Anything But Perfect

GFW has become one of the weekends we look forward to the most. And by we, I mean the 6 stalwarts and mainstays that now attend. To build this crew wasn’t an easy task, and it sure as hell didn’t just happen from the start. Like an incredible pizza dough, the “regulars” have been kneaded, massaged, rolled and shaped by trying different ingredients in order to get the right combination. Not literally… but figuratively.

We have invited a good number of different people along the way to join in the GFW weekend of fun. After 27 years, I couldn’t tell you all of them. Sometimes it was a friend from a different circle we thought would be a good fit. Other times it was a coworker or someone we interacted with regularly through our jobs. Occasionally, it was a family member.

Whatever the circumstance, the invite is usually run past the others; this isn’t something to be taken lightly, as this is sacred time for all of us. The invite to outsiders comes with discussion.

In the early trips, it was pretty simple: Do they fish? Do they play poker? And maybe, do they snore (but most everybody does, especially after drinking all night)? If the answer was “yes” to the first two, the invite got the thumbs up. But after some friends found other life priorities or drifted apart, we began to understand there was more to this than just getting away for the weekend to go fish. There was something about this time together that meant more to us. It was more “special” than just fishing and cards.

Through those times of having people drift, we discovered the depths of what this time together gave us. Men have been sent messages their whole lives that to be strong, emotional control is of the utmost importance. The male species has been making their way in the world forever by subscribing to the ideology that we put our head down, work hard to provide, and let the women deal with the emotional stuff. Somehow, sharing your feelings with another male demonstrates weakness.

And it was like this early on.

We had competitions for every day of fishing, followed by competitive poker games all night, trying to take as much money from the other guys as you could over the course of the weekend. If you were able to win enough playing poker to pay for half the cost of the trip, that was almost better than the fishing. There was a real mentality that how many fish you caught was somehow a reflection of the strength of your manhood.

Somehow, over the years we changed.

Perhaps, we matured and grew as men. Imagine that! The weekend and what we wanted out of it began to change for us. The relationships began to morph into deeper connections with one another.

The fishing has never taken a back seat, but the “time outs” on the river happen more frequently; we look forward to the conversations that happen while sitting side by side changing flies. These moments happen with increasing regularity and build the connection between us. And the best part about it comes from the fact that with six of us, each conversation with a different guy offers a different kind of enrichment. These moments bring the isolated engagement necessary to grow each friendship in an authentic way.

The time together has become something more aligned with our values. I like to think those values were always there. But it seems that once we started having kids, becoming parents and starting families, we began to see the importance of emotion.

A devoted woman at your side and kids of your own will do that to you.

And paying attention to those emotions was important, maybe crucial to our survival. Let’s be honest, men are seemingly emotionally stunted beings, but GFW has slowly become a haven for us to explore those emotions in a safe place, without judgement. With these guys, my brothers, I can unleash whatever I have going on, knowing they will help, listen, challenge, laugh and empathize. We share. This seems to be an incredibly hard thing for men to find, yet we did.

Don’t get me wrong, we go to fish; every day of the weekend we fish! However, we no longer quantify a guys value by how many fish he caught.

Imperfection has proven to be invaluable in its creation of GFW. The imperfect trials and willingness to explore new or different ideas has allowed this to become one of the Greatest Weekends of the Year. In all of its imperfect glory, GFW brings us together.

We fish…we connect.

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