on turning 50
Last week I turned 50. I opened my families gift to me and sobbed uncontrollably.
I didn't cry because I was sad or because they gave me a crappy gift, in fact, quite the opposite.
My response was also not within my control. It emerged in me, summoned from the depths.
With 50 years of experience, I have spent the last 30 focused on other people, trying to make others lives easier or better. I'm sure we can all feel that.
I know that men in their 40's and 50's spend so much time and energy focused on trying to do the right thing by others, often family, work, community and friends.
Do we always get it right? Hell no. Do we screw up big time every now and then? Of course. Are we all up for nomination for Father of the Year, Son of the Year or Husband of the Year?
No, but it's often not through lack of effort or sacrifice.
It's often when we're tired, exhausted and frustrated with life that we stuff up, do stupid things, say stuff that feels outside our control at the time. We sacrifice a lot. As men we're trained to not complain, just get on with it, hide exhaustion, fatigue and emotions. We have to be tough...but we're not...not inside.
But are we trying hard, trying to do our best to help our partners, kids, parents, friends, colleagues? We're sacrificing time, our younger years. We're doing this because that's what's inside us, it's driving us.
We are providers. It's hardwired in our evolutionary DNA and it's not something we can just walk away from.
When we prioritise work ahead of our families and our own wellbeing, it's the unconscious evolutionary spear poking us in the back. That's how our species has survived, how our ancestors survived. It has served us all very, very well.
It's rare however that anyone appreciates that. These days men who fail to overcome their evolutionary instincts drive themselves into the ground and/or end up in an early grave. We never catch the 'beast' that will feed us for a week so we can relax. We're always chasing more money, more power, more stuff that signals success.
So why did I cry uncontrollably?
My wife and kids handed me a voucher for a 16 day mountain bike trip to Nepal with cycling legend Patrick Jonker. It's something that I'd been talking with Pat about for years now, but cash flow and time have been against us (and now more against us than ever). Seeing that voucher in front of me and the words that accompanied it in a card and from Sonia (my wife) were a signal that my family saw how hard it was. It was recognition.
In the past we'd had the money to do this trip but I'd never consider allocating the time to some pursuit I saw as selfish (just for me).
At 50, my life has become a series of disciplined decisions, aimed to curtail personal wants and desires and focus primarily on the needs of my family. The impact of that is a person who once lived for adventures and exploration become boring and uninteresting, living through past adventures, so others may live theirs.
I am reminded again of my favourite quote in life from the Dalai Lama:
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered "Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."
The gift certificate triggered feelings dormant in me since before I was married, before my focus shifted and life got serious. The feeling is excitement and anticipation for a sense of freedom. 16 days in the Himalayas where I can connect back in with me, find myself again.
I have trekked the Annapurna Region in Nepal before in my younger years but then with limited life exposure. I didn't see clearly. I saw the mountains but not the meaning, the monks but not the wisdom, the basic amenities but not the simplicity of life.
I would love to be doing this with my family. I feel bad that they're not joining me, I feel selfish, I shouldn't be so excited to be doing this without them.
If we trace back our evolutionary path, typically men would work together on the hunting. They would venture out and explore the lands, often for days, weeks or months, working together to achieve a goal.
Exploration and adventure was time learning about themselves, learning about nature, immersed in the real world around them. They would explore as a group, a team of other men, hunters, explorers, free from the distractions of everyday existence. A time for men to bond, talk shit, swap stories, talk candidly and plenty of time to just be alone in nature.
This is where I'm looking forward to being. Free from the distractions of everyday existence. Free from my phone's buzzings, notifications, reminders, work, work, work.
Wellteam is about creating this space for men, using wellbeing tools to get us in the right frame of mind and getting our bodies ready to live life more fully as we age. This adventure is a critical part of the future of Wellteam. It is a gift.
I hope my Wellteam friends will give themselves permission and join me on this adventure and for 16 days at least...live with freedom, in the present moment, without distractions. They have all earned the right. They all need this. My hope is they share this message with their families and receive the recognition they deserve.
I now have 50 years of experience under my belt and I'm intent to make this my healthiest year ever! My wonderful wife and kids absolutely nailed the healthiest gift they could ever give me...
...the time to reconnect with me again.
Thank you Sonia, Antonia and Juan - I love you all so much.
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