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Midlife Wisdom for Men Issue #002, January 16, 2004
January 16, 2004
Written by Noel McNaughton
Midlife-Men.com
(c) copyright 2003 midlife-men.com

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January 16, 2004 Issue #002

=========== TABLE OF CONTENTS ==========

* A Word from the Editor

* Readers respond

* Winter Blahs Got You Down? Maybe You Need More Omega-3

* Prostate Humour?? Really??

* Three Magic Words

* A Couple of Excellent Publications

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A WORD FROM THE EDITOR

Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men. As you are a subscriber, you are probably feeling at least some of the symptoms of midlife transition, which is also known as 'andropause' or 'viropause' (also, incorrectly, as 'male menopause').

In this issue, we hear from a couple of readers, talk about health, learn 'three magic words' that will help in your relationships, and discover the humour in the subject of the good ole prostate.

So let's get started.

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FROM OUR READERS

Hello Noel

I am a new subscriber.
In the December newsletter you made a comment that depression may be about false stories that we tell ourselves. Yes you did put in a disclaimer about chemical imbalances. My question is not about brain chemistry; but our stories. What if our stories are true, what if 2+2=4, then it may not be that our stories are false. I become depressed by letting true stories blot out the hope for a brighter future. I forget to pray, hope and love.

I think that I understand false stories, the illusions of this world, and our judgments toward said stories. But if its true that a person has lost all his income, their health may be failing, relationship problems............etc. To say that their depression is based on false stories is hard to swallow. Now their beliefs about the stories may be a good place to start.

I am familiar with Katie's work and her four questions, But your readers with true depression may need more than her pop therapy approach. I do like you web zine and look forward to reading more in the future.

Matt,
Austin,Tx

MY RESPONSE:

What I was trying to get at with the stories, is not that bad things that happen to us are not true, but rather we tell ourselves stories about how things 'should have been', or that we 'didn't deserve this', etc., which is what causes the needless suffering. Bad circumstances cause pain at the time, but our stories about how things should have been, and our fear about the future, cause us to go on suffering. They make it difficult to leave the events behind and move forward with our lives. Perhaps that's what you meant when you said they blot out the hope for a brighter future.

Again, thanks for your feedback.

Noel

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HERE IS ANOTHER LETTER:

You have no idea how appropriate it is to have received your thoughts. I am 52. I grew up on a farm - left home at 15 - worked with my hands and back all my life. Road construction, mechanics, woodwork and then farming for 30 years.

At a time when I wish to be thinking about other avenues I look around and feel trapped. Trapped in a physical world with doing skills when the world seems to be valuing things manual less and less. We send manufacturing jobs offshore and send our kids off to be computer programmers.

Trapped in a need to put two kids through university and trapped in a farming career that seems to be treading water.

Things are not as gloomy as I make them out to seem .

My question for your next newsletter is this issue of feeling trapped when it is simply not possible (at least for a person who has grown up fulfilling his responsibilities.)to make substantive changes .

I know - Noel says go back and reread the part about "isness". Looking forward to the next issue.

Happy New Year.

Cheers,
Norman

MY RESPONSE:

Thanks for the note, Norman, you speak for many men.

Feeling trapped, or stuck, is a common symptom at midlife. Getting out of it, in my experience, requires two things:

- patience, and trust that this too shall pass

- actively working to discover ways to get out of the trap, or to get re-energized, so the situation no longer feels like a trap

My friend Alan Nation from Mississippi, who publishes the Stockman GrassFarmer, a monthly farm paper, says one of the problems he has seen farmers and ranchers hit at midlife is a loss of interest in things, partly because they have stopped taking risks. I know men working in non-agricultural situations do the same thing.

Here's the situation: we start a business, or take on a career, and work hard at it through our young adulthood and into middle age. We face unforeseen challenges, and near-wrecks, and learn to survive. After the thrill of getting the job, or starting the business wears off, we begin to yearn for safety and stability. We have a family, and financial responsibilities, and want to learn how we can reduce the risks in doing our job or running our business.

By the time we hit midlife, we have it pretty much figured out, and we begin to take fewer and fewer risks. (Unless we get blindsided by being downsized.) It's a tough world, why take unnecessary chances?

Perhaps what is necessary is to take on a new challenge. Not necessarily at work or in our business, and certainly not a big financial risk! (Although that is another thing men at midlife often do, and I am one of them. I invested in a start-up company a few years ago that I had not done due diligence on, and it cost me a LOT of money. I have discovered that a fair percentage of men do this. Perhaps it is the financial version of having an affair to see whether we are still virile.)

Here is a quote I found on the MSNBC site in a health section:

"Go wide," advises Gilbert Brim, who is also author of "Ambition." He has found that men whose self-confidence and self-worth have depended on a narrow view of their skills have difficulty negotiating life's developmental stages. But when they engage in a broad variety of activities - when the ailing and aging tennis player takes up hiking and furniture refinishing instead - they make the transitions more easily.

Key to going wide, Brim says, is finding an activity of "just manageable difficulty." "To feel satisfied, we must be able to tackle a task that's hard enough to test us, but not so difficult that we'll repeatedly fail. We want to work hard, then succeed," he says.

