Monday, February 18, 2008

On Being A Man

Growing up without a father, I often questioned what it meant to be a man. I wondered what one has to do to become a man? As I entered my early twenties I realized I was far from what most considered manly. I grew up in a woman centered household. I wasn't particularly athletic. I was more likely to call triple A then to change my own tire. I didn't know how to fix things around the house that had broken. I was pretty much useless...or so I thought.

As time has passed I have started to gain an appreciation for my own abilities. Sure I am not as handy as many but getting married and having children has shown me that maybe I am manly after all. When the going gets tough.....when something needs to be done my family can count on me. Whether its driving through the storm, or moonlighting for extra money, or changing the diaper my wife refuses to touch.....I get the job done. And I take pride in it. So much so that sometimes it's hard for me to ask for help.

I have called 911 two times in my life. The first was about 6 years ago when my wife and I were pulling into the driveway and saw someone walking out of our house with our TV. My wife backed out and followed the guy as I dialed my cell phone. The police were there in minutes and caught one of the two robbers. Unfortunately the one with all the stuff including my wife's engagement ring got away. So it goes!

The second time I called 911 was a few weeks ago. It was a cold morning in Chicago and the snow was coming down heavily. I got up early to beat the traffic but unfortunately that meant that I had beaten the snow plows to the expressway. Twenty five minutes into my thirty minute commute to work I lost control of my car and skidded from the left lane into the right and ran smack into the side of a semi. I was going about thirthy miles per hour and the front of my passenger side hit first. Then my car bounced and the back of my car hit the semi and I slid into the embankment.

I was stunned. The next thing I realized a kind motorist had pulled over on the other side of the expressway and ran out to me to see if I was ok. I was shaken up but in good shape. My car was totalled. I called the police and so the story went.

I was closer to work then to home so I had the policeman drive me to the office. I saw a few patients in the hospital and then a handfull of people who roughed the snow to come into the office. Then my wife came and picked me up. I had no interest in getting behind the wheel to driver home. luck would have it this was a friday and I was on call for the weekend. So the enterprise rental car was waiting when I arrived home. And snowed again that night. The next morning I woke up with quite a bit of apprehension. Shaken from my accident the day before but realizing that there was noone else to see the patients in the hospital or the dozen or so office appointments, I resigned myself to what had to happen.

So at 5:30 in the morning I crawled through the fresh snow to turn on the rental car. I cleared the debrit from the windshield. I took a deep breadth and then jumped in head first. I have to admit I was scared. Petrified in fact. But I couldn't live my life afraid of my own morning commute.

Years ago I would have looked at my fear and been skeptical. I would have seen it as just another example of how I didn't know how to be a man. But now things appear much differently. I got in the car that morning because I had to. Because I wouldn't let my fears overtake me. And that....that is the essence of manliness. Standing up to what scares you the most. Not because you want to....not because it the right time....but because you have to. Because there are people who are depending on you to do it. My family, my colleagues, and yes even my patients.

I'm still reticent to get into the car each morning. Especially on the days it snows. But it's getting a little better every day.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me know your blog had moved.

So glad that you are ok after the accident.

Fear is an amazing emotion. Be gentle with yourself.

Bruce said...

Manly? Perhaps, but the courage you describe (and the courage it took to describe it) are beyond gender. As Annie Dillard has written, "You can't test courage cautiously." You passed the test.

Nothing beats the Chicago expressways, no matter the weather, to test a person's true character. Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Grumet, I'm so sorry that you were in that wreck, and relieved that you weren't hurt. You're in a bad area for snow ... and this has been the worst snow year in more than a decade. I hope that you don't ever have another problem like that again.

About masculinity - you have the sort of masculinity that melts a woman's heart from the inside out. Your depth, thoughtfulness, and caring make many of us wish we could send our husbands to you for training ... ;o)

Anonymous said...

ahh what moofie said. Glad to see that your ok. Wreckes can be scary things. I know i have had moments when i thought my heart was going to jump right outta my chest.

smalltowndoc said...

"And that....that is the essence of manliness. Standing up to what scares you the most. Not because you want to....not because it the right time....but because you have to." I like that. Very much true. Manliness does not mean just facing a bunch of tough people. It is facing our own demons. I would call that 'being brave' since women can also do that and it is not a trait restricted only to men. -

pietu said...

what a precious gift that a 'man' has to offer life, and you my friend strike me as a mans man, i say this in light of your ordeals of fear, a man is one who can be in fear and not try to avoid the feeling of feel fear and stay with its tremendous energy is to conquer yourself over and over...

Anonymous said...

being in fear, going through an ordeal of fear, containing fear and knowing that its energy is the optimal source of courage...