Thursday, July 31, 2014

Exceeding Expectations by Allen Brailsford

Let's just say that I was never into Men's Groups as such.  In New Jersey I was an active member and officer of a United Methodist Church and there was the United Methodist Men's Group that I did not participate in because I felt that it was just a bunch of guys getting together talking about women and telling lousy jokes.  I may have been wrong about that, but it is what I believed.  

When I was approached about joining the Men's Wisdom Works group at OLLI UNC Asheville I was a bit suspicious, but curious nonetheless.  I was approached in an effort to attract more minorities to the group.  I arranged a meeting with the director of the Asheville Buncombe Community Relations Council and two members of Men's Wisdom Works, MWW.  Then and there, I decided I would join because the message of MWW resonated with me.

At our first meeting we all introduced ourselves and we talked a little about why we joined MWW.  From that discussion a couple of really powerful stories emerged.  One man said that he had been given the blessing of knowing that he was terminal and had approximately 2-5 years to live.  Another man told us about his wife who requires 24/7 care due to her living in the late stages of Alzheimer's Disease.  At that point I realized this was no joke.  Then the comedian in our group told his story giving us a bit of a respite from the grim realities of the other stories.

After the depth of such a first meeting I knew this was a group I could participate in.  When we learned that each group needs to appoint its own facilitator I volunteered and I've been facilitating for nearly two years now.

Our meetings are not all somber and serious.  We enjoy some real belly laughs, but most of all we support each other for whatever issue and need come up.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Need for Male Friends--John Carpenter, Men's Wisdom Works

"If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in good repair."

-- Samuel Johnson

I had good friends growing up-in high school, in college, and in the military. As some men do, I didn't "keep my friendships in good repair". My support structure before retiring centered on business associates, my wife and an "empty nesters" group. I had few close male friends during my business career. I knew that as a manager I couldn't be real friends with my associates. The demands of work and career left little time to cultivate genuine relationships. In retirement I realized that loneliness can creep up and lead to anxiety, declining health and loss of purpose.

I am lucky to have a close bond with my wife, who is my best friend. As solid as my relationship is with my spouse, I knew early on that it was not enough for me. I realized I need real pals--men I could hang out with and whose company I enjoyed. When I learned about Men's Wisdom Works, I wanted to join a group as soon as possible. I felt that this idea was the way to find what was missing in my life. I have not been disappointed.

Since being in MWW, I feel calmer, less anxious and much happier. Our group of men is unique. We are diverse, from various backgrounds and parts of the country. We know each other's life stories, and we're open about our thoughts and opinions. We've developed trust and openness. One aspect of our meetings that I truly enjoy is the good humor and respect we feel for each other. Yet we can discuss serious topics that affect us all, with dignity and as gentlemen.

Retirement is a journey and good friends make the trip so much more fulfilling. In the coming years I feel that our group will endure, and as we age our friendships will endure as well.