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Midlife Wisdom for Men Newsletter Issue #024, December 15, 2004
December 15, 2004
Midlife Wisdom for Men - Helping Men Navigate Midlife Transitions.


Written by Noel McNaughton
(c) copyright 2004


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Issue #024, December 15, 2004

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

· Letter from a reader

· What Folk Tales Say About Midlife

· A Simple Exercise To Calm Yourself

· Ten Tips On Volunteering Wisely


Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

It is nearly Christmas, and another year is almost gone. Ever notice that time goes faster and faster the older you get? I mentioned that to my dad about twenty five years ago, and he said 'you think its fast now. Wait til you're 65'. I guess it is not likely to slow down any time soon!

Hope you enjoy this issue. Its a little longer than usual, but that is mostly because of the 'Ten Tips for Volunteering', which if you are interested in that kind of thing, I think you will find interesting.

There are 2154 words in the articles in this newsletter, which should take about 8 minutes to read.

By the way, for subscribers in Alberta, if you want to catch me on the radio I will be on CBC's 'Wild Rose Forum' from 1:00 - 2:00 on Tuesday, January 4, 2005.


A letter from a reader:


1. I heard you on CBC the other day but couldn't call in as I was travelling - enjoyed the conversations and wished I could have contributed. Let me know the next time you are scheduled if you don't mind.

2. Re: hug an angry man - a story: I grew up with an angry man and whenever we as kids were mad or had done something 'wrong' he often struck out (it was mostly because of what he experienced from his father). I was determined not to continue this pattern and my greatest achievement in life has been breaking that pattern. It happened one day, when my second & youngest son had one of his frequent outbursts/temper tantrums. In a moment of clarity, it dawned on me that what he needed was a hug instead of a spanking. So I picked him up -ignoring the hitting and screaming - and held him until he became quiet. He rarely tantrumed after that and if he did all it took was a hug.


Thanks, Bruce. Maybe we will bring peace to the world one hugged kid at a time! N.


What Folk Tales Say About Midlife

Allan B. Chinen, who is a Jungian psychologist, wrote the book Once Upon A Midlife back in the early 1990s. It is an excellent book that uses folk tales to point out ageless themes in the midlife passage. Chinen came at this in an interesting way. Here is an excerpt from an interview in M.E.N. Magazine, January, 1994:

Chinen: It started over ten years ago, when I would be jogging, or meditating, or walking on a beach, or hiking. I got vivid images which I realized were the endings of stories. It seemed like I needed to write the stories, rather than interpret the images. So I sat down and wrote out these stories, about how the people in the images ended up in that situation. They turned out to be fairy tales. But all the protagonists turned out to be middle aged or older. I thought, "This is very strange, I've never read any fairy tales except about children or adolescents!"

Chinen went on to read many folk tales, and discovered a whole genre of 'middle tales', which further broke down into two categories: tales where the protagonists were old, and tales where they were middle aged. A sub-set of the middle tales were specifically about men at midlife. They dealt mainly with the masculine, and not so much with women and the feminine. He talked about those tales in his book, Beyond The Hero.

Chinen says middle tales show several stages. The first involves settling down in life, adjusting to the fact that you have to work, and that the magic and innocence of youth disappears. (The old tale of the Shoemaker and the Elves shows this pattern.) Another stage is to reverse gender roles, so that men come to terms with their feminine side, and women come to terms with their masculine side. Then they have to renegotiate their relationship. I talked about that in the last issue in the article about the king and the lute player.

The third one is coming to terms with the dark side of life; with death, evil, tragedy, and the notion that we don't control everything. The young Hero assumes that with enough effort, or wit, or courage, he can do everything. At midlife, that is eliminated. People get sick. People die. Bad things happen to good people. The bible story of Job, which I talked about a couple of issues ago is a good example of this.

I have been an avid reader of folk tales for many years, even though I have not always understood their symbolic, or metaphorical message. Reading Chinen's books, and those of Michael Meade (such as Men And The Water Of Life) as well as some others, I came to understand that what I was going through in 'andropause', or my 'midlife transition', was normal, and had been going on for thousands of years. I suppose that is why I took up story telling. Perhaps you can find some solace in these folk tales as well. Not to mention they are fun to read!


Look for pleasure and meaning in the doing of life, not the accomplishing of ends. Getting to the end of the song is not the goal of singing! Allan Watts


A Simple Exercise To Calm Yourself

In his lovely book The Direct Path : Creating a Personal Journey to the Divine Using the World's Spiritual Traditions, Andrew Harvey gives eight exercises for reducing daily stress. In the busy-ness of our lives these days, I thought maybe we could benefit, so here is one of them:

Harvey says:

"This method was given to me by my friend Anne Pennington, a Russian Orthodox professor of Slavic languages at Oxford who was at once the busiest and gentlest of people. "When life gets too much," she said, "I start to say the Jesus prayer (ed. note: I don't what that prayer is), and if even that doesn't work, I stand completely still, close my eyes, and take five deep, calm breaths, trying to empty my mind completely. I find that always works." "In the twenty years since I first heard her advice, I have tried it on every continent (except Africa and Antarctica) and in most conceivable (and some barely conceivable) situations, and I have found it quite amazingly powerful and yet one more proof of how, in spiritual practice, it is often the simplest things that are the most effective."

