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Living Midlife: Planned or Engaged

October 09, 2011   •   By Master Hobbit

Posted under: Mind, Lifestyle


Living Midlife: Planned or Engaged

While I suppose major life transitions are difficult for all of us, for midlife males I think it is perhaps even more so.  I started reading a book on growing older and in the introduction the author attributes a statement to E.M. Forster, an English writer of the last century, a statement that caused me to ponder a bit:


“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”


I must confess that I am both intrigued by this statement and frustrated by it at the same time.  I want to believe that the life I’m planning for, and thus striving for, is the one that I will most likely possess.  It is like the motivational phrase I’ve heard (and quoted) many times that goes something like this, “If you don’t know where you’re going, then most any road will take you there.”  Or similarly, “Aim at nothing and you will most surely hit it.”


So sums up my life in many ways or at least psychologically speaking.  That is, I’m more comfortable with the idea of pursuing something than nothing.  I say ‘psychologically’, because I see that I don’t necessarily pursue these ‘goals’ with consistency or even with much commitment, at times.  But that I can at least list them is somehow better than having no answer to the question, ‘What are you doing these days?’


I’m always striving, always pursuing, always chasing after something – and that with a plan as to how I’m going to achieve it.  I would say that this is my dominant modus operandi for life, though certainly not my only one.  I plan, therefore I am.


So, back to Forster’s statement, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” I find within myself a nagging sense that he is right.  In fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve written in this same general theme.  But having it stated in a different way provokes me again to re-think my M.O.


I have, after all, also made statements similar to this one, “Be careful what you wish for, you might actually get it.”


The planned life is one where I have an end I’m pursuing, a set itinerary to take me there, and a fixed schedule for all this to unfold. I might think of it like a man deciding he is going prospecting for gold, the precious metal.  He puts his tools together, identifies the location he will search, how long he will be there, and what he will do when he gets there.


When he lifts a rock or pans a river bed, his eye is keyed on the shiny metal in every aspect of what he’s doing.  Nothing else is really noticed and in fact, everything else is viewed as a nuisance or potential distraction.


This man is really missing 90 percent of what’s going on around him, including other ‘gold’ he simply cannot see or be bothered with.  He moves methodically and intentionally along the river bed probing each nook and cranny in pursuit of this precious metal.


Forster seems to be saying that it remains a mystery to us what the real ‘gold’ is for our lives, and particularly in any given situation, and if we are intent on our will we will not be able to see the real treasure unfolding before us.  We simply cannot see it.  We get in the way of our own happiness, our own fulfillment.


The purposive prospector stands in contrast to the man seated in an IMAX theater encountering the same river bed, but with it coming to him versus him pushing into it.  The first is taking hold of only that which he is seeking, while the latter is engaging that which is being brought to him.  The former is pressing forward through the universe, while the universe is passing over the latter.


The one has specified the treasure in advance, while the other is open to discerning the treasure that awaits him.  The one attempts to extract what he thinks he wants, the other engages life in the hope of discovering what he wants.


As midlife men, which life are we living - the one we’ve planned or the one waiting to be revealed to us?

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About the Author: Master Hobbit

Master Hobbit is the creator of 4060men. After a marriage of over 30 years ended in divorce, he journeyed for over 5 years as a single midlife man. He remarried in 2012. He is also the owner of the blog platform,, and a blog platform review site,

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