In a conversation with a friend recently, I admitted to behavior I'm not totally proud of but seem to need badly: buying down time.
As I get closer to retirement (about 8 months away), I find myself less interested in causes and projects I would have warmed to immediately, if I were in a different place in my life. Sometimes I'm open about it: "I can't attend your start-up meeting because I'm trying not to get involved in things I can't continue to work with". Other times I'm evasive: "A pastoral situation arose that I needed to schedule during the time I would have attended your gathering". Occasionally, I feel like I'm lying (call it fibbing, to lessen my sense of guilt, maybe): "I will be off-island that day" and then I go off-island, just to be off when I said I'd be off.
I don't need to say once more that I'm tired. You've heard that often enough. I notice in myself, however, that there is good reason to back off from additional causes and projects. It does make sense not to involve myself or the congregation in causes and projects that require immediate high degrees of attention or a longterm commitment. I won't be here long enough to do what's necessary and the congregation has other big issues on its plate, with the search for a new minister to occupy them; I don't want to duck out in June leaving them with a project I committed them to.
What am I doing with my extra time? Not much. Well, I guess I'm enjoying it, enjoying the freedom extra down time provides, enjoying the lessened responsibility, anticipating the anonymity of a new town and new activities. My extrovert nature seems to be taking a back seat to my introvert nature right now. I want to be alone more, want fewer expectations from others (the jam is a good example----I have become much less regular in my attendance and often leave before it's over), am uneasy when someone in the grocery store introduces me as "our minister" and the other person says, "oh, Kit, I've heard good things about you".
The major thing that I won't slack off on is my responsibility to the congregation. I don't want to be a lame duck minister for the next several months, don't want anyone to have reason to gripe that I'm not doing my job. The needs of the institution and the constituency are second only to my own health. And I'm deeply interested in what happens within the congregation because I have become so closely tied to it. It will be hard to cut those ties when the time comes. But for now it is my insurance policy, that my work with them is so meaningful and satisfying. May we all have the strength to loosen the ties when we must.