The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft & Spending

       October 2007 e-Newsletter

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Fall, Mid-life & The Season of Change

Terrence Daryl Shulman


Now I realize

that the trees blossom

in Spring

and bear fruit

in Summer

without seeking praise,

and they

drop their leaves

in Autumn

and become naked

in Winter

without fearing blame.

-Kahlil Gibran


I'm 42 and I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately. The Gibran poem above speaks to me. I admit I've spent much of my life thus far seeking praise in one form or another—mostly through taking care of others or through varied achievements or accomplishments. It seems Fall--the season of midlife--is about surrender, letting go. What does this mean?

As The Beatles song "Here Comes The Sun" welcomes in the renewed hope of Spring after a "long, cold, lonely Winter," the songs and signs of Autumn are upon us. Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" reminds us of scattered leaves and lives, melancholy and grief. But with many losses new blessings arrive.

Over the last few months I've been researching and preparing a presentation for a men's retreat weekend in mid-October. I'm co-creating and co-facilitating the weekend with five buddies who range in age from 50-70. We stumbled upon a title for our weekend: "Monsters and Messiahs." I love the image of how we, others, or life itself can be either or both savior or destroyer—often, at the drop of a hat. I was drawn to explore the delicate balance between healthy and unhealthy ego and the dance between passion and mission and grandiosity and delusion. The myth of Dedalus and Icarus came to mind.

The story comes from ancient Greece. Dedalus, the father, and Icarus, his son were trapped in a labyrinth-like prison and it appeared the only escape was upwards toward the sky. Dedalus collected large bird feathers that had fallen and, with melted was, affixed them to his and Icarus's arms to fashion wings for flight. Dedalus instructed Icarus not to fly to close to the sun or the heat would melt the wax and he would fall. Icarus and Dedalus alighted into the air and Icarus became so caught up in the thrill of flying that he soared higher despite his father's warnings until, indeed, the wax melted and he fell to his death in the sea.

What does this story mean to you? Are you Dedalus or Icarus or both? What prison have you been trying to escape?

This myth reminds me of my own father who died in 1993 at age 53—except I felt like Dedalus to my father's Icarus. I both admired and cautioned him. My father lived life large. From his early days as a child prodigy pianist, to his midlife as a attorney, to his last days traveling to Europe in search of a miracle cure for the stroke which left him wheel-chair bound in 1988, he rarely knew limits. This included his many "vices and excesses"—alcohol, eating, spending--which hastened his death. One of my father's favorite sayings was: "If there's a wall, there's a way around it." I remember telling myself: I'm not going to make the same mistakes as my Dad. But after my own bout with addiction from age 15-25, my challenge was to find a way to "lay low" without being bored or finding life itself boring. There had to be a "middle way." There's always opportunities to learn.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. William Blake

I'd been aware for sometime of feeling these seemingly contradictory energies within me. On the one hand, I was honest enough with myself to admit I had a drive to shoot for the moon, find fame and fortune, be a leader, leave my mark, build a business, to have it all! On the other hand, I had the sense to know that there are healthy limits to ambition and heroism and that my early years of always sacrificing for others eventually created a counter-thrust of egoism and self-glorification. Perhaps time would just balance it all out, I thought. Still, I had to admit that it was hard to imagine—downright frightening, actually—slowing down and being "an average Joe." In fact, it felt like death.

As fate would have it, I stumbled upon a book I had purchased a year or two ago and let sit on my shelf. It's called "Death of a Hero, Birth of The Soul: Answering the Call of Midlife" by John Robinson. It was published about 10 years ago by a small publishing house. While written especially for men at midlife, I highly recommend to anyone because I think its themes are universal. The simple but profound premise of the book is that, as in a year, there are seasons in our lives. The author suggests that, roughly, the first 20 years or so of our life are the Spring; the next 20 (from 20-40) are the Summer; the next 20 (from 40-60) are the Fall; and the remaining days are the Winter. Each season has its own feel, purpose, tasks, and rites of passage.

