Friday, April 12, 2019

Something New

        I tried to make the point in an earlier post, that it was time to set aside my blogging and concentrate on a couple book projects I had in the works. I did not know then where that change of course might lead. I am still not sure, but I do understand that it is taking me to a place I have done my best to avoid in the past.
In the early years, beginning in June, 2009, my periodic blog posts had been entered on the Tanner Chronicles website. By April, 2013 I was finding more topics that fit my personal blogging tastes, and was including excerpts from Tanner Chronicles stories to illustrate particular points I wanted to make. It was then this October Years site was created to provide a forum for those expanded blogs.
If that sounds a bit self-serving, I plead guilty. From the beginning I proclaimed this to be a ‘Writer’s blog,’ one that explored and explained the late-life, October Years tales I told. Whether or not a reader found a purpose in my storytelling, I was wanting a forum from which to explain my reasoning. I’m not ashamed that I took advantage of that opportunity, and have enjoyed every minute of it.
For all that time however, with few exceptions, I was not in a book-selling mode. An overt pitch to “buy my book” was not a part of the deal. But that has changed…..at least for this one post.
You see, the recently published October Years - VolumeTwo was one of the new book projects I wanted to focus on when I cut back my blogging. Ironically, like its bookmate, October Years - Volume One, it is a book of blogs…..a compilation of October Years blog posts. Together, in more than 600 pages, the two volumes include 105 individual posts dealing with the joys and trials of late-life as seen through my tired old eyes, and/or the ways my Tanner Chronicle stories have illustrated those highs and lows.

            In my own humble (Really?) way I am ‘proud as punch’ of these compilations. To be sure, not everyone will agree with everything I say. But if any of the posts set the reader thinking about things most of us are reluctant to face head on, I will count that as a worthy outcome.
And there you have it, a blunt, illustrated introduction to ten years of October Years posts in two quality paperbacks. If you or someone you know might be interested in having a personal library of one man’s take on October and beyond, I invite you to check out the details, as only Amazon can provide them, on this Gil Stewart Author’s Page. (Is that humble enough?)

Until the next time, thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

It is the first Wednesday of the month, time to check in with my friends at the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG)…….and address their question of the day.
Whose perspective do you write from…..the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist), and why?

To begin with, the protagonist in my stories is rarely a hero (or shero) in the generally accepted sense of the word. In my October Years books the hero I depict will be sixty or seventy years old ……tired, a bit worn down, and struggling in the face of one or more late-life challenges.

With few exceptions the antagonist confronting my hero will not wear a human face, but rather a situational disguise such as……late-life relational possibilities, confining health issues, distressing financial realities, incompatible retirement agendas, and the like.

The stories that emerge from that unlikely blend of ingredients will follow my equally unlikely heroes as they cope with their challenges. Though they will seldom overcome those existential obstacles, they will carry on, wringing the best and most they can from a bad situation……continuing to Become, unwilling to settle for less.


Since those October Years protagonists, the ones that pass as heroes in my stories, are literally my peers, it is only natural the I tell my tale from their perspective. They may not always be the good guys, but they are always my guys.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Still learning after all these years


So what is this……one of my occasional good ideas, or another sign of continuing brain leakage?
You see, in my world it’s October, or more likely November. It feels like things have cooled off a bit. The world is not as hectic as it used to be. I know for sure that I have slowed down a step or two. An occasional rest break is more welcome these days…….a time to let my thoughts catch up with the craziness that surrounds us. In those quiet moments it is tempting to concentrate on the past, of which I have so much, rather than the future, which is where my hoped-for Becoming must take place.
For many of us late life is a time when something new on the horizon may not excite us the way it once did. That is probably natural. After all, in the course of our lifetime we have reveled in the affirmation of right choices made, and dealt with our share of wrong-roads taken. Still, though we have seen a lot of life along the way, that doesn’t mean we have outgrown the need to keep growing.
You and I have had our share of learning experiences. I recall hearing about the School of Hard Knocks. Some folks say that is the best teacher, though the knocks I remember were pretty soft……which may explain why I didn’t learn more. Beyond that, most of us associate learning with school. That’s what schools are supposed to be for, isn’t it? I learned a thing or two in high school. I’ll bet you did too. Thankfully I outgrew most of that.
And then came life after high school. For me that meant college. For you it might have been something different. But no matter what path we chose the lessons were harder, though by then we were probably more motivated. I know that I had  reasons to keep learning. I had met Roma by then. Turned out her grading curve was steeper than I was used to. Falling behind was no longer an option. 

