Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's weird being here among active ministers....

and candidates when I have no interest, any longer, in being one myself.  Beyond answering the question "how's retirement?", I have little to say and the topics up for discussion, here at our fall UUMA retreat, mostly don't interest me.

Other of the retired ministers here have similar interests to mine, but few active ministers or candidates are interested or even have reason to be interested in our lives as retirees, so we talk among ourselves but don't much share these interests with others,

I have asked the nominating committee to take me off the Ethics/Collegiality committee, where I have served for most of the time I've been in this chapter.  I want the freedom not to come to retreats, if I choose, so I am going to turn down any new job they want to offer, at least right now.  I have served every year in some capacity and have done my time!  I turned down (for the first time) a request to play the piano for worship, last night.  It's the first time I have refused to do that; my piano skills are rusty and playing for worship means I can't just relax into worship.  I don't feel like doing that ever again.

I've been enjoying our colleague Mark Morrison-Reed's offerings this week, however.  He's retired and has found joy in reframing his ministry into teaching and writing.  I think his approach (and his wonderful story of transformation) is a good one and one I might consider, but I'm not there yet.  I do not want to work with people right now and maybe never again, at least in the ways I have over the past 50 years.

Mark's morphing into community ministry has appeal, but if I did that, I would limit my outreach to the natural world of land and animals, with maybe an occasional wedding, memorial service, and pulpit supply thrown in.  Organizational development duties make me tired these days  No board or committee meetings, no matter how delightful the members, for me.  No settling of disputes or listening to the cantankerous dissenter.  No administrivia.

I retired because I didn't have any energy left or any new ideas for a new year.  I no longer felt like lending my strength to repetitive activities or to local political issues.  I was even getting tired of activities I loved, though I loved the people involved and hated to leave them.

I had come to realize that all my life I have worked with people in one way or another:  as a welfare worker, a missionary, as a teacher and counselor, and as a minister.  My so-called "leisure" activities have been similar:  church, music groups, Mensa, social justice politics, book clubs, support groups, and the like. 

I'm not hoping to give up on people---I am an extrovert, after all---but I would like to be less responsible for them.  I am relieved to be out of WA issue politics, though I care deeply about the results of the upcoming elections.  I am relieved that Dennis, with his high energy, is eagerly taking on what I started at the church and will take them in new directions.

I am pleasantly surprised to find such comfort in learning about the coastal landforms and their characteristics and needs.  It's been so pleasant to meet people who are similarly interested, to focus on water and wildlife and sand and the natural habits of the land, to be side by side with others, learning rather than being expected to lead.

Incidentally, in looking back over my life and thinking about a conversation a week or so ago in the Science Exchange group, I realize that I am really a "middle child" in birth order, even though I'm the oldest surviving child.  I am a follower who has learned to be a leader in some ways.  I'm a supporter with a few good ideas and some willingness to take initiative, a cheerleader for others' efforts.  I go along, but in my own individual ways.  I tend to distinguish myself with wisecracks more than wisdom, though I have a lot of wisdom to share.  I'd just rather be funny than serious.

One of the delights of groups like the Science Exchange and Mensa is that my wisecracks are better accepted there.  They're not as appropriate in many other settings and I have been accused, as a minister (and rightfully so), of being "flip".  I suspect this tendency to be a wiseacre has turned off a few cute guys, as well, to my regret.  But I see the funny side of things so often, see patterns in events that bring forth smartalecky remarks.  I never mean to offend, but "Funny Girl" was a movie and real funny girls don't always get the cutest guys.

I just hope for one who gets my jokes and can make a few himself.

Friday, October 19, 2012

10,000 steps

I don't remember where I heard that ten thousand steps daily is something we need to strive for if we are to get adequate exercise.  Maybe Dr. Oz or somebody similar made the comment during the tag end of some Oprah show back when I was catching ten minutes of Oprah before NBC segued into the 5 p.m. news.  In any case, it stuck in my mind and I've made some half-hearted stabs at it:  bought a pedometer but neglected to make sure I set the a.m./p.m. button right, so it was always clicking off at noon and resetting to zero.  I'd get 3 or 4 thousand steps under my tennies and then back to zero.  I didn't have the resolve to change the setting and stuck the pedo in a drawer till the battery died.

But once I moved to the coast and had plenty of time for lengthy walking, I dug the pedometer out, reset it with a fresh battery, and have been totting up ten thousand and more steps daily.

I'm sure there's a sermon in there somewhere, with analogies galore about multiple steps in multiple processes to multiple solutions and resolutions.  But I'm not looking for sermon fodder right now.  Instead, I've been thinking about geography as I step off those miles in 2.5 foot strides.  And, in case you're wondering, 10,000 steps times 2.5 divided by 5280 is almost 5 miles, 4.734 miles to be more precise.

Geography and its attendant natural features have shaped my life; it may have shaped yours too, if you lived in places marked by hills and valleys, tiny ditches and broad fields.  My life stories all seem to include some geographic attribute, some characteristic supplied by nature, not human-made.

