It’s now 14 days — and more significantly to a pastor, 2 Sundays — into this new phase of my life. The first Sunday we were out of town visiting kids and grandchild. Yesterday I expected that we’d visit a local congregation though we hadn’t decided which one. But it was cold and snowy (again), so I took my first Sunday snow day EVER (I don’t believe in closing church on a Sunday, and I never did) and stayed in the entire day.
David and I spent much of the day putting the office together. When we bought this house we decided on one table, rather than 2 desks. We envisioned that we’d be sitting opposite each other on our laptops on the weekends. How sweet. Then both of us retired from jobs where we were the boss and had the largest office, and it became a question of where we’d put our stuff in this smaller shared space. It’s one of the reasons why I had an Open House Book Sharing event at church before I left. There simply wasn’t room at home. That said, it’s looking good, if not compact. It’s cozy warm when the sun drifts in through the window, and it’s really good to be together. Even Indy joins us under the table.
David’s doing the work of God Before Guns this morning, and I’m supposed to be writing. It’s what I did and loved best about my 15 years of ordained ministry — writing a sermon every single week — but this is very different. Writing about myself is a chore. I remember the first semester of seminary when I was suddenly sitting in a classroom 23 years after my undergraduate days. One of my first classes involved a weekly exercise of writing a 3-5 page paper about myself. I tired of it quickly and will admit I was tempted to just start making things up. I didn’t, as I was much too serious a student for any such shenanigans. Not at my age and certainly not when I was just figuring out what it meant to be there and making sure I was worthy of staying. Me — an Indiana University School of Business graduate — learning how to talk theology. You know the expression we’re not on the same page? I felt like I wasn’t even in the same book! Me — a 45 year old woman unsure what’s next in life — given the gift of a full-ride scholarship. Obviously some important others were more confident in my ability to see this through than I was. It wasn’t until I was about to graduate with a 3.75 GPA that I could accept that their confidence was well-placed.
For awhile after, I continued to have dreams that I was about to graduate and there’s that one class I didn’t complete. That one requirement I neglected. A dream much like my occasional ones about high school (ancient history) when I seem to be the only one who doesn’t know her locker combination or what class I’m supposed to be in. But a much more recurrent dream is about Sunday morning church. I’m supposed to preach, but I’m late, or I don’t have my notes. Or I’m there on time but the church looks nothing like what it’s supposed to, and no one seems to know me. I call it my unprepared dream. I had a version of it every weekend during the entire time I was a pastor. I even had one the weekend after I retired. I’ve never understood the why of it. I was never not prepared for a Sunday morning. I was never late. As for the unexpected happening on a Sunday morning, I considered my ability to think on my feet and to react spontaneously and appropriately one of my greatest gifts to ministry! I loved my work and felt secure in it. Why did (does) the dream plague me?
The interesting thing to me is that I’ve not had a single dream about what it will be like to be retired. Retirement is probably what I”m the most unprepared for. I got my first job at age 16 and with the exception of some years at home with my kids, I’ve always worked at a paying job. I completed 4 years of undergrad while working full-time and did the same (plus being a single mom to 3 children) for my graduate work in seminary. I know how to be prepared for school and work. I was good at both, and I excelled.
Retirement? It’s yet to be determined how good I am at this. But, so far? I”m loving it. My most recent unprepared dream had nothing to do with church, it was about the imminent birth of our second grandchild. We’re the grandparents assigned the important job of staying with big brother Walt while Mom and Dad are in the hospital. David and I are on call, expected to drop everything when we get the call. We’re prepared (and eager) to do that. But in my dream, I didn’t look at my cell phone for hours and missed the call. Then I couldn’t dial my daughter’s number. It all happened without us being there. I blew my job as grandmother.
When I woke up from the dream, I thought, what could be sillier than that? I excel at being a grandma!
And so on this the 14th day of retirement, I’m thinking I can handle this next phase of my life just fine.
Pastor (Retired). Parent. Activist.
You will handle retirement as you have handled everything else in life, by being well prepared, with an openness for new adventure, a dedication to what is worthwhile, and with love.