The other strategy for getting out of feeling trapped is to do some serious life goal setting (you can use some of the exercises here: http://www.midlife-men.com/lifemission.html), and then be open to the things your soul calls you to. Having a background in agriculture, and owning a family farm myself, I know how difficult it can be to think about leaving the farm, and especially selling the farm. I am sure that applies to many other family businesses. But the fact is any job or business is there to serve our lives, not the other way around.

Friends of mine who ranch in Alberta got 'cowed out' (couldn't face feeding cows for one more winter), sold their cow herd a little over a year ago, and are now in Texas, where Don is teaching horsemanship. He had started studying it several years before, as it has always been a passion, and they knew if they were ever going to do something about it, they would have to start. His wife is learning horsemanship, and helping organize clinics.

They didn't make this move overnight. They talked about their life goals, decided on what they wanted to do, got advice from their lawyer and accountant on the tax implications, and created a three-year plan to carry it out.

They are in their mid-fifties now, and enjoying themselves.

In the short term, few changes can be made. In the long term, everything can be changed. The trick is knowing what you want to do.

One of the other tricky things for men in all this, is actually talking from your heart with your wife or partner. If the concept scares you, take your courage in hand, and give it a try. You may be wonderfully surprised by the result. And remember to listen as much as you talk!

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I NEED YOUR QUESTIONS AND FEEDBACK!

My intention with Midlife Wisdom for Men is to focus on the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical aspects of midlife transitions. Because of my own personal experiences, I will lean toward the spiritual and emotional aspects.

That being said, there are SO MANY THINGS one could talk about in a newsletter such as this, (after all we humans are very complex beings), that I need to hear from you. In order to cover the kinds of topics and issues you are most interested in, I would REALLY appreciate your questions, comments and suggestions.

So... let me know. Do you want stuff about health? Sex? Emotional life? Spirituality? How to build an extra income through the internet? Legal advice? (For example many of us will become executors of our parents' estates in the next few years.) Financial planning? Retirement planning? How to communicate with your wife? You get the idea.

Or... send me a question, and if I don't know the answer, I promise I will find the person who does.

Also... how about the length? Too long? Too short? About right?

Just email your suggestions and/or questions to noel@midlife-men.com . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.

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WINTER BLAHS GOT YOU DOWN? MAYBE YOU NEED MORE OMEGA-3

The short days and long nights of winter can get to people. Here in Alberta, people used to call the mid-winter depression 'cabin fever'. More recently it has been known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D. I experienced it more when I lived in Vancouver, BC, where it is cloudy a lot of the time during winter.

If you are a victim of low winter moods, increasing your intake of Omega-3 fatty acid may help.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are critical for good health in all kinds of areas... heart, brain, immune system, joints, kidneys, and as I mentioned, mood. We get plenty of Omega-6 fatty acids in a normal diet. In fact we get so much that our omega-6s to -3s ratio is about 10:1, and in some cases as high as 40:1, when it should be closer to 6:1.

Having enough of these fatty acids is critical for proper brain functioning, as our brain is 60% fat. The 'fat phobia' that has raged through our society during the past thirty years means that many people, on low-fat or no-fat diets, are simply not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. The result is everything from depression and mood swings, to increased rates of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart attacks.

Dr. Christiane Northrup, who writes a newsletter for women's health, thinks there is a link between fat-free, low omega-3 diets, and the increasing use of anti-depressants such as Prozac and Zoloft.

You can get more omega-3 in your diet in a number of ways:

o Eat meat that is finished on grass. Most of the beef raised in North America is finished in feedlots on a corn or barley diet, which decreases the amount of omega-3 in their meat. The best website I know of for all kinds of information on grass-finished meat is http://eatwild.com/index.html. You can find farms that sell this kind of product by clicking on 'shop for food'. Another bonus of eating grass-finished meat is it is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has been shown in a number of studies to reduce the risk of cancer.

o Eat a wide variety of dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards, dandelion greens, and broccoli.

o Eat cold-water fish regularly. It is best if it is not farm-raised, as farm-raised fish are given a diet of manufactured feed that causes them to have lower levels of omega-3 in their oil. I like sardines, so I eat them at least once a week.

o Avoid partially hydrogenated fats, such as shortening, margarine, non-dairy creamers and pre-package baked goods. Margarine is no longer thought to be as healthy as butter, and besides, butter tastes better. (Some of the new margarines that are free of trans-fat are said to be ok, but I say why eat that stuff when you can have butter?)

o Take a fish oil supplement. A number of studies show that fish oils, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, can help with mood and cognitive abilities. To see a page with references to some studies looking at fish oil and mental health, click here.

Fish oil can be good for all kinds of other things as well. Dr. Barry Sears, who developed the best-selling Zone Diet, has studied fish oil extensively. He has a new book out called The OmegaRx Zone, in which he greatly expands the potential of the Zone to alter how we think about optimal health in general. Drawing upon his own research as well as recently published studies, he shows how new technology in fish oil manufacturing may be a 'magic bullet' for health maintenance. This fish oil is much more pure than that on the general market. Dr. Sears's super-pure fish oil is only available in the US, so if you are an American and would like to try some,click here.

