One of my biggest challenges as a retired person is all this time I have to myself. “Everyday is Saturday” is not as easy as I thought when I worked and longed for more time. Now time slips through my scoop like kitty litter scattered on the floor. I have become a person I don’t recognize—spending hours on Facebook and internet reading when I have books to read, sitting in front of junk TV when there is a radiant evening outside and Morgen waiting to be called to work.
(I took up TV as a treat from the years I prepared for class and edited and graded papers and couldn’t watch, but now it has become one more distracting screen. I am especially drawn to reality TV like Bachelor in Paradise.)
I miss the person who was able to ride her horse in the morning, write in the afternoon, and prepare for school in the evening. I miss how I was able to find my way to my written stories, day after day, even though some of those days, I didn’t write much more than a sentence. At least I showed up at the page and kept at it, little bit by little bit, despite the demands of my job and life as a wife and friend.
Two years into my retirement I miss being useful in the way I was useful as a teacher. But it was a work that chronically hurt because office politics never settled. Weekends grading papers, weeks preparing class, writing in between were draining in themselves. Two years in I miss my job, the structure it gave my weeks, the feeling useful, the money, the feeling useful. I don’t have it in me to teach, to slap a grade on creative work, or to spend my weekends studying heartrending stories.
(And as I think about this feeling useful, there’s not much of a step over to feeling used, and then used up. Christians often ask God to use them, but that desire can be a set up to becoming a doormat.)
Inertia, acedia, has set in. Almost a spirit. Kathleen Norris defines it as one of the seven deadly sins or bad thoughts. For me it’s a vague, nondescript loneliness that drives me away from my own thoughts to others’ thoughts. Many writers have spoken the word that silence is what is needed. Ann Voskamp recently suffered heart failure and wrote how her life depended on her listening to her heart, how we need silence to hear it. “The only way you can listen to your body — is not to be afraid of silence.By silence, sanity is found. By silence, sense is made of things. By silence, satan is silenced and lives can listen to their Maker.”
But I have run away from that silence into NPR in the barn and Facebook on my computer because I got tired of the same old bad thoughts having to do with abandonment working their way through my head and figured watching the train wreck that is our country would at least replace them.
But it does me no good to study the culture, to prepare for an argument that I am not equipped to argue with others, especially since I question the validity of having that argument, at least on Facebook. I’m not sure loyalty to a cultural slant is worth losing friends who see a different slant. I haven’t sorted out what it means to be a citizen and a Christian. My first loyalty should be to following Jesus, not to the latest drama coming out of Washington. But I am a citizen and have civic responsibilities.
There is so much more to know about God and goodness. I can step outside my door everyday and see how the stub tail squirrel is running across the road or the daddy long legs stepping across mums or see how the clouds are shaping up in the sky, that is new today and will be new tomorrow or feel the Gloria patri sing through my heart into my voice. There is so much that says, “Shout for joy,” and all I can find is a mumble and the prayer, “Lord open our lips and our mouth shall show forth thy praise.”