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Midlife: Change? Yes. Crisis? Not Necessarily
June 04, 2005
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Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #035, June 4, 2005

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Midlife: Change? Yes. Crisis? Not Necessarily

Book Review: A Year By The Sea

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Written by Noel McNaughton Midlife-Men.com (c) copyright 2005 midlife-men.com

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Midlife Wisdom for Men.

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Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men. And a special welcome to the new subscribers this week. My apologies for being four days late! I had farm work to get done before the cattle came for summer grazing and it took me longer to get ready than I thought it was going to.

Hope you find this newsletter interesting and useful.

There are about 1200 words in the articles in this newsletter, which may take about five minutes to read.

Noel

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Midlife: Change? Yes. Crisis? Not Necessarily.

I have talked about midlife men on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio call-in show a number times. Often, a caller will wonder whether they are 'supposed' to be in a crisis. They are middle aged, and are undergoing some changes, but it doesn't feel like a crisis. Or they are now in their sixties or even seventies, and are still waiting for their midlife crisis.

My observation, backed up by researchers such as Daniel Levinson in his book The Seaons of a Man's Life is that almost all men will go through a major change or transition, which could feel like a crisis, at some point. But it may not be at midlife.

For example a man in his late twenties or early thirties, who has not settled into a career and/or marriage during his twenties, may feel as though he is in crisis in his early thirties, as he tries to figure out what to do. He may feel as though he is 'behind' his peers, or perhaps is getting not-so-subtle pressure from his parents suggesting it is time to decide on something and 'get going'. Having gone through a crisis in his thirties, such a man may barely notice his 'midlife transition', which Levinson defines as ages 40-45.

Alternatively, he may, as I did, make a number of major changes during his forties, but not experience them as a crisis. During my early forties, I finally got a clear sense of life mission ('to help people take better care of the earth'), quit my job as a television news reporter, went back to university, split up with my second wife, and entered a relationship with Elizabeth, whom I have now been happily married to for almost sixteen years.

Looking back on this time, I can see that what I did was stereotypical midlife behaviour, yet none of it felt like a crisis. In fact it all felt very positive!

My fifties though, were a different matter. I entered a long period where I was aware I was going through a major transition at a very deep level, and there did not seem to be anything I could do to hasten it. It felt as though it was to a large degree a spiritual transition, where my very being was changing in some way.

Now, at age 59, I have as much energy as I did in my forties, but it is 'deepened' in a way that is hard to describe. I feel wiser, and more able to sort out the important from the inconsequential.

A Time Of Quest

Crisis or not though, I believe, as do other researchers, that every man goes through some kind of transition during his middle years. Rather than a time of crisis, it is a time of quest. It can be a quest for wholeness, a quest for integrity, a quest for love, a quest for independence as well as interdependence, or a quest for the sacred. It can be a time for the healing of old wounds or for finding one's true calling.

Psychologist Carl Jung believed that in the second half of life people begin to discover and express qualities in themselves that were underdeveloped or neglected in the first half, and in doing so they achieve wholeness and balance.

Midlife may also bring a reevaluation of relationships and a search for deeper intimacy. This happens for both men and women at this stage. We want to free ourselves from sex-role limitations and allow both the "masculine" and "feminine" in ourselves to merge. During my fifties, I began to notice I had become more emotional. Many men calling into my radio programs report the same thing.

If we haven't figure out 'what we are going to do when we grow up', this midlife transition will be a time of pondering our right livelihood. Few people know what kind of work will be truly fulfilling when they are teenagers, or in their early twenties. As Joseph Campbell used to say, we climb the corporate ladder only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall.

Many men and women in 'promising careers' completely change direction at midlife and even though they may take a big cut in pay, find life as an elementary school teacher, or even a construction crew worker more satisfying than being a stock broker or high-powered executive.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of a midlife transition is the quest for the sacred. As children we may have had spiritual instruction in a church, temple, mosque or synagogue, but as we become adults, the childhood ideas of God seem too, well... childish. We get busy with our lives, and more often than not, simply let the spiritual aspect of our lives atrophe.

At midlife, the big questions about the meaning of life come back unbidden. Perhaps they are triggered by the death of someone we are close to, or by a serious accident or illness. However they come, they get our attention and we start a search for meaning at a deeper level. We may go back to formal religion, or we may seek on our own through prayer, meditation, retreats, or other spiritual disciplines.

Now... anyone can 'refuse the call', and not change as they go through this time. In the hero's journey folktales, if a person gets the 'call to adventure' but refuses to answer, and just goes back to his daily life in the village, there is no adventure, and the protagonist simply lives his life out in the village, never knowing what special boon he could have brought to the community.

So... if you are feeling the 'call to adventure' in the form of internal urgings to examine your livelihood, or your relationships, or your understanding of the meaning of life, answer the call. It may not lead to a crisis, but it will surely lead to a more fulfilling life!

As Robert Atkinson, Associate Professor of Human Development at the University of Southern Maine says, "It is in the second half of life that people discover what is personally sacred-what matters to them most in this life and beyond. Learning what that is may be the greatest midlife challenge of all."

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Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

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Book review: A Year By The Sea by Joan Anderson

This book is written by a woman, and is about a woman's midlife journey. Anderson, around age fifty, finds herself unwilling to simply pick up and follow her husband to a new city where he has a new job, without first trying to figure out who she is and what she wants in her life. She spends a year in their cabin by the sea on the east coast. The book chronicles what she learned about herself, and her marriage. After what was essentially a year of separation, she and her husband get back together, and their marriage has a new dimension and depth.

I recommend it for men for a couple of reasons:

  • it gives a picture of what many women go through in their own midlife transitions
  • it gives a picture of what a 'post midlife' marriage can look like.

It is a fairly small book, and does not take long to read. You might find it interesting, as might your wife/partner.

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In a cemetery: Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.

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Just For You: A Free Do-It-Yourself Retirement Planning Report

If you are a new subscriber to this newsletter, you will recall I promised you a link to a secret page on the Midlife Men's site where you can download a free 27-page report on 'DIY Retirement planning' by George Slater.

Welcome to the newsletter, and for your free report, go to: DIY Retirement E-Report , click on the link, and follow the instructions.

Enjoy!

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Learn to be a Teleclass Facilitator

If you are a facilitator/speaker/professional who gives lectures or workshops, you can do it from home and make money. Teleclasses (also known as teleseminars) using telephone bridge lines, are becoming increasingly popular, and and a very inexpensive way to deliver high-quality training. I took training in teleclass leadership from Teleclass International which I highly recommend.

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Classifieds


A Destroyer of Compasses by Wade Bell, published by Guernica Editions, (Toronto, Buffalo and Lancaster UK) $15.00 Cdn

One Man's Mid-Life Crisis Led to Spain. Planning to spend six weeks, he stayed five years.

A book of stories the Toronto Globe & Mail called "an assured and sensual portrait of a culture" with "precise and ironic examples of human idiosyncracy." The review went on to call stories "gems."

Available from Amazon, E-Bay and local bookstores.


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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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