A short summary of the seasons, according to the book, is as follows:

Spring: a time of original wonder, natural self but inevitable wounding

Summer: a time of one's endless quest to conquer, achieve, build relationships, business, chart a path, a hero's journey punctuated by hidden wounds and secret problems

Fall:  a time of gradual fatigue, grief, disillusionment, disintegration, opening to the feminine, search for meaning, ultimate questions, finding community, spiritual depth, renewal of soul, letting go, finding the nature of being vs. doing, acceptance of feelings and situations, changing places, forgiveness, ripening/harvesting, becoming an elder, a holding of opposites, and an opening to the sacred yet remaining in this world

Winter:  a time of Indian Summer, a return to original wonder, final preparations, transparency and transcendence, remembrances, going home

What season of life do you feel you're in?

With this suggested outline of life in front of me, it suddenly hit me: maybe I'm in the Fall of my life. I'm middle-aged? We joke about how with better medicine and other tricks, 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40, and so on. But I've noticed in the last couple of years, I've been thinking: I get tired more easily and have trouble losing weight. I've achieved a lot in life but how much is enough? I often find my relationships taking a back seat to my lofty goals. Can I keep playing the hero script forever? At what cost? Why am I afraid to let go? If my hero has to die in order for my soul to live, well... isn't there another way?

I don't think the death of the hero implies that I just become a lump on the couch—although, I must admit, I've been drawn to the couch and TV increasingly over the last couple of years. I don't think the birth of the soul is some magically consistent place or feeling. But, I am considering more deeply the value of soulfulness in my life which I'd describe as a softer, more open, expansive, inclusive, stance or vibration--less about doing and more about being. It seems there's a quiet confidence rather than a brash one, that comes with mid-age...unless we hold on for dear life to Summer's youth in fear of Winter's age—I guess that's when people start trading in their vehicles and significant others for younger models.

I feel like I had to go through my own period of warrior-like questing and excesses to experience the inflating of the spirit and my near-potential in the world. But as it's said: all things created are destroyed or come to pass eventually. It is the holding of the opposites. It's all good. So, as I look forward to the leaves slowly turning from green to vibrant shades of brown, red, gold, yellow, and orange, I do my best to welcome the changing shades of my goals, attitudes, values, and insights. I welcome in the smells of burning leaves, football season, pumpkin pie, Halloween and the trickster, the chill in the air, and the culmination of the season with Thanksgiving. Like the trees dropping their leaves without blame or shame, I open to letting go of the hero and welcome the birth my soul. It is good to be alive. It is good to be on the journey. Change is good.

We may change

with the seasons,

but the seasons

will not change us.

-Kahlil Gibran






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2007 Conference on Compulsive Shopping and Shoplifting set for Saturday November 3, 2007 in New York City has been postponed. We regret any disappointment and hope to create a conference somewhere and sometime in 2008.

September 2nd: The Alabama Anniston Star Newspaper featured an article on compulsive shopping/spending in which Mr. Shulman was prominently quoted.

September 19th: Mr. Shulman was the keynote speaker in Louisville, KY at the Annual Kentucky Certified Public Accountants conference. He spoke about employee theft, why it occurs, and how to deter and prevent it.

OCTOBER and beyond...

Mr. Shulman will be featured in an article on compulsive shopping disorder in the L.A.-based magazine Angelina.

Mr. Shulman is assisting on two separate U.K. productions on kleptomania and shoplifting addiction.

Look for topics in the media this coming holiday season on shoplifting, overshopping, and employee theft...


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Contact The Shulman Center

Terrence Shulman
P.O. Box 250008
Franklin, Michigan 48025


Call (248) 358-8508 for free consulation!

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 Products for Purchase

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Livonia, Michigan Financial Manager's Conference 10/19/06. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Louisville, Kentucky Business in Industry Conference 9/19/07. $75.00


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© 2007 The Shulman Center

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