships with others.


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