Of all the days I could have lived, today is definitely the most exciting. - Leonardo da Walker
You may define your perfect day better than I do, but for me, a perfect day has three big ingredients:
A Negative Deficit Day...
This day below could be described by some as perfect. It's a great day, lots of work, plenty of recovery time, some gratitude work and a few moments doing vision. It has all the perfect ingredients of a loving day except there's a negative energy deficit and this deficit means that during the night there is a hope for recovery recharge for tomorrow. It doesn't happen because negative energy deficit keeps your awake and lowers the depth of sleep. So we can clearly say that this negative energy deficit is an UNSUSTAINABLE model of life and will lead to self-sabotage and self-destruction (illness), calamity, disaster and humbling circumstances.
POSITIVE ENERGY PROGRAM PERFECT DAY
What do we have here? What has changed from version ?
A perfect day leaves you with more energy than you started with, albeit, you may so look forward to hitting the bed with physical or mental exhaustion you are not sunk into bad states of mind or negative distraction. You go to bed in peace and that sleep is nourishing at every level.
This is how we negotiate with ourselves on time management on that absolutely perfect day.
The Trouble With Midlife Men - An Exceptional Example of Time Management Woes....
From the Australian Newspaper: Edited extract from Man Down: Why Men Are Unhappy and What We Can Do About It, by Matt Rudd ($32.99, Little Brown), out Nov 10.
I am a middle-class, middle-aged, white-collar man. The nearest I’ve come to the breadline is the Saturday morning queue for sourdough. Why am I unhappy?
12:00AM NOVEMBER 07, 2020
It is 3.20 in the morning and I am wide awake. The bedroom is silent but for the sounds of light sleeping next to me. I have spent many nights lying here thinking I’d prefer it if she had a real foghorn of a snore. At least then I would have some cover to fidget myself back to sleep. Instead, it’s like lying next to the Predator. Yes, it’s asleep at the moment and I am safe, but if I move at all, it will sense my presence and strike. ‘Stop fidgeting,’ it will hiss. So I lie there trying not to move, but not trying too hard because the Predator can also sense that. I am completely alone with my thoughts and, in the darkness, those thoughts do not make good company.
Out of necessity, the insomnia I suffered as a teenager came to an end with fatherhood but then returned some time after my 40th birthday, triggered by just the same things: anxiety, stress . . . fear. What could I possibly have to be fearful of? I am a middle-class, middle-aged white-collar man. The nearest I’ve come to the breadline is the Saturday morning queue for sourdough. I am privileged and healthy.
It doesn’t matter. I have still managed to find lots of things to be fearful of. I fear that I am a bad – or at least an absent – parent. I fear that I am a bad husband, too caught up in the parenting I don’t do enough of or the work I do too much of to give enough thought to the most important relationship in my life. I fear that I am a negligent son and brother, too caught up in the immediate family I also neglect. I know that I am a misanthrope, slowly retreating from meaningful human connection because I am too busy not having enough time for work or life to be anything as profligate as sociable. I suspect that I am an unsuccessful writer, no longer the next big thing and certainly not the current big thing. I fear that I am older than I am young.
Memory is unreliable, but when I think back to how I felt a decade ago, it was definitely different. I was closer to thirty than forty. Fifty was another island altogether. At work, I was climbing the career ladder at my newspaper, never stopping to look back down or consult the ladder’s health-and-safety manual. I clocked up long hours and felt pleased that there were long hours up which to clock. ‘I’ll be late tonight, darling,’ I used to call home and announce. ‘Bit of a crisis.’ Remembering this cringing self importance now makes me blush. By the end of each week, I was exhausted – nodding off in a child’s bed after three pages of The Faraway Tree and one glass of wine. ‘Daddy, finish the chapter.’ But this imbalance was all worth it because I was climbing the ladder. And if I got bored of that ladder, there were always other ladders. Even in that deluded state of youthful confidence, I could accept that I’d left it too late to be a rock star or a lower-division goalkeeper.
Now, though, my career options have narrowed to the point where it no longer feels like there are any. More bafflingly, this narrowing is all entirely theoretical. I have no idea what would happen if I looked up my old careers adviser. It might go brilliantly. The chap might look at my CV – ‘clean driver’s licence, proficient at Excel, Malaysia Travel Writer of the Year 2001’ – and come up with all manner of alternative arrangements. But in my heart of hearts I know I’m set. I’m stuck. I’m an old dog with non-transferable tricks. And I’m not the only one: how many other men in management positions are unhappy in their careers and would like to change?
Despite all manner of sharp- and shiny-toothed recruitment experts queuing up to tell midlifers that ‘it’s never too late to find the career you love’, there are risks. So you have to be brave. You have to be prepared to abandon the status you’ve achieved and start again. Which would be fine if we were on our own, but, on the whole, we’re not. ‘Kids, Daddy is going to spend the next twelve months finding himself. Then he’s going to spend another three years learning to do the thing he has suddenly decided he always wanted to do. In the meantime, you’re all going to have to eat Spam and get paper rounds.’
Most of the self-help gurus writing books and posting YouTube videos on how to turn your life around begin with a story about how they were stuck in a job they didn’t enjoy. Then, using their clever, trademarked process, which usually involves some light Buddhism and a life-changing pet/holiday/protein supplement, they transformed themselves. The trouble is, they’ve all transformed themselves into self-help gurus. As second careers go, it’s deeply cynical.
Inevitably, then, it’s back to the first ladder. Except I haven’t gone up any rungs lately. That wasn’t a conscious decision. It just kind of happened and, on the one hand, it is a relief. In my experience, people at the top of the ladders are even more stressed, miserable and insecure than everyone beneath them. On the other hand, it’s not easy just hanging out on a particular rung. People don’t like it. If you’re not climbing up or sliding down, then you’re just getting in the way. You could jump.
