A couple of years ago my wife and I hiked from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. As we were hiking in the canyon we came across a sign that said “Toilet” that directed us to the nicely built structure housing three separate thrones of magnificence. In the middle of the heated desert it would have seemed that water would elicit the beacon of light emanating from this location, but I had plenty of water. After removing my heavy backpack and partaking of the services, I returned to the sign where my wife was giving me a smile that only a wife would give in this close proximity to a toilet, a non-flushing one at that. With all of the masculinity I could muster, I propped myself against the sign and gave an arrogant nod and proclaimed, “Yeah, I hit that.”
My wife and I shared a good laugh, and then I began to reflect on how a couple of decades ago I would have used that phrase, or a vulgar equivalent, to pad my young and fragile male ego by bragging about a sexual conquest. Yet, today, there was no need. Today, it was a humorous marking of a passage in time where functionality supersedes superficiality. It’s a good time in my life, a good way of being.
Please don’t hear that sex becomes less important in your forties. That is simply not the case. However, it does not define me and does not determine my level of masculinity. I have counseled many men that begin questioning their manhood when they begin to lose their drive or have any level of sexual dysfunction. We are taught early on that it matters how big our penises are, how long we can last sexually, or how many partners we can persuade to hook up. Unfortunately, these beliefs leave a lot of baggage to carry around with no gain toward self-actualization. Additionally, they create an unstable identity that is time-sensitive.
So, to be standing outside of a multi-holed outhouse and making juvenile comments to find humor in the aging process and the simple pleasures in life, I find a sense of peace. Similar to taking my backpack off and feeling the excitement of temporarily releasing the burden of weight, by letting go of the superficial indicators of manhood and embracing the reality of being human I find freedom and an opportunity to enjoy life on a deeper level.
What makes you a man? What superficial beliefs keep you from finding peace within? Can you find humor in the absurdity of aging?