blind-squirrel(This is the first in the series “Revelations of a Middle-Aged Guy in the New Economy.” I’m calling this Nut #1 in honor of the old saying: Every now and then a blind squirrel finds a nut. In this analogy, I’m the blind squirrel. The nuts are essentially lessons from a midlife crisis. But “lessons” sound so boring and “nuts” are much more apropos, in my case.)

The idea of a midlife crisis always seemed like nonsense when I was younger. As a clueless kid I figured it meant a person no longer felt young and responded by getting a red sports car (men) or dying their hair (women).

Years went by, decades passed, and eventually I discovered there was a little more to it than that. I wasn’t immune to a midlife crisis. Turns out it isn’t bullshit. Things that never used to matter—like purpose, and legacy, and what I want from life–started being really important.

Adding to the fun was the fact that my midlife crisis coincided with the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. It’s one thing to be pushing 50 when the economy is good. It’s quite another to personally feel like you’re falling apart at the exact time the country is falling apart, too.

Sadly, I lacked the power to slow the aging process or the financial meltdown. There was nothing I could do. Except consider everything else.

When I asked myself those questions about purpose and legacy I almost always came away with a feeling of discontent. The only solution, in my mind, was to scrap everything that wasn’t working and start over, with the ultimate goal being tranquility and personal fulfillment.

For every facet of my life I asked myself, “Is this working? Is it what I want now? Is it what I want forever? This profession? This house? This relationship? This lifestyle?”

If the answer was “no,” it had to go. It was a scorched earth approach. Nothing escaped scrutiny. Every part of my life was up for review; there were no sacred cows.

Reassessing the fabric of my life also led to fundamental change in much of my value system, as well–like the importance of money, and status, and perception.

My frame of mind around my 50th birthday was largely disappointment. I started feeling as if the life I wanted was unattainable because of actions, or inactions, during the first half of my life. I didn’t want my second half to be burdened by the same lackluster results.

Now, with the crisis well behind me, I see that the roller coaster ride took about five years, roughly between the year I decided to leave my hometown of 42 years and the day my life coach and I developed a life-changing plan to get beyond the crisis.

As I deconstructed the former me, I learned a tremendous amount about who I am and what it means to be alive.

Next week Nut#2: Global Repositioning

fortune-cookieHave you noticed all the lists on the internet these days, pawned off as journalism?

You’ve probably seen them: “Nine Reasons to Fly a Kite” or “Top 11 Places to See a Possum After Dark” or “Seven Great Travel Destinations for People with Red Hair.”

Sometimes the headline tries to hook us by using words like “shocking” or “amazing” or by telling us we “won’t believe” their list of, what turns out to be, nothing more than gobbledygook.

I’ve personally adopted a policy never to click on an article that tells me I “won’t believe” something. Sure, I like a shocking bit of trivia now and then. But I rather doubt I’m going to be shocked by whatever list some wannabe writer has tossed off while finishing a latte at Starbucks.

Bloggers seem to be falling into the same lazy habit. One of the most popular blogs out there is a list of life rules an expecting father is compiling for his unborn child. He posts a new entry for every day of the gestation period, each taking about the same time to read as the fortune in a fortune cookie.

This is just a reflection on modern society, I guess, which can’t seem to focus on anything longer than a to-go menu or a Dos Equis commercial.

I recently attended a day-long session on building an audience in the blogosphere with the ultimate goal of converting that blog into a book, a timely subject since that’s pretty much what I’m up to here.

The hostess, an accomplished blogger and author in her own right, had a couple ideas for me, all intended to improve my SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is the Holly Grail of the internet. Anyone who wants to sell something or, at the very least, get lots of attention, is deeply focused on SEO. It’s what drives readers to your site, you hope, when they use a search engine, like Google.

For starters, she suggested I tighten up my posts to around 400 words each (which by the way, is about two sentences from now). And what better way, she says, to cram a lot of information into a short piece than by offering it in the form of a list?

Second, she didn’t much care for my headlines, which almost made me weep. I spend an absurd amount of time developing headlines. But wordplay and double entendres are old school, I’m told, especially if you’re looking to improve your SEO. The ultimate goal of a blog headline, she says, is to drive readers to your blog via search engines, readers who are presumably interested in the subject of your blog. If your blog is about ponies, then you need to have the word pony in your headlines.

I can only imagine the confusion a reader must have felt when a search engine directed her to my blog post with the headline, “Hysterectomy Handshake,” a coming-out story that has absolutely nothing to do with hysterectomies or handshaking.

The third, and probably most obvious suggestion, is to show a prospective book publisher that the subject of your book already has a potential audience, evidenced by a healthy number of followers of your blog who participate with comments.

