Knocked for six by change of life

By Garth George


It was sad to see the downfall of Peter Dunne, that political chameleon who has been in Parliament for 30 years, much of it as a minister in one government or another.

As the leader of various parties along the way, he has never hidden the fact that he would support whichever party obtained enough seats to govern.

He has always made a good fist of whatever ministerial responsibility he has been given by whatever prime minister he has attached himself to.

The irony of his downfall over leaks to a Wellington journalist, however, is that it came at the hands of that other great political chameleon - the venerable Winston Peters, who has often, over the years, been the beneficiary of the parliamentary sieve.

The whole sorry affair was put in a nutshell this week by New Zealand Herald cartoonist Guy Body, who had a sword-wielding Peters, with a beheaded Dunne, saying: "Let this be a lesson to all these grandstanding types who can't give straight answers."

The full nature of Mr Dunne's communications with journalist Andrea Vance has never been disclosed, so the extent of their relationship remains a mystery.

When Mr Dunne admitted "I was unwise, even stupid" and I noted he was 59, I was powerfully reminded of my own state of mind in my mid to late 50s.

While I don't for a moment ascribe my symptoms to Mr Dunne, I recall them here in case they are of benefit to any number of blokes who might be at that stage of their lives.

They call it "male menopause" and it hit me all of a sudden in the second half of my 50s, reduced me to the condition of a pubescent teenager, and took me 18 months to work through.

It was triggered by an anniversary and started a period of introspection that led to the suspicion that life really was a bitch and the realisation that if things didn't become a lot more mentally, emotionally and spiritually comfortable, then maybe it was time to flag it away.

Self-esteem, never a strong point, hit an all-time low. Profound, self-loathing depression developed. Only my faith in God, white-knuckle though it was, kept me going.

I suspect there are other triggers - loss of a job, divorce, impotence, illness, retirement, death of a loved one - which can trip a painful "change of life" in men. If there is any literature about that, then I missed it.

My doctor recommended a simple exercise regimen of daily fast walking and that helped.

I began to feel better physically and that seemed to help me to analyse and begin to deal with my mental and emotional malaise.

Sharing my problems with my wife and with close male friends helped, too.

They said little, just listened.

The more I poured out my fears and uncertainties, the more I was able to hear my own bullshit.

Gradually I came to understand that, as frustrations and disappointments over the years had struck, I had pretended that everything was okay. What I saw as self-control had been, in fact, self-deception.

Finally, after months of self-examination, the veil finally lifted and I was confronted afresh with Jesus' words: "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [mental, emotional and material needs] will be added to you."

I understood, once and for all, that if my relationship with God (my spiritual life) is right, everything else will be right, too; that I am what I am - and that's okay.

Today, and for many years past, I have been at peace with myself and comfortable in my own mind and skin. There is no greater gift than that.



- Bay of Plenty Times

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