I wish I had known early on the importance of putting words to the truth of self, especially for friends who would listen and accept without judgment…and perhaps reciprocate. I have that now in the early winter of my life and I am grateful.

Aging is not easy. But one can find in these years a kind of foolish freedom that energizes many days as well as important relationships. “Foolish” in the best sense of the word because one might feel free to fly eccentrically from their too predictable self. At this stage I think I might have had more fun along the way had I been as comfortable with the truth of me early on. It took a while – almost a lifetime, many mistakes and good friends – for me to realize that.

I have had a men’s group here in Evanston for close to 30years and, for close to 15, an online virtual community of former students and priests. Both groups and other friends have seen me through recovery where I began to meet the simple and complex truths of me … and rise sharing them.

Our men’s group (there are four of us from the original 11) still meets for lunch once a month or so and I am online almost daily with guys from my long ago past, some of whom I have maintained contact with since age 13. We have been present to one another through deaths, divorces, moves, cancers, surgeries, and other crises as well as celebratory events.

We talk about friendship, shared pasts, religion and spirituality, death and dying, prayer and contemplation, depression, love, racism, and violence, God and changing beliefs, the masculine-feminine interface in us, and we go deep. In seminary years we were taught to beware of relationships – female because of celibacy, male because of unspoken homophobia. We were required to avoid what were called “particular friendships,” and taught that emotions work against clear thinking. Yet it was my feelings, more than the denials in my mind that helped me accept and begin to understand myself.

If I had known early on that life was meant to be a journey toward wholeness and that the truth of me was the yellow brick road to follow, I might have asked some essential questions about myself back then instead of later in the journey.

When it comes to living, the opposite of one’s truth is not a lie but, simply put, fear – the fear of coming up short in the eyes of others, if only because too many of us tend to come up short in our own. I still do, even in these wisdom years.

Therapy and good friends have helped me realize all of this. My gratitude prompts me to pass it on.