So... is busy-ness scrambling your brain? Try five deep, slow breaths. I was shown a similar exercise many years ago while fasting. A fellow faster said to take ten breaths, with no thoughts going through my mind. If I noticed I was thinking, just start over. It generally takes me several tries to get through the ten breaths with no thoughts intruding, but it certain puts me in a calm space by the time I have done so.


Thought for the day: If your parents never had children, chances are you won’t either. (Dick Cavett)


Ten Tips On Volunteering Wisely

As we get older and have more time, and especially after retirement, it can be very gratifying to volunteer. However, not all volunteering experiences are satisfying!

Here are some tips for finding a volunteer situation that fits your values and passion, and is fulfilling for the organization you are volunteering for as well. This list is from the website:

1. Research the causes or issues important to you. Look for a group that works with issues about which you feel strongly. You might already be giving money to one of these organizations, and that might be a good place to begin your volunteer experience. If you can't find such an organization, here's a challenging and intriguing thought: why not start one yourself? You can rally your neighbors to clean up that vacant lot on the corner, patrol the neighborhood, paint an elderly neighbor's house, take turns keeping an eye on the ailing person down the street, or form a group to advocate for a remedy to that dangerous intersection in your neighborhood. There is no end to the creative avenues for volunteering, just as there is no end to the need for volunteers.

2. Consider the skills you have to offer. If you enjoy outdoor work, have a knack for teaching, or just enjoy interacting with people, you may want to look for volunteer work that would incorporate these aspects of your personality. Many positions require a volunteer who has previous familiarity with certain equipment, such as computers, or who possesses certain skills, such as ability in athletics or communications. For one of these positions you might decide to do something comparable to what you do on the job during your workday, or something that you already enjoy as a hobby. This sort of position allows you to jump right into the work without having to take training to prepare for the assignment.

3. Would you like to learn something new? Perhaps you would like to learn a new skill or gain exposure to a new situation. Consider seeking a volunteer opportunity where you'll learn something new. For example, volunteering to work on the newsletter for the local animal shelter will improve your writing and editing abilities. Or, volunteering can simply offer a change from your daily routine. Many nonprofits seek out people who are willing to learn. Realize beforehand, however, that such work might require a time commitment for training before the actual volunteer assignment begins.

4. Combine your goals. Look for volunteer opportunities that will also help you achieve your other goals for your life. For example, if you want to lose a few extra pounds, pick an active volunteer opportunity, such as cleaning a park or working with kids. Or, if you've been meaning to take a cooking class, try volunteering at a food bank that teaches cooking skills.

5. Don't over-commit your schedule. Make sure the volunteer hours you want to give fit into your hectic life, so that you don't frustrate your family, exhaust yourself, shortchange the organization you're trying to help or neglect your job. Better to start out slowly than to commit yourself to a schedule you can't or don't want to fulfill.

6. Nonprofits may have questions, too. While most nonprofits are eager to find volunteer help, they have to be careful when accepting the services you offer. If you contact an organization with an offer to volunteer your time, you may be asked to come in for an interview, fill out a volunteer application, or describe your qualifications and your background just as you would at an interview for a paying job. It is in the organization's interest and more beneficial to the people it serves to make certain you have the skills needed, that you are truly committed to doing the work, and that your interests match those of the nonprofit. Furthermore, in volunteer work involving children or other at-risk populations, there are legal ramifications for the organization to consider.

7. Consider volunteering as a family. Think about looking for a volunteer opportunity suitable for parents and children to do together, or for a husband and wife to take on as a team. When a family volunteers to work together at a nonprofit organization, the experience can bring them closer together, teach young children the value of giving their time and effort, introduce everyone in the family to skills and experiences never before encountered, and give the entire family a shared experience as a wonderful family memory.

8. Virtual volunteering? Yes, there is such a thing! If you have computer access and the necessary skills, some organizations now offer the opportunity to do volunteer work over the computer. This might take the form of giving free legal advice, typing a college term paper for a person with a disability, or simply keeping in contact with a shut-in who has e-mail.

9. I never thought of that! Many community groups are looking for volunteers, and some may not have occurred to you. Most of us know that hospitals, libraries, and churches use volunteers for a great deal of their work, but here are some volunteer opportunities that may not have crossed your mind: * Day care centers, Neighborhood Watch, Public Schools and Colleges * Halfway houses, Community Theaters, Drug Rehabilitation Centers, Fraternal Organizations and Civic Clubs * Retirement Centers and Homes for the Elderly, Meals on Wheels, Church or Community-Sponsored Soup Kitchens or Food Pantries * Museums, Art Galleries, and Monuments * Community Choirs, Bands and Orchestras * Prisons, Neighborhood Parks, Youth Organizations, Sports Teams, and after-school programs * Historical Restorations, Battlefields and National Parks

10. Give voice to your heart through your giving and volunteering! Bring your heart and your sense of humor to your volunteer service, along with your enthusiastic spirit, which in itself is a priceless gift. What you'll get back will be immeasurable!


Tennis commentator: "One of the reasons Andy is playing so well is that, before the final round, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them... Oh my God, what have I just said?"


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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