Life is a battle and facing life head-on is the only battle-plan that wins the war. A lot of us try the back-door approach and ultimately we come out feeling like losers. Full consciousness and facing head-on the challenges of career, family, children, and friends are the only proven ways. But that’s not enough. A lot of men formulate their life’s strategy and leave out the most important person: themselves. It’s no wonder that by mid-life a lot of men in our culture want to give up the struggle even if they lose their deepest self in the process.
Psychologists define mid-life as extending anywhere from age 38 to 70, but in my experience I’ve identified the truly vulnerable years as age 55 to 65. That’s when we men have discovered that we’ve tried just about everything to reach our life goals and have either run out of ideas or of personal motivation. It’s also the time when physical changes in the body presage possible long-term diseases or illness. These unexpected physical, relational, or soulful changes not only catch us off-guard but can sap us of our mental and physical energy reserves.
Mid-life is also a period when a lot of men find new vigor and a refreshed vision for their lives. Experience has taught them to approach unsettling questions with a deeper faith in themselves, with reserves of courage they never knew they had, and with unbridled hope that they’ve seen the worst and can face the future. They reject the notion of retiring as a word more suited for race horses put out to pasture than for vital individuals with a third of life still awaiting them.
Let’s face it though, the shift in our economy and the take-over by technology in many sectors has beaten down a lot of men who have lost their jobs, have had to change careers and accept pay cuts, who have lost their retirement in the stock market, or who cannot find a job. They are bitter that their experience, understanding, skills, and meta-view of their companies have been discounted in favor of younger people who happen to know how to manipulate information through the latest computer programs. This computerization of tasks has given companies the excuse to demand multi-tasking as a way of life for a shrinking work-force.
The notion of multi-tasking is truly dumb and a lot of people know it. Multi-tasking only feeds egos and promotes the illusion that a lot is getting accomplished at once. Studies show that the opposite is true; long term it is the occasion for mistakes. Most humans work better at one thing at a time, and men are well-known for linear thinking, moving in order from task to task and building upon previous accomplishments. It’s a kind of genius built into the male psyche that is underappreciated. Men also tend to work best without a lot of social interaction and distraction. I have found that the majority of men I’ve met are modest; they seek little or no recognition for their work except to reach their personal best goals, as long as they are not micromanaged and are trusted to do it their own way!
By mid-life many men have reached a cusp in their chosen professions. They may stay the course, even knowing that over time their options will evaporate. Some may decide to make a radical change in their work and/or personal lives. Whatever the outcome there lurks some particularly male questions in their minds. They are often preconscious and a lot of fear surrounds them, but they almost always need a forum so that men can safely articulate them and receive the acknowledgement and support needed to push head-on into and through mid-life. Some of these questions are (in random order):
– Will I live to see my kids settled down?
– How long will I need to take care of my parents in their old age?
– Will my grief over the death of my family and friends kill me?
– Will I ever pay off my debts?
– Will I have enough money saved to quit my job by age 66 or 70?
– Are my 30 pounds of stomach leading to a heart attack, diabetes, or a stroke?
– What has happened to my sex drive and fully functioning sex organs?
– Does my spouse/partner still love me?
– Why am I so tired all the time?
– When will I ever get to do the things I really enjoy?
– Do I really need to see the doctor?
– Do I really need to exercise?
– What if I get Alzheimer’s disease or cancer?
– Is God okay with me?
– Do I love the man I’ve become?
– Can I get rid of this job I hate?
– Why do I feel fear, dread, sadness, and depression?
– Does anyone really care if I live or die?
The issue is not to arrive at perfect answers to these questions; the issue is to have an opportunity to be heard. That is one reason why I’ve started a Meet-up group “For men only” a few months ago. The sad news is that very few men have taken advantage of is particular opportunity to be heard. Their preconscious questions often get buried under an avalanche of fear, self-doubt or inner critics. And spouses, partners, and friends have often long since given up asking what’s wrong only to receive a silent shrug in return.
Yet the beginning of attacking mid-life head-on is to ask these questions out loud and for men to hear the voice behind their concerns. The ultimate gift men can give themselves is self-respect and love that they crave in order to work through their feeling stuck as they push head-on through the battle of mid-life. Ultimately it’s a spiritual matter that involves men’s deepest consciousness. It is a soul-hunger that only each of us can fill…if we dare.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All artwork is copyrighted by the artist, Michael Parise