But that was then……and this is now. Today, at 82, I am still telling myself that I want to be more tomorrow than I am today. Whatever that means, it implies that we are never to old to stop learning. I want to believe that. Yet how does one keep learning at my age? Well, how about this
     Higher education…college and/or  university ……was an answer in earlier times. And now, to my surprise, it has returned to play a part in my dotage. Who would have expected that?
Perhaps that has you asking, “Why, at his age, is he babbling about college? Has he really gone round the bend this time?”
 
     But it is not like I started out half-cocked, which has happened a time or two in my 82 years. This time I began by creating some very definite expectations for my return to the ivy-covered halls of higher education. Sure, I hope to keep learning. But why can’t I be fussy about what and how I learn?
Years ago things were different. The wide-eyed adolescent I was in those “off to college” days had lots of things on his mind, not all of which were academic in nature. My first-time venture into the world of higher education was charted by the ‘Teaching Establishment.’ They made the rules. I experienced college on their terms……jumping through their hoops, intent on earning their validation.
Of course it had to be that way. Though we might have argued the point at the time, we were absolute neophytes, unaware of how little we knew and how much we did not know. Given what the ‘Establishment’ had to work with, perhaps the task at hand sometimes called for Kamikazi teaching methods. But no longer! This time the not-so-wide-eyed Geriatric Adolescent I have become is returning to college on his own terms.

How about you? No matter what your age, if today’s college experience met these criteria would you be willing to deal with college, whether again or for the first time?

1) Taking one course at a time, selected from                                     hundreds of candidates.

2) Enrollment is a five-minute process, and absolutely free.

3) No bulky and expensive textbooks are required.

4) Your course will be a quality online experience you can access from your computer and absorb in bite-sized bits any time.

5) There will be no tests or exams required.

6) Your course will be offered by highly qualified faculty from one of dozens of prestigious colleges and universities. 

7) Are you a name dropper, the kind who would like a Harvard, MIT, or Paris’ Sorbonne on your resume? Easy peasy. Just log in and go.

Disclaimer - Because I am enrolled in just one of the thousands of course offerings I cannot claim that every one of them is conducted in the same way, with the same degree of professionalism as my Shakespeare Matters course. I can, however, confirm the following about the particular class I am taking.

1)   I suppose I was expecting a taping of a lecture -hall class.

2)  Not so. Instead I am viewing a thoroughly professional offering of interviews, self-contained video lectures, and graphic arts presentations……. each of them  in two to ten minute segments that make it easy to watch 20 or 30 minutes at a time, then come back for more the next day. 

3)  I simply sign in as I would with any website, click on ‘Next,’ and pick up where I left off.

4)  Since I did not sign up for a ‘Verified Certificate,” at a cost of $50, I can skip the periodic tests and quizzes.

Okay, enough explanation. It’s time to see for yourselves what today’s online college looks like. The ‘Open Sesame’ that makes that happen is awaiting your arrival. I won’t claim that it is the only site that can do that. Fact is, however, once I saw what they offer I decided my search had ended. 
Once there I hope you will take a moment to scroll through the list of the universities which take part in this online college program. They are first-rate, quality institutions, which are not likely to be associated with shoddy products. 
Next, under the heading ‘Popular Subjects,’ select the sort of courses you would like to explore. Since I was not in a math, science, or business mood I chose “Humanities.” What follows next needs no explanation from me. Simply scroll through the dozens of offerings. When you see one that tweaks your interest click on it and check it out. 

