I’m sittingng on my deck, sipping at a cup of tea, looking at the mountain view to the west, and listening to – of course – CBC Radio. Today’s interview with Sebastian Junger explaining his new book “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” gave me a couple of ah-ha moments. Sebastian writes about the experience of soldiers, first aid workers, emergency workers, and others when they arrive home after a traumatic experience. He suggests the sense of belonging arises from being a part of a team or sharing a common experience and ultimately results in a sense of tribalism within that group. He posits that once we leave these situations, we lose our sense of self and aren’t sure of how to behave. He shared a story of a soldier who came home after a very intense posting overseas. He was with his wife in the grocery store, surrounded by a plethora of choices. If I recall the story correctly, the soldier was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even pick out his cereal. He didn’t know how to make that choice. I know I haven’t captured the full meaning of that conversation, but it made sense to me. I will need to listen to it again to fully “get it”. Perhaps I will even read his book!
The interview continued to discuss people’s experiences from events such as World War II, the Springhill Mine Disaster, and more. My first “Ah-ha”moment – that’s why I remember so many of the seniors talking so gleefully about their World War II experiences. These were young adults, sent off to “save the world” – and fight for their country. Yet when that fight is over, what is next? Where do they belong? How do they fit in and find their new place?
Fortunately I have not been through any such traumatic and life-changing experiences. But his ideas did resonate. Do we form our own tribe at work? Is that sense of belonging developed from being with colleagues, employers, and others involved in our massive world of work, suddenly disappear when we retire? I’d say yes. I miss the sense of being part of that work tribe. Perhaps I, and others like me, stay in somewhat unhealthy work relationships longer than we should – because we see no alternative tribe to join. Carrying that deeper – I come from a big family – a tribe of 8 children and a large extended family. Although I cherish my alone time, I still have always felt a need to belong to some group. I do better overall when I have a group activity or event to go to, even if I need my quiet time and space while with the group.
I think this interview gave me some better insights as to why I feel such a need to join an adventure, belong to a club, and seek out a new tribe. All part of the journey, isn’t it!
Our great London Adventure has come and gone – faster than a Lamborghini on the autobahn. Speaking of fast cars – they were what impressed Mackenzie the most. He pointed out to me all the Mercedes Benzes, the Lamborghinis, the Bugattis, and more. I have never seen so many high end cars; some makes I had never seen before, let alone in so many numbers.
Me – I loved spending one whole week with my son, exploring a new place, visiting museums and exhibits, and talking about the rich history of the region. Most importantly, I found common grounds for discussion with him. We both loved the war museums, especially their displays that brought the impact of war on ordinary people into focus.
We took some wrong turns on our explorations, but it just didn’t matter. Sometimes those wrong turns opened the gate to an even better adventure. You never know what you will find around the next corner!aa
I am sitting in the cheap seats at the National Art Centre – dressed up in a below the knee bias cut plaid skirt, peasant style white blouse, and gold velour vest, the fanciest outfit I can afford I could afford. The lights dim, the audience begins to clap, and stage lights turn on and begin to focus on a legend, and my life-time folk hero – Gordon Lightfoot. He casually enters, waves to the audience and picks up his guitar. The audience roars. And then he starts. I am in heaven! I feel so grown up and cultural. I am in heaven!
This is how I remember my experience as a young grad student studying in Ottawa. To most people, attending a concert in the National Arts Center is not a big deal. It’s just another theater, and Gordon Lightfoot is just another folk signer. But to me it was a momentous occasion. To me it represented the optimistic spirit of youth – the time to dream of all the adventures yet to come, of the career paths not yet taken, of the roads not yet traveled, of all the visions of who I could become. And folk legend Gordon Lightfoot’s iconic songs captured this spirit. His words seemed to speak to me, and me alone, tantalizing me with adventure and spirit that I hoped to someday capture.
And so, last night, over 30 years later, I once again found myself sitting in the cheap seats waiting the appearance of this iconic legend. This time I no longer have an endless future ; I no longer look at the world from the innocent and hopeful eyes of youth. I no longer await the exciting career doors to open, nor do visions of who I will become tantalize me with naive anticipation. Instead, I am retired. Like the words from some of Lightfoot’s newer songs suggest, I am now old looking back wistfully at my enthusiasm. His voice is a little rough around the edges. Age has robbed him of the the high notes and strong tone. . His words no longer speak to me as they did before; I no longer enter my private bubble of inspiration when I hear his tunes. The “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and the “Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald” no longer invokes invisible tears.
But still I enjoy listening. I am glad I had a chance to see this legendary songwriter perform. From what I understand, he still performs an average of 10 concerts a month. Gordon Lightfoot still inspires me, but in a different way. His ability to overcome serious illnesses and still perform in his 70’s gives me hope that I can too can still have grand adventures. I too can still be of use, even though I am retired. Despite how some younger people view those of us over 55+, seniors can still be vital. I can still dream, I can still have adventures. A part of my 20 something self still can exist. Life is still grand!
A new adventure for me – yesterday I happened across my great-nephew playing his first season of soccer. Like most pre-schoolers, he sort of listened to the coach, and sort of followed the ball. But he was much more interested in simply playing with his best friend. Oh, how I remember – and miss – those days!
I count this day as a new adventure, as I have not seen my great nephew play. And yes, he is great for many reasons, not just because he “really likes me”!