Saturday, February 1, 2014

Common Ground & Safe Dialogue - R.S.

by R.S.1/28/2014

I am an introvert by nature.  I traveled a good deal in my younger years, including studying and working in Europe and Africa for 10 years.  My pleasures have always been solitary: travel, wilderness and Outward Bound courses, earning my pilots license at age 63, listening to music, reading, and a good deal of writing-some for publication but the greater part for correspondence and keeping a journal.  The result was I formed very few close friendships, and retained even fewer as time went by.  My life outside of these elements revolved around my family and especially my work, from which I derived my satisfaction, most of my social needs, and above all the structure that comes with being part of an organization.

Despite that history I thought I was ready for retirement.  I had drawn pleasure from mentoring younger colleagues and imagined I could try this, along with my experience and interests into retirement.

But notwithstanding a few volunteer activities I soon discovered an emptiness that cried out to be filled with "projects".  Anything at all could be a project, no matter how insignificant.  If I awoke with nothing on my calendar I wouldn't feel right until I invented something to occupy my time that day.

I missed a sense of purpose and the company of steady relationships and came to realize that I was struggling with this phase of my life in a way I hadn't anticipated.  The situation grew so serious that it invaded my marriage and sent me into medication and therapy.

It was at a new member orientation at OLLI UNC Asheville that Men's Wisdom Works came to my attention.  My few long term friends at this point - indeed part of my family - included people overseas, making the quality of contact required to nurture these relationships hard to maintain.  The fact that MWW was composed of small groups of men at my stage of life gave me hope that I stumbled onto something novel and with the potential to fill my need to start figuring out what wasn't working for me.

It has become not only what I so desperately wanted it to be, but in a way it was the very thing I needed. My group has broadened my horizons, allowed me to open myself in ways I never had the occasion or willingness to do, engaged me in topics that lurked in the back of my mind as I approached and turned 70, returned some of the social structure that I missed but in a new, more meaningful and gratifying way, and even allowed me to form what I hope will be new close friendships.

Perhaps above all else is the comfort that comes from knowing there is a safe place to air my concerns, together with the knowledge that when I need support of a kind that I couldn't find in other directions, this group of men will be there for me. As I am for them.  Both kinds of support - the giving and receiving - are probably the most innovative and important gifts that Men's Wisdom Works has granted me.

link to Men's Wisdom Works

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