That was how I came to a course titled Shakespeare Matters. For as long as I can remember I’ve heard people fuss about Shakespeare. But truth to tell I had little idea what the Bard was all about. Perhaps it was time to find out. With that I enrolled in Adelaide University’s Bard101x and was on my way.
Long story short, in a series of short, professional-grade videos a team of highly qualified Shakespeare scholars from Adelaide University in Australia makes the case for why Shakespeare Matters. By the time I finish the course I will have invested ten or twelve hours exploring six of the Bard’s plays……as the instructors explain what each play, and the main characters, has to say, and why centuries later those lessons are still considered important.

Finally, no matter what courses you select, it is hard to imagine a more professional, more diverse, more accommodating, and less expensive late-life learning venue. The possibilities are literally endless. With that in mind I hope you are convinced that it is time to take the plunge……if only to check it out. Simply follow this link to the EDX.org home page and you are on your way. 
Once there scroll through the list of universities. Be impressed by the quality of institutions represented. Then move down the page to the ‘Popular Subjects’ heading. A single click on the type of courses that suit your tastes will produce an illustrated roster of class offerings, hundred of them. Odds are that somewhere among them you will find one that interests you. Once you find it, registering to ‘audit the course’ is a quick and simple matter, requiring only an email address and password.

Who knows, in a matter of minutes you may be on your way back to college. Also, this may be one of those posts you want to forward to a ‘still-learning’ friend.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Around the world in 80 blogs

