“What does masculinity mean to you?”
That’s a question I was asked when speaking to my new friend, Barton Cutter. He lives with cerebral palsy, is married, just adopted a puppy and is an all-around great guy.
I felt an immediate shift in my emotions, a guardedness because this is an issue for me.
My health decline has been pretty fast and has moved faster than my acceptance.
Two years ago I was walking nature trails with my family and walking hand in hand with my wife. Much of my identity as a man and a father was wrapped up in what I do with and for my family.
I could protect them from danger, run around on the playground, rough and tumble etc. The culturally preferred role of Dad was something I aspired to and something I saw advocated for in a few of the Facebook groups I belong to.
Bigger biceps meant you were more manly. I’m not knocking fitness, I’m advocating for a broader definition of masculinity.
It’s been a significant kick in the pride to go from long walks to long naps because climbing a flight of stairs is now tiring.
What you may lack in physical muscle, can be more than compensated for in the building of emotional, psychological and spiritual muscle. Resilience, attitude, and mindfulness are skills that become stronger in you, beyond your biceps.
For the record, I’m still working on sorting out what being a man means to me with all the changes I’m going through. But I want to share what I’ve already discovered.
I’m shifting from an emphasis on what people see to one in which how a person feels with me is the priority. Face it, if a person can’t see you (physically) then what experience do they have of you? They experience your heart, soul, your presence, your compassion.
Who you are, is best demonstrated by how you show up. Do you say, “You won’t believe the morning I’ve had” and make it about you? Do you show up with a smile and ask, “How’s everyone’s morning going?”
How present, attentive are you while with another person? Are you truly paying attention?
The strength of your presence is what makes you a man in that moment.
Finally, it is critically important to strengthen your dignity. Your sense of self-respect.
Whether you stand, walk or crawl. With a sense of your own worth, it’s much easier to stand tall (figuratively), speak with conviction and feel strong.
What has ultimately changed isn’t your worth as a man, but in the way you need to BE in the world.
Every day I have the privilege of helping others stand a little taller while living with their disabilities. They strengthen their dignity, courage, and resilience through my Resilience Warriors Program. Check it out here http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions
Thanks for being you,