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Midlife Wisdom for Men Newsletter Issue #022, November 16, 2004
November 16, 2004
Midlife Wisdom for Men - Helping Men Navigate Midlife Transitions.


Written by Noel McNaughton
(c) copyright 2004


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Issue #022, November 16, 2004

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

A Time Of Ashes

Whose House Do The Kids Go To On Holidays?


Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

There are just a couple of articles in this issue.

Everyone, at one time and another (usually at midlife), has to 'sift through the ashes of his life'. It is a time of re-examining, even re-defining, who we are, and then moving forward in a 'new life', which may be very different from our old life, or may see us continue doing what we used to do, but with renewed energy and understanding.

'Going down into ashes' has been happening to people for centuries, and there are many symbols for this process, including the Phoenix, and the firebird.

Many readers of this newsletter are single parents, and holidays can be an especially trying time... When do I get the kids at Christmas?

There are 1533 words in the articles in this newsletter, which should take about 5 minutes to read. Hope you enjoy it. ==============================================

A Time Of Ashes

There comes a time (or times) in everyone's life called a 'Time of Ashes'. It is a time when calamity hits - you are downsized, divorced, in a car accident, a close family member dies, you lose your business, or lose interest in your work, or some other catastrophe comes along. Our old world falls away, and we don't know what will take its place.

We all know stories of a time of ashes. In the Bible, Job, who was wealthy and happy, is perhaps the best example...

God and Satan are having a chat, and God says 'what do you think of my man Job? There is none as upright as him. He praises God and turns away from evil'. Satan says 'Ah come on, it's easy for Job to praise God when everything in his life goes so well. But take away his stuff, it will be a different story'.

God says, in what seems to me a cavalier manner 'Go ahead... take his stuff, do anything you want, just don't kill him, and we'll see what he does.'

Satan arranges for all Job's possessions to be taken away, and for Job himself to be covered with sores. Job sits in the ashes and wonders what is going on, and although he is distressed and angry, he stays the course. He has some 'friends' who tell him he needs to repent, for obviously he has been a sinner. He is humbled mightily before he gets a chance to talk with God. When they do talk, God more or less says 'You are just a man. There is a lot of stuff you don't understand, so don't get too upitty. Nevertheless, since you stayed true to me, I will give all your stuff back and more.'

And of course, Job ends up with twice as much as he started with.

I, and no doubt you, have been in a similar situation, although maybe not as dramatic, where things fall away, and nothing we try seems to work. For me, the latest 'time of ashes' started in 1997 when Elizabeth and I moved to Vancouver. The idea was for me to join the management team of a start-up company we had invested in.

But it was as though some giant invisible hand was holding everything back. Every time we found a major investor for the company, something would happen just before they invested. Some potential investors went bankrupt, some went to jail, some had personal breakdowns. It was as though our company was the 'kiss of death' for anyone who tried to invest with us. Eventually we gave up.

At the same time, I had lost energy, focus, confidence and passion, and could not seem to get anything else started. I tried everything from professional speaking (which I had done lots of in the past)to coaching to network marketing, but couldn't get anything off the ground.

I slowly came to realize I was going through some kind of transformation at a very deep level, but could not willfully bring the process into consciousness. I just had to trust that the right thing was happening, and at some point, it would end.

In the meantime, our retirement savings were disappearing at an alarming rate, and there didn't seem to be anything we could do about it.

This 'paralysis' lasted for several years, and in some ways is only ending now.

I have met others who have had harder struggles, such as the woman I met in Vancouver who at age 50 lost her job as a corporate executive, lost her husband, became mentally ill, and eventually ended up living on the streets. After a few years she 'rose out of the ashes', and when I met her, she was an artist, living in a small apartment, and feeling very fulfilled.

The good thing about a time of ashes is that it is also the beginning of a fuller understanding of life, and it helps us become more compassionate and open-hearted, and less judgmental, as we know what it is like to fail or to experience pain. It also leads us in the direction of our Soul's calling.