   Hey, you’re in luck. Today’s post will be shorter than usual. That’s because I’ll be leaving the leg work for you to do, if you decide you want to. Hopefully you will enjoy the homework suggestions I offer. With that in mind, let’s see if I can put all this into context.
I have made the point numerous times over the years……I am a wanderlust junkie. From the time I ran away from home at fourteen I have had a thing about seeing the world ……at least the parts that appeal to me.
In a similar manner I have used these pages to spread what I consider the logic of using the internet to broaden our horizons, especially in our October and November years. As you might have guessed, I am here today to sell (or give away) what I consider a worthy combination of wanderlust and the internet. Turns out the two go together very well. If, however, you are one of those unfortunate souls for whom travel and the possibilities it offers is not appealing, even from the comfort of your armchair……please don’t sign off just yet.
The internet, of course, offers its information in many forms. As a longtime blogger I appreciate the many ways my blogging peers are able to spread their messages. If you have followed these pages for long you will perhaps recall that I’ve made the case before……there are blogs and bloggers for just about every subject under the sun. And when it comes to travel blogs the bloggers have so many individual ways to tell their story……so much more than the normal guidebook litany of sights, hotels, and restaurants.
Take for instances, travel destinations…….my topic du jour. I’d like to begin with London. Is there anyone out there blogging about London? I’m pretty sure we can find out. Just call up Google, enter “London bloggers,” and there you are. Take your pick from literally hundreds of London blogs.
Once there I called up a response labeled “Secret London - 75 London Bloggers.” I spent a few minutes leafing through some of those options, most of which claimed they could show me the London most tourists never see. Midway through that list I settled on one called “Deserter,” which seemed to approach the city from a slightly jaundiced perspective……claiming to be “A compendium of techniques to get more out of doing less.” That sounded like something that might fit me.
Then, emboldened by my London search I decided to try Paris. We’ve been there a few times, but I doubt that we’ve done more than scratch the surface. At a listing titled “I Prefer Paris” several bloggers offered their insights on Paris experiences that you and I would probably never find on our own. One blog, titled ‘Excuses vs Lies,” offered perhaps the most practical Parisian wisdom I found. “When Paris tries to kick my ass……I drink wine.”
Moving on I called up Amsterdam, another of our favorite cities, and again found dozens of bloggers claiming to tell us about the best their city has to offer. It was there I came across iwanderandroam.com,' which probably caught my eye because we are serious ‘flea market’ junkies. What the blogger claims is the largest flea market in Europe is located in Amsterdam. It is called ‘Ij Hallen’ and is spread over two Huge warehouses. It might take a day or two to see it all, with age-appropriate rest breaks, but I’d love to do that.
I moved on to Galway because it’s my favorite city or town in Ireland. As it turned out the Galway blogger I was drawn to,  ‘youririshadventure.com, actually covers the entire country. It was their listing of ‘The Most Beautiful Towns in Ireland’ that immediately reeled me in. If scrolling through that list doesn’t have you itching to get up and go you had better check you pulse.
There were, of course, hundreds of other travel destinations I could have checked out for blogs and bloggers. It seems that just about any place you can think of is the subject of someone’s blog……offering local information you may not find in travel guides. Did I say “any place”? Perhaps it was time to test that theory.
Many of us grew up assuming that the most remote place in the world actually had a name. What better way to describe the middle of nowhere than “Timbuktu”? That was about as far as a person could go. Well, guess what? The ‘middle of nowhere’ has its own travel blogger.
The website ‘joaoleitao.com' is a great site that visits and photographs some of the most remote corners of the world. Its post - Timbuktu the mysterious, deep in the Malian dessert - calls the city “the meeting place of all who travel by camel or canoe.” Sounds idyllic, eh? In fact, the story’s many photos depict a stark beauty that most of us can scarcely imagine. It looks like an interesting place to explore.
I’ll admit I was taken by Timbuktu until I read the blogger’s disclaimer, which I found a bit off-putting. Would this be enough to give you second thoughts? “Since the 2012 Islamic rebel uprising kidnappings and foreign abductions have become routine.” About then my thoughts were turning toward more familiar ground.
In A Year to Remember, the first book Roma and I published together, we told the story of our young family’s home abroad in Winchester, England. By any measure that was a special time……those months spent among special friends in a special place. So, is Winchester home to bloggers? I had a hint to begin with. After all, my beloved Dull Men’s Club blog is posted from there. A simple “Winchester Bloggers” Google search produced several more candidates, including a particularly interesting possibility.
How about “10 Reasons for a Boudoir Photoshoot”? To be honest I had never considered that. Does that even fit your notion of a travel blog? Truth to tell it had me wondering what was going on in what I remembered as the sedate environs of Winchester?
Then I read the article’s ‘Reason #1’…… ”Create Your Own Definition of Sexy.” Wow, that raised some interesting possibilities. Calling Roma to the computer I was ready to offer a possibility of my own. Ouch! It took about two seconds for her to veto (rather loudly) my photoshoot suggestion. Then, once she caught her breath, she countered with an idea of her own. Perhaps I ought to consider a photoshoot of my own……ala the Burt Reynolds centerfold model. 
It took me only one second to imagine the adjectives people might use to ‘define’ that sort of Sexy. Needless to say I soon moved on to other Winchester offerings, the ones dealing with the city’s ancient history, medieval High Street, the Jane Austin Home, and the spectacular cathedral.
All of which brings me back to an obvious question. Are we returning to London, Paris, Amsterdam, or Galway? Probably not. Is Timbuktu in our future. Not likely. But in the course of my mini-blogfest I had spent several enjoyable hours enjoying sights I will never see and learning about places I will never visit. For a creaky old armchair traveler like me that feels like a win.
Finally, setting definitions of ‘sexy’ aside, I must point out that the internet is chock full of bloggers and blogs addressing just about any subject you choose to pursue. I am a travel addict, so those are the ones I selected today. But whatever tweaks your interest……be it ‘sexy photoshoots, exotic recipes, or any other topic you can think of……there are bound to be blogs and bloggers following in its wake. Why not choose your own favorite topic and go looking?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Late Life in the Lonely Lane

