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If you are not a midlife orphan, you will be one day...
January 15, 2006

Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #050, January 15, 2006

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

If Goal Setting Is Making You A Failure, Try Wondering

Midlife Orphans


Written by Noel McNaughton (c) copyright 2005


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


Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

Now that we are a couple of weeks into the new year, I hope things are shaping up for great succes.

I had not thought of it till it was mentioned to me, but when we lose our parents, we become, in a sense 'orphans'. The feeling of being orphaned is apparently quite common among midlife people whose parents have died. See the story below for more detail.

Every now and then it doesn't hurt to have a reminder to live each day as fully as possible. Last week one of my university classmates died when his horse fell on him. During the past year, two relatives and four friends of mine have died, and the two oldest were in their seventies. The rest were younger.

There are about 1500 words in this newsletter, which should take you about six minutes to read.

All the best,



"Life does not accommodate you- it shatters you. Every seed destroys its container, or else there would be no fruition." Florida Scott-Maxwell


Letters from readers

Hi there Noel, I guess someone has to step up to the plate. I would like to make a donation of ten dollars a month for your newsletter, which I often find to be a real inspiration. So, just send me an invoice, and I will send you the one hundred twenty dollars for a yearly subscription and I will then be your charter subscriber. Woohoo! I know that it is sometimes hard to come up with the courage to actually ask for the money you deserve. But once you've done it, it is much easier to do the next time, and so forth. Namaste, and all the very best for a special 2006.
Your fellow traveller,

Ed. note: Thanks for the kind words, and the offer to subscribe, John. The invoice is on its way!



Thanks for the newsletter. As for me, this year was tremendous. It actually really stunk in some significant ways, but now, at years end, I know so much more and feel a way I couldn't have imagined. The year started with me addressing some anxieties I've had regarding the loss of my father when I was 12, and boy have I made progress though it was tough.

I'm 40. Kind of funny; I hit puberty late but seem to be hitting career changes and mid-life transitions on the early side. Or perhaps not, I don't know the average age. Anyway, I embrace it.

My wife and I had some real estate woes early in the year (vacancies in our apartments) which motivated us to advance our business. I had significant fall-outs at work too, which has motivated me to do a career change and that has been a tremendous learning experience.

My only advice to others -- and I'm but a fledgling transitioner -- is to not be afraid to ask for help from friends, elder mentors, therapists, or whoever one respects.

All in all, this year has been great! Tough situations are turning into great things. I am not at all yet where I want to be, but compared to where I was in 2004, WOW, what a year 2005 was! Here's to 2006 being even more of a growing experience!

I hope your year was great, and wish a great 2006 to you.



Men like to barbecue. Men will cook if danger is involved.


If Goal Setting Is Making You A Failure, Try Wondering

I am part of a mastermind group (there are five of us), and in our meeting last week we were talking about goal setting. One member, Jamie, said he heard a speaker many years ago say that goal-setting just sets you up for failure. If you are doing what the 'experts' say, you make a list of goals and then set a deadline for when you will accomplish each one.

The problem is that in reality, most of us, even if we do set goals, either don't reach them at all, or don't reach them by the deadline, which makes us feel bad. We can even start to see ourselves as failures who can't accomplish the important things in our lives.

A better way is to have a life direction or mission, and maybe establish a theme for the year, with some actions that will move you toward that theme. Then instead of establishing completion deadlines for the actions, use "I wonder", as in "I wonder how long it will take me to ___________", rather than "I will achieve this goal by March 3".

Elizabeth and I have used "I wonder" in times of financial stress, and it is interesting how it changes the psychological tone of the situation. Instead of saying "I don't know how we are going to get through the month end", we would say "I wonder where the money is coming from to get through the month end". We then felt far more optimistic, which made it easier to do what was necessary to come up with the month-end cash.


Deja Moo: the feeling that you've heard this bull before.


Midlife Orphans

A while back I was talking to a fellow whose second parent had died the year before, and he said it may sound strange, but he felt a bit like an orphan now. Ted had grieved a lot when his dad died seven years before, but at least he still had his mom. When his mother died, along with the grief came the realization he was now 'alone in the world'. He still had a wife and three children, and said he felt somewhat foolish about feeling like an orphan when he was 52 years old, but he felt that way just the same.

Ted thought maybe something was a little wrong with him. He imagined other middle aged people were more 'mature' about their parents dying, and didn't feel like orphans. But he has a lot more company than he imagines. In fact, when American writer Jane Brooks was staying at a B&B in Nova Scotia, her hostess said the house had belonged to her parents, who had both died a few months apart the year before, so she "was an orphan now".

Brooks, who had lost her second parent a little more than a year previously, was struck by the statement, and found it described how she was feeling now. Like Ted, she was a little embarrassed to admit feeling like an orphan, but after hearing this woman describe herself that way, decided maybe she wasn't alone after all.

She wondered how many other midlife adults felt like orphans when their parents were gone. When she began to talk openly about it, she found midlife orphans everywhere - from her local deli to a clothing boutique and even the library. She also found midlife orphans eager to talk, because it was a topic that never came up in other conversations.

There are plenty of midlife orphans. Every year more than 5 percent of the population loses a parent - more than one and a half million in Canada, and ten million in the US. In fact, by the time we reach age sixty two, 75 percent of adults have lost both parents.

Brooks began to research the subject, and discovered there is very little written about losing our last parent, even though it is a given in the life journey. She decided to conduct her own research, and put the word out that she was looking for people to interview. Far more people responded than she could handle, so she ended up doing fifty two interviews lasting from one and a half to three hours.

The interviewees ranged in age from thirty seven to sixty two, and came from a wide range of religions and ethnic backgrounds, and walks of life. She reported the results of her research in her 1999 book Midlife Orphan: Facing Life's Changes Now That Your Parents Are Gone.

She found the feeling of being orphaned or abandoned is common when the last parent dies. It is usually followed by a period of introspection and self-evaluation. Old sibling rivalries often re-emerge as well, as the adult children try to divide up the parents' earthly goods. Even long-awaited inheritances may come with an unexpected load of guilt, sibling rivalry and mistrust.

When the last parent dies, our family of origin is gone. If our relationship with our parents was good, we grieve the loss of this part of our life. If it was a difficult relationship, any hope of changing things for the better dies with the parent. Things left unsaid can never be said now. I don't know how many men I have talked to over the years who regret they never told their dads they loved them, nor had their dads told them.

It also confronts us with our own death. We realize, sitting in the front row at the funeral, that our turn in the box is next.

I am lucky. Both of my parents are still alive, but I know the day is not far off when they will both be gone, and like 'Ted' and Jane Brooks, my sisters and brother and I will be 'orphans'. I don't know what that will be like, but at least I will know we are not alone.


Whose idea was it to put an "S" in the word "lisp"?


NOTE: Further to the saga on the donation page. I have now set up a page where you can make a donation to help support the site if you wish. I had to set the amount at $10 (that is a one-time donation, not monthly!) so that Clickbank would take payments. The link is on my website now, but will not be active till about Tuesday January 17. I am happy to do this newsletter and maintain the site, as it is a part of my mission/service, but it does cost a bit, so any help is appreciated.


Seen during a conference: For anyone who has children and does not know it, there is a day care on the first floor.


Got your copy of Picking Up The Burning Feather yet? It will help you on your spiritual journey.

Just go to Picking Up The Burning Feather: A Spiritual Guide For Midlife Men.


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 , 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.



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.

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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