When, in more hysterical moments, I suggest to the family that we should all get out of the rat race my two younger boys give me the midlife-crisis eye roll. The eldest just texts me a midlife-crisis eye-roll emoji. (That’s a lie. He is fourteen and doesn’t use anything as Victorian as texting).
So, on we go. Eat. Sleep. Work. Repeat. Eat. Sleep. Work. Oh God! Repeat. Doing – not thinking – until 3.20am, when there is no more doing to do and I wish there wasn’t any thinking. And the worry sets in and I just lie there, encircled by worst-case scenarios. ‘Stop fidgeting,’ hisses the Predator. In those small, dragging hours, I am miserable. There are no limits to how sorry I can feel for myself. I should not feel sorry for myself. I should not be so self-indulgent. It is pathetic and I hate myself for it. Which makes it worse.
A year and another lifetime ago, I decided to do something about my midlife doldrums. I could have taken up yoga or cross stitch or driving – okay, renting – a red convertible, but instead I started asking other men how they felt. I deliberately sought out those who are, by most definitions, doing fine. They are all earning above-average salaries in decent jobs. They are paying off unfeasible mortgages on overpriced family homes. They are (mostly) happily married fathers of 2.4 children. I decided to focus on them because, if they aren’t happy, who is? I thought I would discover their secrets to success, adopt their tips for happiness and stop being such a grump.
Bad idea. The problem is that, with one or two exceptions – who may or may not be living in denial – these successful men are not happy. More striking still, most of them admit that they very rarely think about their own happiness. ‘I can’t,’ says one. ‘If I start worrying about the meaning of life, I’ll go mad. I just have to keep going.’
On paper these men have done everything right. They’ve ticked all the boxes young men are told to tick: they’ve passed their exams, established their careers, settled down, had kids, accumulated all the stuff that we are indoctrinated to aspire to. House. Car. Nespresso machine. Most importantly, they are not women. That is quite the advantage. They are men in a man’s world. They are dads. Imagine if they had been mums. Much harder.
Scrape beneath the surface and the myth of the easy male life starts to unravel. Men make up 75 per cent of suicides. And those aged between 45 and 49 have the highest rate of all. The evidence is clear and deeply ironic: the system set up by men for men isn’t working for the vast majority of men. I. Am. Struggling. That’s hard to say. It suggests fallibility, and fallibility is not something men are conditioned to show.
The stereotype that men don’t talk about their feelings is true only up to a point. If you sit them down and explain that you want to have a proper conversation about happiness, it is remarkable how quickly the defences come down. Take the fifty-year-old oil industry consultant who, when asked how much he loves his job, says, ‘I don’t love it; I tolerate it. It is a means to an end.’ Would he still do it if money were no object? ‘Fuck no,’ he replies. ‘I spend long, stressful days working for people I don’t always like. My main goal now is survival rather than success. Yes, I have benefited from working in a male-dominated industry, but I am the provider. I have to provide. I definitely live for the weekends.’
Another man, a 43-year-old with three daughters, explains that his priorities changed when he became a father. Previously, he had cared about his pinstripe City job – the next promotion, the next bonus, impressing his boss. But, ‘as soon as my first daughter was born, I was looking for ways to get through the day quicker. I was no longer first one in, last one out of the office. It just wasn’t important.’ Absolutely no surprise there, of course. Fatherhood does rather change your perspective. But ten years on, his attempts to find a better balance between work and life have failed.
Most of the middle-aged men I’ve interviewed have made great strides from their fathers’ generation. But that’s left us in a confusing, mixed-message stage of masculinity. Emotionally, we’re still old school, and this has huge ramifications for the way we deal with the stresses and strains of midlife.
Our generation has witnessed, and is still witnessing, monumental shifts in how men and women coexist. The need to rectify the great inequality served up to women since the dawn of time has driven those changes, but, although the changing role of women has changed the role of men too, we haven’t liked to talk about it. Too controversial. Too risky. Might be cast as anti-feminist or anti-equality or just plain sexist. Sensible men, those who know what’s good for them, have just ploughed on, wordlessly navigating the choppy seas between traditional, stoic manliness and modern, hands-on, emotionally available manliness. Less sensible men have behaved as if they are under attack, climbing cranes in Spider-Man costumes and filling Incel message boards with frustrated bile about positive discrimination and political correctness gone mad.
The good news is that we’re finally reaching a point where it’s OK to talk about what it means to be a man. This doesn’t need to be an aggressive conversation. We don’t need to fight for our rights or engage in a battle of the sexes. As we continue to move, albeit sluggishly, towards economic equality, we are also approaching the next stage of the Gender Transition Model — where men not only want but have emotional equality. Stoicism be damned.
We are in a state of flux — one manly foot in the old patriarchy, the other in modern equality. And now the whole world has been kicked off its axis by the coronavirus. It has been interesting — as well as terrifying — to watch the world grind to a halt over the past few months. It has taken a crisis of an unprecedented magnitude to force us to pause. Perhaps everything will return to normal when it’s all over. Perhaps we’ll return to our rushed, fragmented, individual lives.
But it is at least a remote possibility that things will change. Success might no longer be measured entirely by how much stuff you have. A successful man might be a happy man. Or a passionate man. Or just a man who listened to his heart, not his head, for a few minutes each day. And that would be a good thing.
What I’ve learnt is that breaking free is relatively simple. You don’t have to wait until you’re 70 and making bird boxes in a shed. It can start with a few minutes in the garden each morning. Or looking up an old friend. Or looking up an origami course. It can start by caring a little less about stuff that doesn’t matter.
Edited extract from Man Down: Why Men Are Unhappy and What We Can Do About It, by Matt Rudd ($32.99, Little Brown), out Nov 10.
We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!