Again it is the first Wednesday of the month, time for a tip of the hat to the Insecure Writers Support Group. With that comes the opportunity to address this month's IWSG question......With that comes the opportunity to address this month's IWSG question......"Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?"
     Truth is, at my age, in the November of life, I have few other creative outlets and am not actively looking for more. Writing, be it books or blogs, seems the perfect venue for me……allowing me the freedom to go where I want, say what I want, explore what I want, even create the future I want……all of it limited only by my imagination. 
As an October/November writer I am provided endless possibilities to explore the bits of real life, especially late-life reality, that mean the most to me. Writing provides a structured process for consolidating my sometimes disparate thoughts, while demanding the discipline that comes with putting those thoughts into words. 
     Best of all, I can do all that from the comfort of my recliner or computer. What is not to like? Case in point.......today's post. I call it LATE-LIFE IN THE LONELY LANE. I hope it rings true to you.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lots of us know all about October, and perhaps November too. We spent decades working toward what they call the Golden Years......when we could live out the dreams we had set aside for so long. Fortunately  many of our generation, with the help of Social Security, generous pensions, Medicare, and IRAs, have found at least some of the gold in those Golden Years.
What could possibly be wrong with that rosy picture? We like to think that we have earned the right to a comfortable retirement. After all, we have played the game according to the rules and deserve the fruits of our labors. Just look at the world around you. Everywhere you turn you see seniors taking advantage of their hard work and good fortune.
And you would be right about that……at least partially. But at the same time you might be overlooking the growing number of our late-life peers for whom the ‘Golden Years’ will mean something very different.
For instance, I refer you to a recent issue of This Week magazine, and an article titled “An Epidemic of Loneliness,” which paints a decidedly distressing picture of the reality facing a sizable segment of American society, especially what it calls the 'Senior Boomers.' It claims that according to social-science researchers Loneliness ……defined as “having fewer social contacts and meaningful relationships than we want,” is a significant cultural condition, especially among the elderly.
According to the research they cite nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out. One in eight of our citizens report that they know zero people well. Some experts go so far as to claim that the nation’s most common pathology is 'loneliness.'
A closer look at the situation facing our October/November peers reveals even more daunting detail. In the course of their adult life Baby Boomers have had fewer children and more divorces than their parents, leaving more of them without companionship in old age. Even when there are children involved, they are apt to be spread far and wide across the country. As a result of those and other factors one in six Senior Boomers live alone.
But those sad facts are simply a matter of numbers, of statistics. And you know what they say about statistics……”You can make them say anything you want.” Yet in the end what really matters is not gaudy charts and sterile numbers, but the soul-deep impact on individual lives.
For years I have made the point that late-life, our October and November Years, works best as a shared effort, when two or more persons…… be they friends, lovers, family, or caregivers……face that sometimes harsh time together. I have written whole books making that case, following my Tanner friends as they stumble toward the relationships they hope will support them in those trying times.

