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Midlife Wisdom for Men Issue #007, March 31, 2004
March 31, 2004
Midlife Wisdom for Men - Helping Men Navigate Midlife Transitions.

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Written by Noel McNaughton
Midlife-Men.com
(c) copyright 2004 midlife-men.com

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If you like this e-zine, please do a friend and me a big favour and forward it him. If a friend DID forward this to you and if you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting Midlife Wisdom for Men. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

March 31, 2004 Issue #007

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

· There's a New Man's Story On The Midlife-Men's Website

· Surrender Is The Third Key To Spiritual Growth

· A Recently Divorced Man Asks 'Am I Making The Right Decisions?'

· Got a Passion? Turn It Into a Web Business

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There's a New Man's Story On The Midlife-Men's Website

It is common for men in midlife to suddenly start feeling more emotional about things. I noticed it around age 50. Mike Hebert, a 50-year-old friend of mine, started noticing it when he was about 40. He had some other interesting things happen to him during his forties as well. Read Mike's story at Men's Stories ====================================================

Surrender Is The Third Key To Spiritual Growth

In the last two newsletters I talked about Intention and Action as keys to spiritual growth. The final key in every spiritual discipline I know of is Surrender to some Higher Power.

Now, surrender is a scary word to most folks. It implies giving up 'power', losing control, being vulnerable. In fact our egos will throw up all kinds of scary scenarios to keep us from surrendering to something higher. The ego, which believes it is in control now (and is, until we surrender), fears its annihilation.

These scary scenarios can be powerful, and each ego knows just the story its 'owner' (i.e. us) needs to hear to keep us from surrendering. For one person it is the fear of losing a relationship one, for another it is the fear of having to let go of a favourite pastime. For me it was the fear that if I surrendered my life to a Higher Power (God), He would send me to help out in some remote village in Africa, and my family wouldn't come, and I'd lose them, but I'd have to go anyway.

I know that sounds weird, but to me it was real. As I said, each person's ego knows just the scary story to tell to keep him from taking the Big Step.

There is a story about a room somewhere in Tibet, where once every one hundred years a person can walk through and become enlightened.

Before the person enters the room, he or she is given two pieces of advice:

  • all is not as it seems
  • keep your feet moving.

The person then enters the room, the door is closed, and the person is faced with... their fears!

If they can manage to not be paralyzed by their fears (all is not as it seems) and keep their feet moving, they can reach the door on the other side, and emerge enlightened.

The first time I heard that story I thought it would be pretty neat to go through that room. Just think, walk through a room and presto: enlightenment. How hard could it be? After all, a person's fears aren't real. What you meet in the room is just illusions.

But as I thought about it I realized I let fears hold me back in real life all the time. What would be the difference if I was facing them in a room? The challenge is the same. Letting go of fear is a spiritual endeavour, and surrender is one of the big keys.

It does not matter how we go about surrendering. Evangelical churches encourage their members to come to the altar and give their lives to Jesus. The approach in Twelve Step Programs is to 'Turn your life and your will over to the care of God as you understand him'. Other spiritual teachings have still other approaches, but in every one, the eventual goal is to surrender one's ego self to a Higher Power, whatever name that Power is given.

As I have mentioned in other newsletters, I came at it through Alcoholics Anonymous, and was desperate enough that I finally overcame my ego fear and turned my life over to the care of God as I understood Him. The result was nothing like what my ego feared. Rather than being sent to Africa, I was filled with love and joy where there had been fear and anxiety. I experienced a Peace I could not have imagined existing. I was given the certain knowledge that I am unconditionally loved by the Creator.

I also lost my fear of death, and a bunch of others fears that hindered my life. Although I am not fearless now (I still have fears that hold me back somewhat), I have WAY less fear than I used to.

All it took was total, unconditional surrender, which of course is the most fearful thing we humans can imagine!

If you want to give it a try, you can pray fervently and surrender all at once, or just surrender a little every day. It doesn't matter. Just keep your feet moving, and you will find yourself gaining enlightenment as you go :-)

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A Recently Divorced Man Asks 'Am I Making The Right Decisions?'

I first heard from Rick when he called after hearing me on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio show where I was talking about midlife challenges.

We had a consultation session by phone where I coached him a little, and he said he would let me know how things went.

Rick's wife had left a few months earlier, but it was kind of dragged out. She had gone to a different city for a couple of years to get a college diploma, then worked in central America for a while. Rick kept the home fires burning, waiting for her to come back, until she told him on the phone a few months ago that she wasn't coming back!

Of course this put Rick into a tail spin. He felt betrayed, lonely, hurt, angry... all the feelings you would expect under the circumstances.

He recently emailed me and asked me to address a question he had been wrestling with. I'll let him explain:

"When I was going through my depression and the terribly cold weather in January, and glommed onto the idea of going to Vancouver Island, after the separation and selling house, and getting a temporary job till it was all settled, I always had in the back of my mind the question 'was I making the right decision(s)?'. Especially when I was so low.

"Also, I never thought my depression, lack of energy, anxiety and doom and gloom attitude would lessen, if not go away. I also worried that I was not getting 'over it' fast enough ...In making the plans, was I fooling myself, or was I correct in doing SOMETHING to get me over it, and give me hope, and something to look forward to? Also the book Life After Divorce by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, recommended by my therapist, saved me, as I read it six times, and will read many times more."

Rick talked about other challenges as well, such as struggling in his depression, which I will discuss in another newsletter (depression is common in middle aged men), but I want to talk here about his questioning himself about whether he was making the right decisions.

