Am I Less of a Man?

Retirement was hard for me. Sure, the first few months were great – like an extended vacation. But even vacations grow stale if they last too long. It also came too soon; I had to retire early at 62.

I no longer have a job where I pull in a good income. An empty bedroom serves as a small office where I write. My work areas include the kitchen and laundry room. Conference meetings happen in the living room.

Fieldwork once meant travel and video shoots. Now it’s just outside the door, near an actual field.

When my wife was still working, I’d often drive her in so I could have the car. I had mixed emotions as I watched her walking the red-bricked pathway to her building at the university.

Am I still contributing to my family?

I was very proud of her. She’d put in 30 years there. A strong, hardworking woman, she was half of a two-person team. But now the male half of that team had dropped out. I was driving back home while she went off to work. It made me feel like I was no longer contributing to our family.

This is a hard thing for a man. At least it was for me. I still find some value in the work I do around the house and in my writing, but I wonder what it will be like if I get sicker. My male ego is already bruised. Will it be worse in the future?

I was raised in an era when men took off their hats when they went indoors, opened doors for ladies, and found worth in the work they did. I also learned that a couple was a team; my mother had a resort business and my father worked at a trucking company.

Cancer can erode our self-worth

I grew up with a certain idea of what it meant to be a man. I carry within me the need to provide and protect. I feel like cancer has taken some of that away from me. Am I less of a man now?

Of course not. But cancer is more than a physical disease, it can erode our self-worth if we let it. I fight that by realizing I am still contributing. I have my writing and photography, I do repairs and work around the house, and, last year, I even built a treehouse for the grandkids.

It's not what I do, it's who I am

But, if someday my cancer keeps me from doing those things, I will still be able to love. I’m beginning to realize that a man’s value isn’t just in what he does. It’s in who he is.

We need to look into the eyes of those who love us and see what they’re seeing. If the day comes when we can’t do much more than love them, well, maybe that will be enough.

So, if any of you are feeling less valuable, stop it. Your spouse, your family, or whomever is close to you needs you to simply be the man they love. In the end, that’s really what being a man is all about.

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