In previous posts I have referred to those lonely seniors as Elder Orphans. The first time I heard that description it had the ring of an epiphany……a striking, suddenly-revealed truth. In two short words it seemed to capture the essence of a wide-spread late-life crisis, one we see all around us.
Elder Orphans, like their infant counterparts, are literally on their own at a very vulnerable time of life……and just as much in need of caring support. Chances are they are socially and physically isolated, living without a family member or surrogate. They are often depressed, and sometimes dealing with the loss of decision-making capabilities. To make matters worse they are seldom acknowledged as a group or class that needs help.
So what does the future hold for that elder orphan population? By all accounts their numbers are increasing, and the demand for the help they need grows accordingly. According to current trends, over time more of them will need more help for a longer period of time. 
A recent AARP report offers little solace, confirming that demand for elder caregivers continues to grow faster than the supply. In the face of funding shortfalls and rapidly increasing costs Caregiver per Orphan ratios are steadily declining across the country. Being an Elder Orphan is not about to get any easier.
I realize that my Tanner Chronicles stories ……fictional accounts of fictional situations……are one thing. Actually being an Elder Orphan, living that life, is something very different. Still, that reality is something that you and I can play a part in addressing.
You see, most of us can identify one or more elder orphans. They sit in the midst of our congregations. We pass them shuffling behind their walker in the supermarket aisle, or rub elbows with them at the senior center. You are apt to find them in hospital emergency rooms, often their only source of the health care most of us take for granted. They are, in fact, everywhere……out of sight right before our eyes.
As for myself, I hope I can be observant enough and bold enough to spot the elder orphans who cross my path. I need to acknowledge their place in my world, and perhaps take the time to hear a bit of their story. That’s an important thing, showing them that for at least a few minutes someone cares enough to listen. There are so many folks out there who need that casual gift ……the simple act of acknowledging and affirming their presence. Isn’t that what every orphan wants, no matter what his or her’s age? 

I could end this post right there. But the writer in me has me returning to an earlier post, where I used the following scene from Best Friends and Promises to depict the November life of Johnny Blanton, one of my favorite Tanner friends. Johnny lives in a low-cost, county-owned apartment, surrounded by neighbors who scarcely acknowledge his presence. Though he would be unwilling to admit as much, (Truth is he would scream like hell.), in many important ways he has become an orphan. You tell me, is this a viable depiction of an Elder Orphan?

  For all his gregarious instincts Johnny Blanton led a spartan, decidedly-isolated existence, the unfortunate result of circumstances over which he had little control.
     In the course of his four-year residency in the County-operated Senior Housing Complex he had concluded that his neighbors, as a group, suffered from a multitude of shared failings. To a person they were old, financially strapped, grouchy, and judgmental. Most depressing of all, not one of them appeared to subscribe to his long-cultivated interest in having a good time.
Wary, unsmiling widows were everywhere. He passed them in the hallways. They crowded the dingy activity room. Without exception he found them unnaturally distrusting of his well-intentioned attention. At one time or another he had approached nearly all of them, hoping to spark some degree of interest, and had struck out at every turn.
Except for Mrs. Perkins, who lived across the hall from his apartment and provided him with a steady supply of day-old newspapers, Johnny had not made one female acquaintance in the entire thirty-unit complex. He took that sad reality, and the slight it represented, very personally
To make matters worse Johnny’s success at making friends among the male residents, he called them “inmates,” had been only slightly better. Some were deaf, blind, or immobile---which tended to limit their “good time” potential. 
Sadly, the few who still found drinking beer a viable social pursuit were no more affluent than Johnny. After years of having Aaron Peck and others pick up the tab, he was reluctant to cultivate drinking buddies who expected him to play that role.
As a result, his social life had become seriously constrained. For three years Willie Thomas, who did not drink at all, but played a mean game of cribbage, had been his most reliable ally among the residents. With Willie’s passing the previous December that welcome friendship had been lost.
In his heart of hearts Johnny Blanton was a very social creature. It appeared, however, that in the sterile confines of the Senior Complex his declining years were destined to be lived out in a state of stagnant depression. To his way of thinking it would take a miracle to change that unfortunate situation.

As a writer, of course, it is my job to create ‘miracles’ that change ‘unfortunate situations.’ In real life, however, it is up to you and me to  identify the Elder Orphans in our universe and, when possible, help create our own late-life miracles.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Living in the past......and why not?