Followers and commenters are seen as potential book buyers to a publisher.

Armed with those nuggets of wisdom, I am introducing a new feature on D4D:

Thirteen Revelations of a Middle Aged Guy in the New Economy.

Each week I’ll serve up one of these mid-life realities in the form of a post. Yes, I will manipulate the headline as best I can to pull in readers and transform them into devoted subscribers. No, I can’t promise to keep it under 400 words. If it means you, dear reader, need to take a break halfway through to rest, then so be it.

Each revelation has already been worked into the beginnings of a book chapter so, in effect, you’re getting a–albeit abbreviated–sneak peek. You’re welcome.

Why should you be interested in this blog or this book, you ask? I offer four reasons, in list form, of course:

  1. You’re middle aged, frustrated in the post-Great Recession world, and looking for answers.
  2. You’re middle aged, life is a bowl of cherries (or so you think), and you want to know what all the fuss is about.
  3. You’re drawn in by the promise of a “riches-to-rags” story that has a happier ending than you might guess.
  4. Money isn’t your problem, but there’s something missing in the second half of your life and you can’t put a finger on it.

Next week, Lesson 1: “Embracing Deconstruction

(To be continued…)
JMcT

 

 

 

45554_aafd8ed98befa3d1ec68fc8a4ba7efa6_0504103a098d70298fa7446ce398b2a0Armenian Hostage Crisis (Part 4)

My money-sucking car issues have landed me, in a circuitous sort of way, on Skid Row.

Literally “on” Skid Row.

Turns out Skid Row and the Los Angeles Greyhound Bus Station share the same zip code and, unfortunately, I’m becoming all too familiar with the Greyhound bus station these days.

This time, my second sortie there in six weeks involved an unplanned stroll through the aforementioned world-renowned homeless enclave.

To back up a moment: after 81 days at my mechanic’s auto shop waiting for a new engine, my Volvo was up and running again, bestowed a second lease on life.

Or so it seemed. That lease turned out to be short term–a total of four days to be exact.
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royalty-free-gamble-clipart-illustration-442188The Armenian Hostage Crisis (Part 3)

Some people take a vacation from their jobs. I took a vacation from my car problems.

Yes I was excited to visit a good friend who had just moved to Miami, a place I’d never explored before and was anxious to see.

But I was just as excited to get away from my Volvo XC90, which hadn’t been operational in 61 days. I also wasn’t going to miss “Papa”, the Armenian mechanic I trusted to install a new engine over two months ago. Today, he’s more like my captor than my mechanic.
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slomo(In my daily pursuit to ignite the second-half of life, I came across this. It’s a 16-minute short film (link below) that’s turned heads at film festivals, and now I know why. If you ponder mid-life questions, you might want to watch. You’ll thank me later.)

For John Kitchin, practicing medicine no longer satisfied him. His Ferrari and his 30-acre ranch, populated with exotic zoo animals, no longer fulfilled him.

He left work each day asking himself: “How much of what I did today promoted me financially? And how much of it promoted me spiritually?”

Over the years, the answer became more and more about promoting himself financially.

It made no sense. He was working to support a lifestyle that didn’t make him happy. So he reset his priorities.

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IMG0001I came out of the closet on Mother’s Day, 1996. The reason I came out when I did, on the day that I did, was because of Mike Regan.

I’m attending Mike’s funeral this weekend. He died at 73 after a long illness. The story of his role in my coming out will live as long as I do. He loved to tell it this story. I’m assuming because he was proud of his role. And he should have been.

Mike liked to joke that he “out-ed” me, which was funny only because it wasn’t true. Outing someone involves malicious intent. There was nothing devious in Mike’s role. He was an advisor and a counselor. Not to me, mind you, but to my mother.

Confused yet?

This story begins in a hospital recovery room following my mother’s hysterectomy. It was there that I met Mike and his partner Steve Hermann for the first time. They were on one side of the hospital bed, I was on the other. We shook hands over my convalescing mother. (That’s Mike, pictured above on the right, and Steve, with my mom, at a cocktail lounge, not the hospital room!)

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smoking on bus

The Armenian Hostage Crisis (Part 2)

I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a prima donna.

But, was there a time when Greyhound bus travel was beneath me?

Absofuckinglootly.

Why?

Because (the logic went) bus travel is something poor people do. I’m not poor. Therefore the notion is preposterous.

Well, here I am. It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life.

And I’m on a Greyhound Bus.

I love experiencing new things, but Greyhound bus travel never made my bucket list. However, due to new world realities, here I am. This is a financial decision, plain and simple.

Whenever I hear “Greyhound Bus” I think about the guy who stabbed, killed and then decapitated a total stranger sitting next to him a few years ago.

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