Some years ago I became friends with a retired Presbyterian minister. Steve had been a widower for a while when we became acquainted and he moved to a retirement community a few years after we met. His wife had also served in the ministry before her death and a lovely chapel with gorgeous stained glass windows had been built at the retirement center in her memory. I will always remember our email exchange at that time. He sent me pictures of the chapel and I replied that it was so beautiful I almost wanted to retire and move there myself. Retirement was not something Steve enjoyed; he wanted to be in service to others, not receiving services. This was his response:
"In terms of your contemplated retirement - any
time you want to come we're ready. But you need to
know that your week changes when you retire.
There are five Saturdays and then the weekends.
I'm sure you could adapt."
This was typical of Steve’s wit, one of the many traits I valued in him. I still have the file with the calendar I created for him and naturally titled “Steve’s Calendar”. It has “Saturday” in the first five spaces and then “Weekend” for the last two. He was amused.
On a recent morning walk at the park I thought about this discourse as I pondered over why, this year, I am actually further behind in my seasonal “chores”. How can a grown woman with all this free time have things sneak up on her? Even my expanding business allows amazing flexibility in my schedule. For the first time in my adult years it seems that I am in total control of my day, so how could I actually be running behind? My epiphany, if you’ll pardon the seasonal pun, is that retirement brings a new way of measuring time. This is what my friend Steve was communicating to me. We all have similar ways of measuring, the moments or events that are so significant that we use them to form blocks of time. We say things like “After Johnny was born. . .” or “Just before I got my degree . . .” etc. They serve as bookends, capturing the different thematic chunks of our lives.
For me, as a high school teacher, my time was divided seasonally by grading periods. So the Advent season more or less snuck up on me this year since I’m no longer bound by a school schedule. I’m in the process of creating new seasonal indicators for myself. I was aware of the cooler temperatures, the leaves turning and falling and the advertisements for Holiday gift giving, but this has never been my signal for the approaching holidays. Thanksgiving & Christmas, in particular, have always been tied to the last frenzied 6 weeks’ grading period that closed a semester. It was truly an “Ah ha” moment for me on this particular morning, a bit scary, but also very exciting to know that I will now be developing new ways of tracking the seasons. I literally get to create/discover new ways of measuring time. The fear in this situation comes from the ego that wants me to continue on my “safe” path following old habits that feel familiar. That’s the ego’s job, and it’s good at it.
However, as we move through the seasons of our lives, we have to be willing to develop new habits, perhaps even new ways of being. My friend, Steve was able to realize this as he communicated in one of his last emails to me. He wrote:
"To be a peaceful powerful pole in life and death for others
is a worthy service which can help interpret and critique the past,
enrich the present, and prepare one for a more meaningful future.
This stage in life is a gift of God worth living fully and faithfully."
So that’s my challenge now for you and for me. What ever season we find ourselves in, however we are measuring time; let’s not be afraid of new ways of living when we find ourselves in new circumstances. Let’s embrace the change and delight in the new gifts.
Blessings & Light,