I was initiated at East Grange, Forres, September 2015. It was the most profound weekend of my life so far. I hope writing about it will reinforce the changes it has led to and help strengthen the resolve of other brothers to pursue and maintain changes they wish for in their lives.
The most immediate change was in how I respond and relate to my children, M., 12 and T., 8. M is my beautiful, loving daughter who has microcephaly - which brings her many social and academic challenges.
Since the weekend I have been more patient, more able to be on her wavelength and more able to enjoy her for who she is, joining her in her frustrations about lack of friendships, the challenges of secondary school whilst enjoying her exuberance watching Scotland beat Samoa in the rugby.
I hope to help support her in her new interests which include skiing and horse-riding.
T., my little warrior prince, is a football nut, who loves winning and hates losing. The weekend has helped me to enjoy winning and strengthened my determination to help support him cope with disappointment.
I gave up trying to compete with my dad when I was about 8 and I learnt to appease men in my life, whilst secretly annihilating them in my mind.
Now when I play squash or chess I am noticing that I am better at competing, at going nose to nose, head to head with other men, more in touch with my power, whilst retaining a sense of playfulness. Win, lose or draw I commit to competing and lasting longer and louder!
All of that has been pretty easy to say..... the weekend of witness of other men has helped.
The bit that is tougher for me relates to the exercise where we were asked to split into groups based on various aspects of our identity. One was whether we considered ourselves to be Scottish or not.
I went to the Scottish group and was beginning to say to the group how significant a step that was when one of the leaders re-iterated that he had changed his mind; the rules had changed and we were no longer going to have a chance to speak about our experience of that exercise.
As I write I can connect with the fury I felt at feeling cut off in my prime. I didn't come back to the issue during the weekend.
I have a fear that because of my accent, because of my upbringing because of my 'me-ness' other men won't accept my Scottishness - it reminds me of Daily Record car stickers from about ten years ago: I'm a real Scot: implying that there are some Scots who are somehow fake Scots.
I am Scottish, I am English, I am British and (be strong Brotherly Polar Bear, sniff those armpits, cradle your balls and pump your heart) I can face the reactions others have to me when I assert this.
I went on the weekend hoping to practise and get better at socialising with other men.
I came back being better able to be myself in front of other men, in front of myself, in front to colleagues, in front of friends and in front of strangers. Whether or not I get better at socialising with men remains to be seen........the adventure continues, brothers!