Mad, Sad, Glad, Fear, Shame 

I had read thousands of books. I had written a novel, a screenplay, hundreds of poems, a master's thesis on Melville.

But I was emotionally illiterate.

"What are you feeling?"

When I was asked that, usually by a woman, words, usually my best friends in the world, would flee. A great abyss of silence would open up. Vast grayness.

"I don't know. OK, I guess."

Then, at 42, I went on the Mankind Project's New Warrior Training Adventure weekend.

"What are you feeling?" asked this guy wearing sweats and built like a linebacker. Looking at him, I would have expected a different kind of question — maybe, "How much can you bench press?"

"I don't know. I'm feeling good."

"'Good' isn't a feeling," he said. "Mad, sad, glad, fear or shame?" he asked, ticking each one off on a thick finger. "Pick one."

I couldn't, at first. It took me a minute. I ran through each one on my own fingers — mad, sad, glad, fear, shame — trying them out. I was getting a little frustrated — was "frustrated" a feeling? I looked at the guy, expecting him to be showing signs of one of the many impatient coaches I had played for, the impatient father I had grown up with: Will you hurry up already, for chrissake? Men who didn't have time for feelings. But he was just standing there calmly, arms behind his back, giving me the time to get out of my head and feel whatever it was I was feeling. I ticked them off on my fingers again, slowly this time: mad? sad? glad? fear? shame?

"Sad," I finally said. "I'm feeling sad." And I suddenly felt the tears forming in my eyes, my body telling me I had picked correctly.

"Good," he said. "Your sadness is welcome here."

Hearing that for the first time in my life — your sadness is welcome here — released the tears. I felt them rush down my face without feeling a drop of shame.

From The Song of Father-Son

Send comments to

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 7, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation