is inevitably one of the features of a major lifestyle change. In the past year, I have left behind some old habits (overeating, for one; underexercising, for another), acknowledged the need to leave behind many people who have been very significant in my life (congregants, local friends, my bandmates), have moved out of the nicest home I've ever had, and have most recently left behind the most fulfilling work I've ever done (except possibly for mothering).
Interestingly, I feel very little emotion about any of this, at least yet. I am not experiencing sorrow but rather relief. In leaving behind the old food habits, I've taken on new habits---bring on the vegetables and fruit! cut that chicken breast in half! In leaving behind congregants, I've found a new way of being with people I once served and it's not "on" (at least much of the time---I still have to be careful). In leaving behind local friends and my bandmates---well, I haven't, not quite yet.
In leaving behind this incredible work, I've been able to bask in the sense of a ministry well-done, with almost no loose ends unattended, in the appreciation of a congregation that feels well-served, in the knowledge that I have been part of many people's stories as they've rejoiced, mourned, and turned pages in their lives' books. Memories of me are in many hearts as I leave behind this time and place and work and that feels very satisfying. Most of those memories are good, though I know not all are sterling.
Once I have left the island and this life, I will have moved miles away from a place and time that I have often called the happiest years of my life. I'm not scared of the future, even though I'm leaving so much behind. I contemplate the coming years as a retired person in a small town as a new book to be opened and savored, as new friends and opportunities, new ways to be useful, new connections to make.
Tending horses and dogs for two months is nice interim work. The stresses of caring for dependent animals are somewhat similar to caring for humans dependent on my services: feed and water them, make sure they have the space and shelter they need, have fun with them, be authoritative but not authoritarian, be kind and affectionate but don't let them walk all over me! Dogs and horses don't have language, so they can't talk behind my back. Their relationship with me is evidenced in their responses to my care. People are not so different.