In his book, A Time To Live, Robert Raines wrote about aging as a time to “consciously reweave the gorgeous tear-stained threads of your colorful life into a fresh tapestry of meaning.” In one of my college decorative arts classes we studied how tapestries are made. If you turn a tapestry with a detailed design over, it is an unrecognizable jumble of gaps and loose threads…much like my chaotic life when I look back on it!
What holds the tapestry together are the strong warp threads that run from one end to the other. The warp threads of our lives are our strengths and talents and those loose threads and gaps, when viewed from the perspective of our later years, often reveal a tapestry of patterns or themes. Christian de la Huerta identified some life themes that have traditionally been common to LGBT individuals in his book Coming Out Spiritually: As outsiders, we tend to be more self-reflective. We are apt to challenge commonly accepted behaviors and norms with activism and humor, to enrich others with our creativity and sensitive to beauty, to express our compassion through service to others, to bridge differences including gender stereotypes, and to be drawn to spiritual exploration and expression. What have been the themes of your wild and wonderful life?
One of the most important strategies for reweaving our life tapestries and living our later years with greater serenity is to free ourselves of the shame and blame of resentments and regrets. Resentments can include anger at having to cope with our culture’s homophobic treatment or at specific family members, friends, partners, employers and others who have hurt us with their actions or attitudes. Regrets are usually comprised of those things we have done or not done that hurt ourselves or others. Regrets can also include our “if only’s” — those “paths not taken” and the choices we made that we now may question.
Life repair can be a painful process if not done with deep compassion for yourself. Hindsight can easily lead to guilt and shame so it is important to remember that all of our life decisions have contributed to our evolving consciousness.
In my next blog, “Anticipating Change,” we will look at how we can begin to plan for some of the unexpected challenges that can accompany aging.
Buz Hermes is co-facilitator of the Sonoma Valley LGBT Seniors Group and a former staff member of Spectrum’s Senior Outreach Program. He is currently offering 8-week “Aging Together With Pride” workshops sponsored by Adult and Aging Services for LGBT seniors. He can be reached at [email protected] or (707) 227-6935