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© Tom  Gilbert

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Sam Shepard and Santa Fe

August 9, 2017

You may have heard that the playwright and actor Sam Shepard died last week. He seemed to me someone who remained true to his need to write about life, exploring various themes in his plays and searching for depth in relationships with people and places.

At the same time, he appeared enigmatic. He liked living in out of the way places, like Santa Fe, New Mexico where he resided from 1983-86 and again from 2010-2015. He likely left the second time because of the advancing stages of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) to return to home and family in Kentucky.

According to an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican, Shepard first visited Santa Fe as a child, arriving by train. His father was an Air Force bomber pilot stationed at one of New Mexico's military bases. That sounds a bit like my story. My dad was also an Air Force bomber pilot and when I was about nine we took a trip to California by train and stopped in Santa Fe.

The article also refers to a good creative period for Sam Shepard in 2010-11 when he was chosen as a Miller Scholar and got a year to write at the Santa Fe Institute. Shepard enjoyed the time away from the limelight and since most of the community there were scientific researchers and thinkers it led to intellectually stimulating conversation.

I enjoyed watching Sam Shepard in his various movie roles. Movie roles afforded him t
he opportunity to take time off to write. He was an interesting and gifted person and fit right in with New Mexico.

Exploring Your Inner Life

August 6, 2017

When I speak of your life being your story I am referring to more than your day to day existence and all the things that happen to you.

I am speaking about life. What does that make you think about?

Life is more than your life circumstances.

Life is each breath, each heartbeat, and, most importantly, what you are doing with your life.

I have found that life is not about me...I am about life! The more I get involved in living life with a focus on others (rather than my small and often self-centered false self) the better my life is.

We are made to live in community. Does that mean we don't ever get time for ourselves, for some solitude, peace and quiet?

Of course not! We need those quiet times to reflect, recharge and refocus. So that we can go back out among others and have something to give. You can't giveaway what you don't have.

A lot of inner life exploration (some call it your spiritual and contemplative side) results from things that happen and what we then do about it. This is particularly true with the harsh and tragic circumstances we all eventually encounter. If you don't have an inner life to pull strength from things will soon become overwhelming.

I know for my own journey it took being confronted with some difficult truths about myself and the realization that I can't control or fix many things. Nor should I.
Letting go is not the same as giving up.

Yesterday I read a guest blog post on The Memoir Network site. The writer, Marilea Rabasa, spoke from her heart about exploring her inner life and how her regular habit of writing about her life has helped her deal with the difficult road of recovery. Addiction is a problem confronting many of us. Her addiction and the disease of addiction in her family shook her to the core. Like most addicts, it takes reaching the end of a rope (some call it hitting bottom) before the likelihood of any real change can take place.

Read her piece, Spelunking, and see if there isn't some truth in there for you to unwrap. Even if you don't deal with anyone who has an addiction you can still find some powerful words in her essay. She is exploring her inner life. I like how she addresses the need to find clarification (which she finds in her writing) and the process of change.

New Mexico Families Sharing Health Care Stories

July 26, 2017

The news has been filled with stories about health care, insurance coverage, the Affordable Care Act and the desire by many Republicans and the current administration in the U.S. (President Donald Trump and staff) to repeal the health act legislation and replace it with something else.

Most people, myself included, believe that having health care is important and that health insurance is necessary. At the same time, in the United States health care insurance can be incredibly expensive and complicated. A lot of people would agree that it needs to be better and that the Affordable Care Act (often referred to as Obama Care) could be improved. But many parts of the ACA are important to people, including covering pre-existing conditions and access to government assistance programs like Medicaid.

Politics aside, the everyday person just wants to be able to have a life that isn't consumed with fear and anxiety about their medical and health care. It's hard enough to deal with disease and injury. Not being able to afford it complicates things and is why so many countries have some sort of universal health care provided by the government.

