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Friday, January 29, 2010

Life Repair

I am in the process of some "life repair". Trying to make the down parts of my life less burdensome, regretful, and painful.

In down moments I find myself trying to answer questions that have no real answer. Perhaps you ask yourself the same ones: "If only I had done .......?" or "Why didn't I listen?" or "What was I thinking?"

Even though there are no real answers to these questions, healing is possible. To age intentionally means that at some point we accept who we are and how we have lived our lives. When we engage in life repair we open the "old files" (life decisions and wounds) we have branded as "negative" and relive them in our minds to find the deeper meaning. Then "refile" these as positive experiences free from the negative emotional brand. This is not easy, however and, for many (myself included) might be the biggest task to aging intentionally.

The essential part of this process is the willingness to forgive...others as well as ourselves. For without forgiveness we tend to let things fester like sores. Most religious traditions have precedents for melting this "hardness of heart" into compassion. Since I do not have a religious affiliation or practice I have turned to meditation and journal writing as my own path to reprogramming or repairing those painful parts of my life. The more I stay in this healing process the more the aches and pains of a lifetime are transformed in to something "good". Or as my therapist friend laughingly says "It's an Afgee (AFGE)". (aka: Another F______ Growth Experience)

I am certainly not finished with my AFGEs and I have a feeling that my "life repair" work is going to take a while, however, I am aware each day of feeling a little lighter and just a little bit less anxious, more open and positive.

Here's to healing for us all in 2010!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Community is Where You Create It

I have a wise friend who tells me all the time that "Community is where you find it!" She would always follow that statement up with "...but only if you are looking for it!" I think the statement should be "Community is where you create it!" And here is a little personal story to illustrate.

I love making music with other people. I love the entire process from writing songs to learning them, arranging and performing especially with others. I chose the guitar late in life and one of the big reasons was that I was attracted to the people who also loved making music.

About seven years ago my wife and I were invited to join a group of forty musicians, partners and children at a retreat center in Washington State to celebrate New Years with the promise of good music and good company. So we took a chance that first year and have been going almost every year since. The group gathers each year for 3-4 days to decorate the lodge, dance, play music and games, eat good food, catch up on each others lives and celebrate the fact that by some strange circumstance we had found each other. We nurture each other deeply in ways that go beyond the music-making. This annual meeting had become a community. An infrequent one but one none-the-less!

In late November my wife and I realized that finances were tighter than normal and that we were not going to be able to attend the New Years gathering. We were disappointed, to be sure, but accepting of the reality, like most of us do, that times were tough and that we would have to skip our "community gathering" this year. Then it started! The first email arrived expressing sadness that we were not attending. Then two others arrived asking us to please reconsider and declaring that we did not understand how much we would be missed and to please reconsider. Then a phone call saying that it was "Just not acceptable" for us to miss the celebration because "we were so important to the group". So with some financial help we did attend and I come back in awe of the power of having a community that is of our own choosing.

I write about this here because it serves as an example of how important each of you is to your community(s). Barbara and I did not realize the role we had created and played with this community. We had become like threads in a wonderfully intricate tapestry we had helped create each New Years. Together, the group had created a unique set of connections that relied on one another to complete this fabric. And when one of us is absent the tapestry is not complete. I beautiful thread is missing!

I think I may finally be gaining a real understanding that there are many types of communities that "claim us". We play roles in each of them and we may not really understand those roles. I believe that there are deep personal rewards available to each of us when we choose to build community. These rewards include being honored and honoring others, expressing shared goals and values, caring for each other, honest communication, being a source of and receiving emotional and physical support, creativity and laughter and a sense of satisfaction.

I would love to hear about your "communities" and how they impact your lives.

Keep making your own form of music!