Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Beginning

I have thought about when this thing called midlife began for me and I guess I can trace the roots back to just before my 40th birthday when I was beginning to become a little dissatisfied with my job in the Police Force. Whilst I loved the work I was doing [Chief Intelligence Analyst in the Victoria Police Counter-terrorist unit] it was becoming obvious to me that the Police Force was moving away from encouraging specialization and expertise. It was in fact being increasingly discouraged, both systemically by placing maximum limits on time in position, and culturally by making it very difficult to move laterally if you have been in one place for any length of time.

So I began to look around at other business opportunities with a view to working hard and making enough money to improve my lifestyle and give more time to pursue other interests, like time with family and travel to name a couple. I bought a franchise and the franchisor went into liquidation 6 months later. Faced with the dilemma of walking away then or continuing in another form and hopefully making the whole thing work, myself and all of the other franchisees formed a company to operate as a single business. Truth was though, we were operating with a lot of franchisee baggage, locked into supplier contracts that left us little place to go in terms of savings for cost of goods, and excess staff and vehicles that weren’t fully utilized.

Idealistically, we failed to make hard decisions at that time and rather than put people off, thought if we could grow the customer base over a short period of time, that we would need all of those staff and more. After another year, and having invested around $200,000 we closed the doors and I was left to start again.

Fortunately I didn’t lose my house but the cracks in the marriage were probably starting to appear. Not overtly, because, we both realized that we had to work harder to try and recover what we lost financially, but certainly emotionally it is fair to say that I began to withdraw. It wasn’t a conscious thing, I put my head down and bum up and worked a couple of jobs, and long hours took me from the family. I certainly didn’t realise it was happening and it’s only in the past year that I have had it pointed out to me.

So that trip down the river continued in the rapids for a while. Financially it was tough, I often felt like we weren’t making any headway at all, but that wasn’t unusual, I’d made a number of bad decisions throughout my life – investments in the stock market just before the crash the 1980’s; the purchase of an untried business; advice I acted on to buy into an insurance company that went bust a couple of weeks later. All done in good faith and from the advice of supposed experts.

Was there any sudden revelation or waking one morning to the belief that life was passing me by and that I was dissatisfied with things? I would have to say no at that stage, unlike the experience of many men I have since read of.

For me a critical point was the death of my father in August 2004. I couldn’t sleep properly, didn’t eat, dropped around 12 kilos in weight over a couple of months and began to question where it was I wanted to be. I treated people badly, again not knowingly, and I do regret that. Grief does funny things to the way you act and behave and whilst you’re going through it you cannot actually step back and analyse and assess what is happening. One day you realize that you have spent a lot of time being things for other people, but not being yourself.

What is that self? Truth is I’m still trying to learn how I came to be what I am. I went to a psychiatrist early on because some people thought I was depressed. I came away from those couple of appointments dissatisfied with the result but knowing that this wasn’t depression it was simply a re-assessment of all that had gone before. I only learnt later on that this was midlife and a normal part of life and growth. It is a sad reality in many ways that other people do get hurt along the way, inevitably, unknowingly sometimes, and certainly without malice although that may not seem to be true to those who are hurt.

This journey has been a roller coaster in many ways and if I had to describe only one revelation that has come to me over that time it is that it is now time for me. That sounds at times to be incredibly selfish, but it is the only way to break the pattern of unhappiness that has followed me for a number of years now. Some relationships have been shattered, others rekindled or reborn, and new ones begun. Whilst I am still living through these times it is sometimes difficult to believe that the future is bright. But in times of calmness I can truly believe that it is, and I can look forward to it. That doesn’t mean that everything that has gone before is invalid, nor that the rocky times are completely behind [I still have some bridges to cross with my kids] but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

There is comfort in knowing that this journey is not unique and this blogging community has helped me to understand that. I have learnt things about the spirit that few years ago I would have scoffed at. I am still not truly sure what those things mean, nor where they will lead, but I will leave that discussion for another day.

14 comments:

Finn said...

There is nothing wrong with being selfish. Everything in moderation.

I've just been to a blog where the writer was talking about always holding up her end, being the responsible one and putting herself last. All the commenters (mostly women) understood exactly what she was saying.

It's the way we're trained, and we don't see it for the poison that it is until we are old enough not to care so much what others think anymore.

There's nothing wrong with taking care of you. If you don't, who will?

