A Return to Simplicity and A Refusal of Shame

The past year has been the most enjoyable of my life. This despite the political chaos, the pandemic, the care of an elderly parent, and continued estrangement from my children and grandchildren. It begs the question, why?

It was nine years ago this week when the cataclysmic events of life choices drove Gina and me together. As we begin our tenth year together, both of us agree they have been the happiest years of our lives. Despite the radical discontinuity of society and family, a few answers to the question “why” come to mind. 

A return to simplicity. One year ago, we made the difficult decision to make Cocomo, our little beach cottage in Dunedin, our home. Our isolated country estate of 54 acres and the spaciousness of our home Rivendell did not seem to fit the stage of life we now find ourselves. Our five years there had been a bittersweet time of accomplishment as together, we cleared the land and built my dream of Kalien Retreat. Still, it had also been a place of deep suffering and painful healing.

Our little vintage thousand square foot cottage is cozy and easy to care for. It is ideally situated close (a short walk, bike, or golf cart ride) to a whimsical and artistic downtown. Three of the most stunning beaches in the world are a short bicycle ride away. Excellent medical facilities, restaurants, entertainment, professional sports, and nightlife are all within a few minutes of our cottage. 

The things that bring me enjoyment (reading, writing, painting, thinking, walking, running) are “lone ranger” activities. The culture here is much more conducive for Gina and her extroverted personality. It is a joyful, more simple life here for both of us. 

A refusal of shame. As I write The Quest book and lead the Quest experience, one truth that recurs is that a life of shame leads to a small life, and a life of enjoyment leads to a full life. Gina and I have made excruciating but determined decisions to systematically refuse shame. No matter if it comes from family, religion, our former tribe, or political leaders. 

We are using every resource at our disposal to plumb the vast depths of our unconsciousness. To express, confront, and eradicate the memories, dogma, events, and ideas that trigger shame. The candid conversation that happens during our daily coffee and cocktail hours have produced catharsis—a purification and purgation that has brought unprecedented spiritual renewal and release from tension. 

A resolution of enjoyment. We have made our goal for this stage of life (age 50-75) to be a time of enjoyment. We have determined to verbalize, acknowledge, and embrace the things that bring us interest, excitement, contentment, and fulfillment. It has been amazing to list the many people, places, and things that trigger these positive affects.

It has also been illuminating to realize that even though we have vastly different personalities and histories (and we celebrate those), we have discovered many common interests and sources of joy. Now that we have identified them, we have resolved to live life every day to its fullest—filled with enjoyment both individually and collectively. 

A new tribe. The refusal to be shamed by family, religion, our former tribe, and political leaders has made it necessary to find friends who share our repugnance of shame and our resolution of enjoyment. We both suffer from post-traumatic stress. In the pursuit of a larger life, we have outgrown and renounced the religion in which we were raised, and we have left the idea of a heavenly father whose characteristics were shame, judgment, inequality, conditional love, and eternal condemnation. We have come to understand that our children’s shunning is out of our control, and we refuse to have anyone in our life who embraces and dispenses shame. 

This makes for painful and difficult decisions that are not “religiously” or “politically” correct. We despise Donald Trump and the Republican Party because they represent the authoritarianism, the elitism, the shame, the condemnation, the racism, the inequality, and narrow-mindedness in which we were raised. They represent memories, events, and ideas that we refuse to tolerate in our life any longer. And it is why we feel so compelled to speak out against injustice as we see it, and champion an America with freedom and justice for ALL. 

It has not been an easy year, but somehow despite all the chaos, it has been the most enjoyable of my life. And I’m grateful.