“Come on, Dad. We know the old days were a lot better than we have it now ……at least in your mind. You’ve made that point before.” It was one of our own children, one of the outspoken ones, gently disputing my oh-so-logical logic.
“But remember, we live in today’s world, where cell phones, tweets, and a bunch of other stuff you’ve never heard of, are part of our lives. And still, here you are again....living in the past.
If you are a resident of my October/November neighborhood you have probably heard similar complaints, both out loud and implied. While our grandkids are usually too well behaved to resort to such criticism, at least within range of my hearing, our four children are sometimes less reserved. Heck, there are times when Roma offers that same assessment.
Just so you know, I do not LIVE in the past. Though I may visit there more often than some folks, it is certainly not my permanent residence. Still, I hope the world will excuse those moments when a faraway glaze comes over me, when it may appear that I have been transported to someplace beyond the present. Truth to tell, I happen to believe we all deserve an occasional return to times past……to the places, people, and lessons we remember so easily.

Why is that, you may ask. Why do so many of us occasionally retreat into the ‘past,’ to what once was? More often than not those journeys to our personal memory vault come without warning, triggered by something we have seen or heard, or perhaps a random, out-of-the-blue thought. 

      (Pause…..if you are old enough to remember, you can imagine the sounds of Jack Benny entering his underground vault. That is the image I have in mind right now.

You know how those visits work, the way they can grab your attention. Once there you might simply shrug off those intruding thoughts and return to the present……or you may dwell a while in that comforting space, wringing all you can from the pleasant recollections you find there.
I sometimes encounter those ‘reaching into the past’ moments in my writing, when a particular scene has me searching for a convincing way to describe my character’s thoughts and feelings. What better way to imagine how he or she feels than remembering how I felt at times like that?

Or perhaps we return to our past for other reasons, seeking pleasant, well-remembered good times to serve as an antidote for a not-so-pleasant present. In any case, when I try to understand the reasons for my ‘living in the past,’ I keep returning to one important product of those unscripted mind travels …….a hoped-for result I call Affirmation.
         Defined as “emotional support or validation,” affirmation is a deep human need we all share. Everyone of us has moments when we need to be reminded that we are worthy, even when life has us doubting. That ‘validation’ provides the motivation for much of what we do......good and bad. Moreover, our need for that is as real in late-life as it was when we were youngsters. Small wonder that revisiting our own life experiences, the memories that affirm our intentions and remind us of lessons learned, strikes me as a worthy reason to keep remembering.
After all, no matter where our life has taken us, by our October and November years we have accumulated a sizable inventory of affirming memories. Some are true-to-life recollections, recorded exactly as they happened all those years ago. Others may have been reconfigured over time to better suit our purposes. And now, in late-life, still nursing the same need for validation, it may be easier to find the comfort and support we seek by returning to those earlier memories, rather than creating new ones. 

Caveat - There are also totally dysfunctional memories lurking in the dark corners of my mind, ones I usually avoid bringing to the surface. True, there are times when those well-remembered “gotchas” remind me what not to do. But as a rule I prefer to visit the positive, affirming bits of my past.

Why shouldn’t we return from time to time to the favorable moments we have stored in our memory vault? I can’t think of any reason to feel guilty about doing that. In fact we ought to consider it a blessing……an opportunity to select the moments that mean the most to us. So what if a particular recollection has been embellished over time to better fit our psychic needs? Perhaps it is all the more affirming because of that.
By this time of life the person we have become is certainly very different than the one who created those memories we like to revisit. In all likelihood our world has shrunk in size and scope, in keeping with our diminished mobility and energy. And our lifestyle is probably less vigorous by a factor or two or three….or seven or eight.
I have claimed over and over that I want to keep Becoming in my late-life years. Yet the pursuit of that hopeful possibility calls for a reality check ……to help me understand that a realistic version of Becoming has changed with time.
I tell myself to keep reaching out, to be more than I was before. I believe we are meant to do that. Still, the realistic results of my reaching will not look like the affirming moments of times past……the high points and lessons learned the hard way, the ones I like to remember.

So now, in late-life, when my efforts come up short I give myself permission to resurrect affirming recollections I created in times past……hoping they may serve as a tonic in the face of today’s troubles.
At times like that why shouldn’t we retrieve a memory to soothe our distress? I understand that living in the past, as a permanent resident, is not a healthy frame of mind. But an occasional visit, to remember and relive the dreams we had, the battles we won, and the special people who have made our life journey worthwhile……I consider that time well spent.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Why Hide My Insecurity?