Beth said...

Laurie;
This life truly is an interesting journey. I applaud your tenacity - sometimes all it takes is to get back up and tackle another day...

meleah rebeccah said...

Thank you so much for sharing this JOURNEY with us.

Your openness and honesty amaze me.

Really.

I don't know too many people (men especially) that would put themselves out here like this. Or ever own up to their actions / mistakes ....and then TELL US how to LEARN from your experiences.

THANK YOU

Random Magus said...

Loz I firmly believe that nothing in the past should be regretted because what we are today is the product of all the experiences we had to go through.
And they make us strong and wise and gives us the courage to be who we are and be able to show it to people...
Like you have...

Loz said...

Finn - I'm sure that a lot of blokes feel the same way too. But the feeling of selfishness sometimes leads to guilt.

Beth - I hope I don't come across as being too negative about things all the time. I'm not. It's just that the writing helps me to explore some of the emotion of the journey.

Mel - There would be a lot of people who would doubt my honesty over the past few years. And being selfish again, in throwing this stuff up I'm hoping to learn about myself, and maybe from other people who have gone through the same sorts of things. Thankyou for listening and taking the time to comment.

Loz said...

Amber - i'm not sure about the courage comment. I have pretty much been a coward most of my life when it comes to facing up to responsibility and in particular to conflict. It's only now, nearing 50, that I have come to acknowledge some of those weaknesses.

"Wolfgang" said...

Loz, I definitely know what you're going through. I had friends tell me that I was depressed too, but I also realized that it was more of a re-assessment. Sure, there are probably periods of depression that I go through, but I think its normal. Nobody can be happy all the time. Some of the stuff that's out there is enough to scare anybody. I also went through the "bunker mentality" where I kept my head down and tried to work through everything; withdrew from communication and friendships. It didn't work, but its easy to fall into.

Also, I decided early in the process that this had to be about me. I've spent far too long living to please other people. I'm the only one who truly has to live with my decisions. Everyone else at least has the option of leaving. You cannot live a life you are unhappy with. You have to be a person that makes you happy.

Great post!

Josie Two Shoes said...

We do go thru stages of reflection in our life, Loz, about where we've been and what kind of person we want to be, how we handle our relationships, etc. It's a good thing! If you note in my profile, I write, "This time it is all about me." Like you noted, that sounds so selfish and self-focused but it doesn't mean that, not everyone pay attention to me, but rather ME taking care of MYSELF! Too often along the road of life we end up sacrificing for others and losing much of ourselves in the process. There comes a time when it is necessary to say, "Hey, what about me!" I think we will both end up healthier for that new perspective.

Theresa111 said...

So candid and well written. Seems to me that you are right on track and like a flower that has been slumbering and waking to a new day, you are opening up and expecting the sun to shine.

Epimenides said...

Loz. I seem to be going through a midlife crisis myself. Since turning 40 in Febuary this year, I decided to grab the bull by the horns and sort some things about my life which I feel need changing. I am trying to get out of a job I detest, and I'm trying to consolidate my relationship with a woman from tousand miles away. Both of my "projects" are going painfully slow, but I find encouragement in your words.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

Loz said...

Wolgang - I like your bunker mentality comment. It is like keeping your head down because if you stick it up someone will kick it off. Sometimes.

Josie - I agree, yes it's selfish but a healthy selfishness thatis really difficult to explain to people unless they've been there.

Theresa - in very many ways it is a rebirth but also a scarey one.

Epimenides - you're welcome. Sharing is selfish to because it is sometimes egotistical and more about self learning than a desire to help others. If it does though, that's a good thing :)

HollyGL said...

Loz,

I, too, am learning what it means to stop living my life for anything other than myself (as much as possible).

Its a difficult transition, but once you understand - I mean really GET - the fact that you are so much more valuable to other people when you consider yourself first, I think it helps you to feel free and clear in your decision. The operative word being "free".

Mary said...

I feel like i'm walking in your shoes. So much of what you said has been part of my life. Two lost businesses,financial problems, unhappy with my job as a security officer for a federal government contractor, problems with relationships, hurting people because I was hurting, losing my mother to cancer are all parallel to your experiences. So i'm not alone.

Loz said...

Hi Mary and welcome - You're a long way from being alone. SO feel free to join in the discussions and add your point of view. In doing that we can all discover more about ourselves