It's been a funny thing to realize, that, over the years of my formation as a minister and experience in the ministry, I've changed. Some of the traits and habits I've thought of as hard-wired have turned out to be malleable after all. Some of that is good. Some of that is disappointing.
The latest challenge I've had to acknowledge has been that I'm less of an extrovert than I used to be. Oh, sure, I'm still good in crowds, still love the attention of others, still friendly to people I've never seen before, that sort of stuff. But whereas I used to be able to do it for days on end, I just can't anymore. And I cut out at parties early, a lot of the time, because I just have to get home and be alone. I need a lot more solitude than I used to need.
All this dawned on me as I was dealing with the recent health crisis which made it smart to stay home from a weeklong UU summer camp that I've always enjoyed in the past. Once I had decided that I needed to stay close to home to make sure I was really well, I felt a surge of relief, and it wasn't all about health. It was about not wanting to go at all.
I'd felt it building as the time approached. I was beginning to weigh the joy of seeing many old friends again with the heavy knowledge that even though I was on vacation, it would feel like I had ministerial responsibilities, even though I had no official role nor would any Whidbeyites be at the camp.
I have served as chaplain at a couple of Eliots and people know I'm a minister. So they want to talk church or gossip about this minister or that or ask my thoughts about something going on in their home group. I am expected to take part in the small group discussion which I often enjoy, but I also know that my opinion is seen as "different" because of the title. I sometimes wonder if the discussion is squelched because of my being there. But if I'm not, the group and leader sometimes feel slighted.
Last winter, I went to the "over New Year's" camp and strained my back the first night. The pain of that injury didn't go away, so I went home from camp, feeling relieved that I could be alone again and not have to contend with so many relationships and my sense of responsibility to act like a minister.
So I've decided to not go to Eliot for the next year or so, to give myself a chance to think this through and see if I can find a middle road. It's not reasonable to wear a tag that says "please don't talk to me about church stuff because I'm on vacation"; UU summer camp is all about making connections with other UUs and church stuff is what we talk about, from individual congregational stuff to inspirational spiritual stuff.
I'm not big on psychosomatic illnesses, but it is eerily clear to me that an injury or a sickness is a legitimate way to get out of something. And it's happened to me twice with Eliot. I think there's a message there that I need to take heed of.