As with Job, we usually recover lost ground financially as well, which I truly hope to do in the coming years :-)

If you are in a 'time of ashes', stay the course, explore in whatever way you can what is trying to be called forth, and know that this is a normal part of midlife, and this too shall pass.


Life is like a camel: you can make it do anything except back up. - Marcelene Cox (1945)

Can I have a bag of bird seed please? How many birds have you got? None yet, but I am hoping to grow some.

A woman drove me to drink ... and I hadn't even the courtesy to thank her. ~ W. C. Fields


Whose House Do The Kids Go To On Holidays?

Christmas, and other major holidays, can be among the most trying times for divorced parents, especially those that are newly divorced, and most especially those who have a lot of conflict and bitterness.

Elizabeth and I have five children between us, and when we first got married, she had been divorced for eight years, and her former husband had died. That left her side of things flexible.

One the other hand, my ex-wife and I had only been apart for about three years, and although we got along quite civilly, it didn't take too much to stir things up. Our three kids were older too, with the youngest, Matthew, being thirteen.

Still, Christmas brought a bit of tension.

The first year, my ex and I had agreed that Matthew would be at my place for Christmas morning, and then go to her place for dinner. I wasn't sure what to decide about my oldest two. They were eighteen and twenty one, and living on their own, so I didn't figure it was up to us to decide where they should go. My ex figured we should.

Christmas day came, and we were all having lots of fun at my house. The next thing you know, the phone rang. It was my ex, very angry, and wondering where the kids were. I looked at the clock, and realized it was almost the time she and I had agreed they would be at her place. I felt guilty and resentful at the same time. I was having fun with the kids, and didn't want them to leave. Besides, there were still a few minutes left before they had to be at her place, so what was she doing calling me already? Shouldn't she at least wait till they were late? Just the same, I had agreed, so I had to tell them it was time to go to their mother's house.

We got through that without a major battle, and without the kids having to feel bad, but we knew we had to be very clear, and respectful of each other's wishes in the future, knowing we each would rather have the kids with us through the whole day.

One thing we both had as a true priority was to make sure we did not put the kids in a tug-of-war between us, which would put them in an impossible situation, and is simply not fair.

Here are a few simple concepts that worked for us:

  • Never send messages to each other through the kids, as in 'tell your mother... blah blah blah'. Invariably we'll slip a negative tone into the message, and the kids, who love us both, end up offending, or defending one or the other parent. "What the blankety blank does he mean by that? You tell him I'll see him in blankety blank before I agree to that..."
  • Always plan holiday times with the kids well in advance, especially if they are still living at home. A month is good. A year is better. And do it in writing. That way no one says "I thought we agreed so-and-so would happen" and the other says "no, we said such-and-such", and the war is on.
  • Be flexible. A reasonable strategy is to ask the other what they want, and then fit your schedule around it, if at all possible. If they say they don't know what they will be doing, then you tell them what you want. They will either agree, or say they want to do something at that same time, in which case, if it works for you, you can say ok to that, and then set your own time.


Our kids are all adults now, and they have in-laws to consider as well, plus we have our parents to work into the situation, so this year we are having a family get-together on December 11. That way we won't interfere with anyone else's Christmas plans, and whoever can make it to our place for Christmas dinner is welcome. If they can't that's fine too. I heard of a woman who does this and calls it Festivus --the holiday created by George's parents on Seinfeld-- a holiday to put the *FUN* back in "dysfunctional."

Next issue, I will give a few tips on what to do if you are going to be alone at Christmas.

Merry Christmas! Or Festivus! Or whatever.


  • Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
  • Medical note : Never take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
  • There are two theories about arguing with women, and neither of them works.
  • My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe. ~ Jimmy Durante


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.



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.



If you have something you want to advertise, just send me a note at



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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 . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.


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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