From a personal history and life story standpoint the stories of people dealing with issues involving health care and coverage can be very revealing. I live in New Mexico and there is a large portion of the population who cannot afford health insurance without assistance from Medicaid. One of our senators, Tom Udall, has  been collecting and sharing stories from consituents and I found it interesting to watch these stories on this short video compilation.

Birthdays, Anniversaries and Reunions - Oh My!

July 24, 2017

How do you celebrate special events?

It is a common practice to create a social event around a birthday, anniversary or reunion. Think about it.

It starts early on with your birthday. Parents, family and friends gather around a cake lit with birthday candles. They sing to you and then present gifts and cards. You, the birthday celebrant, are the center of attention. And that attention usually creates strong memories, hopefully happy ones.

Anniversaries are often special times. If you've been married a number of years you know the accomplishment and challenge of staying together.

A third type of marker of time with a social aspect are reunions.

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On the Occasion of the 200th Birthday of Henry David Thoreau

July 12, 2017

Henry David ThoreauMost people have heard something about Henry David Thoreau. Maybe you have a vague recollection of Walden's Pond or that the man was something of a loner in nature, whiling his days away with deep philosophical thoughts.

That would capture a bit of the story, but there is oh so much more.

Thoreau's life was fascinating. If he were alive today, he'd probably have some things to say about the state of our politics and society. It would undoubtably pain him to see how we've become ever more anxious and desperate.

In his relatively short life (he died of tuberculosis at the age of 45) he accomplished a great deal. He's remembered for his writings and his simple living. A well educated man who attended Harvard, he spent some years working as a teacher. But he also had to work hard in his father's pencil factory and that time gave birth to his realization that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

One of his favorite ways to contemplate life was by walking in nature. I can relate; I often get insights into things by taking a walk.

His mentor was another great thinker and writer of the day, Ralph Waldo Emerson. We owe a lot to reflection on our lives and thinking about the nature of things, including the nature of nature, to Thoreau. Mostly I admire his spirit of independence while also caring greatly about how we all need to live together in some kind of harmony. And with a sense of purpose.

On the occasion of the 200th birthday of Henry David Thoreau perhaps you can take a few minutes to ponder your life and legacy (read about the life and legacy of Thoreau at the Thoreau Society site). Here are three of my favorite Thoreau quotes:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify.

Things do not change; we change.

Trusting in Something Bigger

July 6, 2017

I am not one to be preachy or to talk much about my own personal faith here on my blog for Your Life Is Your Story.

It's not that I don't have a faith or spirituality - quite the contrary!
Trusting in Something Bigger
But I strongly believe that it is a personal matter that each person should explore in their lifetime. I don't shy away from talking about what I believe in or sharing about my own life experiences that involve trusting in Something Bigger. I just choose those opportunities carefully.

What that has to do with our life stories should be fairly obvious. When you are writing about your life it is important to explore those areas that are full of meaning and help shape your values and outlook on life. Reading about other people's struggles with the difficulties of life and how we grow from them can be inspiring and helpful.

At the same time, a narrative full of complaining and whining can be a turn-off. So consider carefully what you write that will be shared with others.

One of the things I treasure about journaling is that I can be truthful to myself and include anything. It's not for public consumption. If I ever intend to share from my journal writing I can use excerpts, edit where necessary, and put it out in some format for others, be that in a letter, book, soocial media or a blog post.

Today I am in the middle of great concern over a family member's health situation. It is not appropriate to go into the private details, but I will relate that it has to do with a burst appendix followed by surgery. That led to a day of what appeared to be improvemet followed by the next day and complications. It's scary. I am worried. Yet my life experiences and my personal faith have taught me that life is full of possibilities. Good and bad happen. What's really important is what I am doing. How am I responding? How can I be of help?

Trouble comes. Life can be hard. I know because I've had some of those experiences. I also get lots of emails from other people interested in preserving their life stories and frequently they mention how they have had extremely difficult life experiences.

Keep in mind that your life is not what happens to you. Sun and rain, joy and pain fall on us all. Your life is what you do with all that joy, pain and everything in between.

 Everybody has a story to tell!
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