I have learned, through my own experiences with widowhood and divorce, and from talking to many others who have gone through major upheavals, that it is very tempting to make big changes in your life when you are facing big transitions.

Transitions have three stages:

  • An Ending
  • A Neutral Zone
  • A Beginning

If you would like to know more about transtitions, William Bridges in his books on Transition explains the anatomy of transitions particularly well.

The Ending Phase can be confusing. All we know is our life felt settled and good, and then something happened and we now we feel lost and confused. We are ‘wandering in the underworld’ and we don’t know why and can’t seem to do anything about it.

What follows is often a feeling of ‘disintegration’, where nothing seems to make sense. We sometimes feel as though we are failing, or malfunctioning, but it’s really just the Neutral Place, where the true new beginning is gestating.

This neutral time can be very trying. By it’s nature, it is an unknown. It can be described as a ‘night sea journey’. We know we have left something behind, but we do not know what or WHEN something new will replace it.

My wife and I like to keep a quote by Andre Gide in mind as encouragement in the neutral time: “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”

While we are in the neutral time, we may discover, or be offered many new choices and directions, and although tempting, some of these choices could be blind alleys.

Sometimes we have uncompleted endings from the past that hinder the completion of the transition we are in. Therapy can be very useful to help sort out which choices might lead to a fuller life and which might drag us down. For example, we might have left a negative or destructive situation or relationship, and without therapy, we are in danger of getting into a similar one without realizing it until it is too late.

Another interesting fact is that almost everyone has trouble with New Beginnings. We think we should be in charge of our lives, and we plan carefully to start something new. But life is not like that. Unexpected challenges invariably confront us, no matter how carefully we plan!

When we are feeling lost and stuck in some unknown swamp, it is immeasurably helpful to have someone who recognizes what is happening and who can help us stay the course and not lose heart. That help can come from a coach, a therapist, a support group, or a trusted friend.

Financial experts and many counsellors will tell you that the worst time to make big changes is when you are in the midst of major emotional crisis. This is particularly true of major financial decisions, such as selling a house. When you finally complete the transition, you may regret the decision. You might also be so vulnerable at the time you are selling that your judgment is impaired and you sell impulsively for significantly less than you could have got. I have a friend who bought a farm at about half its market value because the couple that owned it was separating, and they just wanted out!

That being said, big emotional upheavals can be the ideal time to make changes. After all, when our life is 'normal', we don't think of changing, even if what we are doing is not what our soul wants us to do. I see most crises as wake-up calls from our Souls, telling us to pay attention to what we are doing with our lives.

Here is my suggestion: if you are moved to make sweeping changes to your life in the midst of a big transition, don't make the decisions all by yourself. As Rick says, doing SOMETHING seemed like the right thing to get him through the depression and give him hope. But he realized he needed help, so he joined a divorce support group, and talked to therapist that he had been seeing for three years. He also attended a retreat for recently divorced people, which he says was "gut- and heart-wrenching, and emotionally draining, but excellent".

Rick talked to friends about his plans as well, which helped. He still questioned whether he was doing the right thing in planning to sell his house and move to the coast, but at least he didn't make the decisions in a vacuum. Are they the right decisions? Time will tell. But the worst that will happen is he will wish later that he hadn't, and he can learn to live with that.

Rick (and anyone else facing separation or divorce) faces two big dangers:

  1. Getting into another permanent relationship too soon. My own experience, and what I hear from marriage and grief counsellors is that it takes about three years to recover emotionally from being widowed or divorced. It's fine to have relationships during that time, but don't make them permanent. Chances are a person you are attracted to when you are in an emotional crisis (the Ending and the Neutral phases) is not the same type of person you will find attractive when you are 'normal'. (AFTER you have established your new life, and know 'who you are now').
  2. Making an expensive financial mistake. At midlife we don't have much time to recover. Get some financial advice from someone you trust (who understands financial stuff) before you make big decisions. This is especially true for investments - say deciding what to do with the money you got from selling the house.

And remember... whenever you are in a transition, this too shall pass.

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Got a Passion? Turn It Into a Web Business

I love the internet. It's a place where the little guy is still equal to the big guy.

Selling anything (your own products, or someone else's on commission) through a website can be a powerful way to build a business that will give you steady income. (Could come in handy for retirement!)

You can sell almost anything on the net if you know the secrets to structuring a site that sells (99% of websites don't work at all) and getting listed in the search engines.

Site BuildIt! , the web package I used to build my Midlife Men site does the techie work for you. In fact, it takes you by the hand a leads you through every step to making a website that WORKS. (My traffic has been building steadily since I created the site a couple of years ago, and all I've done is write the pages. Site BuildIt! did the rest.) You just have to supply the ideas and elbow grease. You don't need to know html, how to register with search engines, or any stuff like that.

If you are passionate about a subject, or have a favourite hobby, you can have some fun and make some money (maybe even a LOT of money) with a properly built website.

Have you been thinking about a website, but don't know where to start? Want some ideas about what kind of site you could build? Go here: http://www.find.explore-sbi.com/

If you want to see some case studies of people who built successful businesses, go here: Site BuildIt! case studies Site BuildIt! was developed by a Canadian medical doctor who is also an inventor and irrepressible entrepreneur. It has been called 'best small business package on the net' by a number of internet gurus, and in my research I have never seen anything even close to it.

I recommend it.

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You can even try it for free to see how it works for you before you decide whether to keep it.

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I Need Your Questions and Feedback!

Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

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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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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