Some of these stories are worth noting, I think.  I can see traces of those shapings in my daily life right now.  I recall walking with my mother down steep Steele street between SE 39th and 37th and noticing a rivulet of rainwater trickling down the gutter.  It was rainbow-stained with oil, working its way around the gravel and leaves in its downward path.  I have a memory of moving little sticks and pine needles into its path to see what would happen.  My mother let me experiment without hurrying me on.  And even today I find myself watching currents, seeing how they eddy-up at bends in the stream, how logs and debris in the path divert or dam up the flow.  Currents, from tiny rivulets to irrigation ditches, to huge rivers like the Colorado and the Columbia, and now to peaceful Neacoxie creek out my back door, are, to some extent, predictable.  Currents in my life give shape as well, as they encounter blockages, downward and upward slopes, and wear away the excesses I've accumulated.

As I walk my daily three mile loop through town and out through the dunes to the beach, I notice differences in sand.  The dry summer produced soft, squeaky sand that is hard to trudge through with long strides; I'd head for the shoreline closest to the water, where the sand was hard and damp, easier to walk on.  But inevitably I'd have to slog upslope through soft sand that shifted underfoot, causing my steps to slide back slightly and making the whole beach walk less pleasant and more tiring.  I hated that part of the walk but was resigned to it because the rest of the walk was wonderful----until I discovered something.

In Outward Bound, decades ago, we learned something called the "rest step", which made going up steep slopes much easier.  It was simply pausing infinitesimally with all the weight on the lead foot while the following foot "rested" briefly.  Trying this on the soft sand dunes, I discovered that small steps accomplished the same thing, that my foot didn't slide around when I kept all my weight on it.  (I think this is better understood kinesthetically, rather than by reading about it.)  Hills, no matter what they're made of, are more manageable when approached mindfully, whether you're going up or down.
Other geographic features that have shaped me:  volcanoes sticking straight up out of the land; creeks disappearing into impenetrable forest; loud, big ocean waves; tidepools with unimaginable life; deep, rocky canyons; waterfalls descending from mysterious sources; timberline paths; pathless forests.

I find that I am more and more shaped by the land I have inhabited and which I walk daily.  Ten thousand steps on crumpled pavement, on wet sand, on needle-covered sidewalks, on forest trails, and on the surfaces of my home.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

What's an Extrovert to do...

when the blues strike in a new and unfamiliar home?

Yesterday was a bit of a blue day.  I intended to go to the ENCORE (50+ educational activities) Science Exchange class in Astoria.  I'd tried to attend last week but got there and discovered that the class had been rescheduled for a different day.  Darn!  So I put it on my calendar for the correct day of the week but didn't think to ask if the locale had been changed.  I showed up yesterday at the right time, but still no class.  I was peeved!  So I spent a couple of hours grousing to myself, scanning the paltry info I could find on website and printed materials, leaving piteous messages on the voice mail of a couple of ENCORE volunteers, and feeling sorry for myself.

Of course, once I actually talked to someone about the situation, I felt better.  It was a classic case of volunteers just not being able to cover the mountain of tasks involved in a new start to the year, not Ms. Kitty being ostracized.  And I will be able to go next week on the right day and to the right location.  The volunteer who called me to apologize was so nice, non-defensive, and she called me "honey", which I ordinarily would not welcome, but it was just what I needed to cool down.

Later, on my second walk of the day, I thought about why I was feeling blue that day, wondering if this was going to be the magical new start I'd hoped for, whether my back pain would ever go away completely.  On my first walk all I could do was gritch to myself about the similarities between a congregation which drops the welcoming ball for a newcomer and an educational organization which isn't well-organized in its approach to welcome.  Both the religious seeker and the education seeker feel rejected and may quit trying.  I sure was considering quitting the search.

But I had to take responsibility for some of this.  I didn't ask about the possibility of a new location for the class; it wasn't necessarily my responsibility but I could have asked.  The biggest responsibility for me is that I MUST take the initiative in finding new social groups here.  They aren't going to just fall into my lap; I have to go out and find them.

The euphoria of being on the coast, of working on creating a home, of visiting old haunts, of exploring this little town----the euphoria is dimming and I'm realizing that finding my niche here is a big job, sorting through people, activities, providing necessities.  Now that much of the physical stuff is done, the social stuff needs to take highest priority, as my extrovert self is hungry for socializing.

So I'm thinking about what more I can do in that department.  I will definitely visit the Monday night jam in Cannon Beach.  I want to see if one of the local chorales needs singers.  I want to organize a jam with some musicians here at my house.  I want FUN!

I have been walking two or three times a day and my weight is back down below 160, even with the snacking I've been doing.  The exercise is certainly the key!  Yesterday I fixed my pedometer and clocked over 10,000 steps, which is about 5 miles for me.  That was in two walks, one of which was only about half an hour.  The earlier one was an hour long.

My back continues to ache and may be working up to a couple of days of spasms.  I haven't overdone physically but I am newly aware of the tension and stress that has built up with the demands of settling in.  I thought all my tension and stress was behind me, but the move has taken more of a toll than I knew.

No blues today!  I'm going into Portland to see my sister and, with her, visit our Aunt Sigrid, who has had some rough times lately.  Jean and I will lunch, shop, and gab.  She's a good companion and a fierce Lexulous competitor.