       
       It is amazing how things can change so quickly? A couple weeks ago I was ready to fold my blogging tent. As I mentioned at the time, it felt like I had said everything I had to say. And who needs a blogger with nothing more to add?
Dozens of you have been following these posts for years, and I sensed that perhaps you too were growing a bit tired of it all. So, as I set off on my 83rd year it seemed like a good time to call it a day.
Then, scarcely a week later, with a single mouse click, I was unexpectedly transported to a very different set of possibilities. You know how I am, selling the virtues of the road less traveled and reaching beyond our comfort zone……at an age when less traveled and reaching out are not always the norm. 
As you may already know, I am not a joiner. Actually, I am rather fussy about who earns my allegiance. It has to be a fit……which is why until now my only affiliation (besides our church) has been my honorary membership in The Dull Men’s Club.
That’s right. Dull. What adjective better describes a November fellow who writes relational stories about his late-life peers? And if that same storyteller finds it awkward, even hard, to tell the world why his October stories ought to be read……you might say he is also Insecure. Generally speaking I am a reasonably secure guy, but when it comes to my stories, probably not so much. 

Surprise……I have just learned there also is a club for Insecure Writers. Think of that, I’m now a member of two clubs…..…Dull and Insecure. Am I on a roll or what? 
Over the years you’ve read my doubts in these pages ……about the stories I tell and the way I tell them. You’ve seen me grumble that no one seems to care that those stories are out there waiting to be read, even though my modest Gil Stewart Website is welcoming, and my Amazon Author's Page offers 20 books just waiting to be discovered. So it should not be surprising that this newly discovered group of creative souls, who are willing to openly discuss their insecurities about something as personal as their own writing experiences, had me feeling quite at home. My first visit to the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG) website convinced me I belonged there.
True, lots of those folks are kids……20s, 30s, and such……and most are women, which seems to be the norm for wannabe writers. If I was younger that might be intimidating. But I’ve outgrown that. To be sure, their stories are not at all like the Geriatric Adolescence tales I tell. But its been fun to read about the many paths they have followed on their creative journeys.
Yet no matter what their age or what they write, as I trolled through the nearly 180 member blogs, each of them linked in their own way to the same creative impulse that keeps pulling me along, it felt like I was eavesdropping on a family affair……the sort of clan I would like to be part of.
Truth to tell, at any age (even in their November years) unpublished or self-published writers are apt to find themselves in an insular space…..perhaps lacking the skills, resources, and/or the contacts to have their work refined and noticed. In a world where thousands of self-published stories are released every week it is easy to feel like we are creating something good, but no one knows about it. Seems to me that is a likely recipe for writer insecurity.


IWSG’s stated purpose is very straight forward……to help us share our writing experiences and encourage those who have set out on that path......while at the same time accepting their input about our writing efforts. The goal is to provide a forum where writers feel comfortable asking questions, offering advice, and discussing the doubts and concerns they have about their craft…….i.e. a safe haven for insecure writers, no matter what they write.
     With that in mind IWSG offers the promise of support that many of us are seeking. As part of that effort the first Wednesday of each month (that’s today) is designated as Insecure Writers Support Group Day, when we are asked to post about our own writing experiences……the doubts, the highs, and the lows……while encouraging others who share those challenges.
At the same time we will be visiting blogs of others in the group, connecting with them and sharing our input. Some of them will be visiting this blog, offering their comments. As always I’m hoping you regulars will be willing to join in the conversation.


Is it real, IWSG and the connections it promises? I suppose time will tell. Odds are it won’t create miracles, but I applaud their efforts to help us wannabe storytellers reach out and connect with each other. In the meantime, I hope you will check in on future first-Wednesday posts and help me track where all those insecurities take us.