Vision to See
Faith to Believe
Courage to Do
Inscription on a sundial near Union Station
“A personal story as one’s example can serve to elucidate a more widespread human trait and make readers feel a little less lonely and freakish.” Author Philip Loparte. In this book I have attempted to address some of the Baby Boomer history, the situations we have placed ourselves in at midlife, and how we can possibly address many of the issues that face us. The structure of the book is to move the reader towards a point of view, an insight, an understanding of a person, a connection with a different way of life.
Gail Sheehy said in her book “Pathfinder” that the best the non-fiction writer can do is to present the ‘illusion’ of interior lives, giving the reader insight and private information about real people, but stopping short of claiming to know what cannot be known – without making it up. Identifying the changes during midlife, our downfalls in the past, the rebuilding of our future, and the ‘new’ Baby Boomers that grow through this transition equals our total metamorphosis.
My book is the story of my personal experiences when entering midlife and the discoveries from my research about male menopause and the past lifestyle of Baby Boomers as it impacts on our midlife today. The structure of the book is enhanced by quotes, humour, and illustrations that are in place to play a role in exposing you, the reader, to this ‘midway’ experience.
At age fifty, what struck me most powerfully was that there were no answers, just provocative thoughts and ideas about where we (Baby Boomers) are and where we were going. In John Lescroart’s book “The Mercy Rule” he describes a scene which places all of us midlifers at the doorstep of midlife. “But there had to be, Sal. You don’t just. Maybe you do. Maybe one day you wake up and you’re a different person. You’re going along and something happens and the whole vision you have of who you are – suddenly that whole thing just doesn’t work anymore. So everything it was holding up comes crashing down.”
Like me, David Byrne in his book “Glad from Grown Backwards”, attempts to portray himself as an average person and, through incredible self-honesty, to be creative and less inhibited about revealing his real self to the reader. By exposing my lonely thoughts and peculiar experiences during the early parts of midlife, I hopefully can give a strong human element to the midlife of a Baby Boomer.
One of the most well-known male writers on the subject of midlife is Jed Diamond. His books give considerable insight into the changes that occur. His training and research approach to this subject is done using a far more analytical methodology than mine. I have taken a layman’s approach to address the many issues of a Baby Boomer’s midlife because I am a layman in this field.
My greatest motivation for writing this book was to reduce my own ignorance and that of other males about this great transitory period. It is also written for the partners of midlife males so they can better understand us and our need for support.
Our macho male approach toward many things, including male menopause, puts us in a sphere of loneliness and a feeling that we are abnormal. The best answer to these feelings is learning to understand what is happening, talking to others – partner, other men, and physicians – and then taking control of this transition so it is not a crisis but a midway. By taking control of the many factors that influence this time of life, we can make the next thirty years the best years of our life.
I changed from the person I was prior to midlife. I took greater control of my life, took risks to make the changes, and in the end feel very happy about the outcome. “No pain, no gain” applies to more than sports and must be an accepted ingredient of our transition. I have spoken to men in small groups, to individual men, and also to spouses who are trying to understand their partner. These discussions reaffirmed that men do not do enough to help themselves.
During the course of my research and writing I recognized that male menopause does not have to be a crisis but rather a ‘midway’ experience, taking control of the many factors that influence this time of our life, a life that now lasts thirty years longer than that of our grandparents. Writing was one of the inspirations that came to me during the early stages of my midlife transition. I have worked hard to practice the issues that I address in my book so that I can demonstrate and describe the feelings and issues that Baby Boomer men will be exposed to during this stage of life.
My wife, Joanne, has been my greatest supporter and assistant. Her keyboarding and editing skills have made this project the culmination of many years of research and writing. Without psychological help from Dr. Pam Algar, who guided me in my darkest moments, I may not have gained the self confidence I needed to make the decisions about moving on with my life. Art Reimer, who gave me spiritual support, was another partner in my early midlife years. Also, Dr. Douglas Klein, my personal physician, was always there to give me advice on the many health issues that came my way after age fifty. I am grateful for the understanding and support of my children, Matthew and Christopher, as I moved through my midlife. And, of course, my thanks to my mother, Heidi, without whom I would not have learned so much about giving and loving. I recognize that I turned their world upside down but now I hope that our wonderful relationships continue for many years.
I am one of sixty-seven million Baby Boomers born in the world between 1946 and 1966. We shook up the world when we came into it and now we are going to do it again as we go through our midlife. For me and for many male Baby Boomers already starting midlife, many new and scary issues came up that upset our equilibrium for two reasons:
1. We were ignorant of what to expect during midlife male menopause.
2. We were too macho to sit and talk to other men and our partners about specific issues that were causing chaos in our lives.
This disorder was compounded by our expectations for all facets of our adulthood. We raised the bar so high and placed so many demands upon ourselves that at midlife we have to deal with many issues regarding our work, our marriage, our health, our lifestyle, and, most of all, how we will cope with our future. There is no question that Baby Boomer males must face up to the issues before us and be prepared to read, talk, and learn as much as possible about this new life experience.
All of the changes, our response to the changes, and our willingness to share these moments with our partner and other males, will be the basis of our successful move through Baby Boomer midway.
Sex and Sexual Dysfunction
Your Aging Partner
The Older Child
In Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s book, “Getting over Getting Older”, she refers to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Homes’ story of a train ride. This story puts the issue of memory into perspective in today’s world.
The train conductor asked Justice Holmes for his ticket but he couldn’t find it. He searched and searched with a puzzled look on his face. The conductor suddenly recognized him and gently said, “Never mind, sir, I’m sure you have it somewhere.” “Mr. Conductor”, replied Holmes, “the question is not where is my ticket, but where am I going?”
Others authors, such as Joel and Lois Davitz in their book “Making It from Forty to Fifty?” describe this time of partners as “No other decade is more intriguing, complex, interesting and unsettled. Its characteristics are change, flux, crisis, growth and intense challenges. Other than childhood, no period has a greater impact on the balance of our lives, for at no time is anxiety coupled with so great a possibility for fulfillment.” I believe that we now see these challenges in our fifties but they are very true for those passing through midlife.
During our male menopause we experience a range of occurrences with respect to physical, mental, sexual, and marital changes plus the added complexities that go with dating, a new partner, aging parents, and, of course, retirement and death.
The overall technique for living a successful midlife and many years after is that of taking control of your present and future lifestyle. There is no perfect strategy; strategies will vary for each of us based upon the circumstances we face. As midlife Baby Boomers and upcoming midlifers we must, in conjunction with our partner, develop plans that work for both of us.
Both the male and female partners in an established relationship will probably have concerns, new hopes, and new ambitions that identify the new personality. She will move away from the traditional wife role as the children have left the nest and she beings to explore new ventures that she has wanted to explore but held back for the sake of the family. This image is more closely related to our mothers than the wives of today who have already taken a new profile in the home, work, community, and society in general. But even there, more independent partners now have even greater ambitions for themselves, and rightly so.
At this midlife point, established partners must expand new interests and either share those interests or keep the lines of communication open so you can each continue to share and grow together. The couple must openly evaluate the past and plan for the future.
Couples in established relationships are usually successful because ‘the sum of the two makes a whole’. In other words, the two midlifers are stronger together than apart. It means that in such long relationships there has been several marriages, each one requiring a shift by both partners to properly match the changes that make them both very happy.
What is very critical in an established relationshi at midlife is that each partner understands and is aware of the other’s moods and feelings that happen at this time of life. This process that both parties go through must happen! Being open with each other in this established relationship is what will make the marriage stronger and provide a new way of showing love.