(I must tell you this is a referral site, so if you buy some fish oil here, I get a commission.)

Fish oil is also sold in health food stores, and it is no doubt good for your health as well, although it may have slightly more impurities in it than Sears's super-filtered stuff.

=============== sidebar ===============

I started eating according to the Zone diet about seven years ago, and within five months I had lost 20 pounds and dropped my cholesterol level by 50%, all without a moment's hunger. And I still could eat the foods I like! Since that time I have been a little less disciplined in my eating habits, and gained about six pounds back, which doesn't bother me a lot, although I wouldn't mind losing it again. Elizabeth had the same results eating in the Zone, but some friends we recommended it to did not lose as much. It seems as though people with 'type O' blood have more success than type A or AB.

Last week a friend from Ontario told me about a product the detoxifies your body and helps you lose weight at the same time. He lost 18 pounds in about three weeks, and says he feels great. I am going to try it next week, and see if I can lose 5-10 pounds on their nine days course. I have researched the net as thoroughly as I know how, and everything I have found about the product and company is positive. I will tell you how it went in the next newsletter.

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PROSTATE AND HUMOUR? REALLY??

There seems to be a lot of controversy about whether you should worry about prostate cancer. (my M.D. son-in-law tells me that 100% of men over 100 years old have prostate cancer.) The doctor I had when I lived in Vancouver said he didn't do the old 'finger up the arse' thing any more, unless a man asked for it.

One test that apparently does give some useful information is a 'PSA test', which measures the level of certain cells in your blood stream. I had one a couple of years ago to establish a 'baseline' measure. The idea is if I have one at some later date, and the level is higher, I might want to get checked a bit more thoroughly.

Now some guys have mixed a little humour in with messages about PSA tests. If you have a phone handy, try dialling 1-800-PSA-Test and listen to the first of a series of messages from well-known humorists and comics about prostate health. Gregg Stebben, a men's health author and commentator, worked with humorist Tim Nyberg, one of Workman Publishing's Duct Tape Guys, to launch the service. The goal with this service: To get listeners to tell their buddies to call the number.

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THREE MAGIC WORDS TO ENHANCE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH WOMEN

In his book 'Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus", John Gray mentions that men with a problem to solve will usually 'go into their cave' (i.e. think about it) until they come up with an approach to solving it. They will then talk with their buddies about it.

Their buddies will listen, then suggest other solutions. Men are not offended by this. It makes sense, right?

Not to women, it doesn't. Women, in general, tend to solve problems out loud. A woman struggling with a problem will get together with a friend and talk to her about it. She will describe the situation, tell how she feels about it, wonder out loud what to do about it, come up with some possible solutions, and eventually decide what she needs to do. Her friend mostly just listens, and maybe asks a few questions to help her explore it more fully. She may offer a solution, but that won't be the first thing she does. Now, put a man and a woman together (say you and your wife), when the woman is struggling with a problem. She tells the man the problem, and his immediate response is to ask her if she has tried so-and-so solution. She says no, she doesn't want to do that.

What about solution X? he says. Nope. Solution Y? Nope. Now he is getting frustrated, and she is getting mad. Pretty soon she is complaining that he isn't listening, and he has no idea what she is talking about. He has offered plenty of solutions, and she has listened to none of them!

So... if you have ever been in this situation, and especially if you are likely to be in it again, here are three magic words you can use: "Tell Me More".

That's it. It's that simple. When your wife (or daughter, or girlfriend, or whomever) complains to you about a problem she is facing, instead of telling her what she needs to do, just say 'tell me more'. When she gets over the shock, she will tell you more.

She will talk about all angles of the problem for a while. You just keep listening (and I mean you should actually listen, not just act as though you are), and maybe ask questions that will help her explore her problem more, and eventually she will come up with a solution, or she might ask you if you have one, at which time it is ok to give it (but don't be attached to her taking it). And she will love you for it.

You might think I am kidding, but I have done this many times. At first it was really hard to keep from offering solutions. Now I ask for more information almost immediately. It always helps Elizabeth figure stuff out, and she appreciates me for it.

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HERE ARE A COUPLE OF MAGAZINES/MEMBERSHIPS I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IF YOU ARE OVER 50 (Elizabeth and I belong to both organizations):

CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED PERSONS (CARP) which publishes the monthly magazine "50Plus" (http://www.fifty-plus.net/).

A 1-year CARP membership and subscription to the monthly magazine is $19.95. https://secure.50plus.com/forms/new_newjoin.cfm

The magazine has interesting and useful articles as well as discount coupons for everything from car rentals to hearing aids. Membership in CARP also gives discounts at some hotels and other places, as well as a substantial discount on the your annual fee if you have a self-directed RRSP (check with your broker to see whether his company offers this discount).

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED PERSONS (AARP) http://www.aarp.org/, which again, for only $12.50 a year gives you an excellent monthly magazine, discounts on lots of stuff, and many other benefits.

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Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.

All the best, Noel

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