Saturday, May 29, 2021

Out of Practice


North Fargo Softball Complex
I enjoy every season. This late spring moving into meteorological summer (June 1), I noticed a great deal of activity on fields and courts. Memories of playing softball on the farm and later in a church league brought both a smile and a frown. The smile: multiple generations playing on the large farm lawn enjoying an afternoon together. The frown: catching a wickedly fast throw into 1st base which dislocated my thumb. Who said church league was not intense? I have not thrown a ball nor swung a bat in decades.

Courts in a city park

The game of tennis began during the second year of college in south Texas. The weather allowed for playing every month. There were numerous people ready to play. Courts were available on campus and in near by city parks. I was pleased at my improvement and enjoyment of the game. Great exercise along with hand-eye coordination. Since those youthful days my time on a tennis court has been sporadic. I recently enjoyed time swinging a racket and chasing the yellow ball with my younger daughter during a vacation in Florida.

Pepsi Soccer Complex
Soccer was an adjunct to my participation in track and field. The coach thought the rigors of constant movement in soccer would take one's mind off of running. During the early 1970s, in small town Minnesota, the game of soccer was foreign. Running while moving a ball between players took more coordination than I could ever hope to develop. Besides, I was a shot-put and discus thrower, not a sprinter! 

Sheyenne National Grasslands

Other than the occasional time on a tennis court, I am out of practice. My activity time is still high. I find being outdoors and moving to be both enjoyable and meaningful. Without large number of participants to field a team, as well as the lack of consistency in my daily schedule I have embraced more solitary activities. Biking, hiking, and snowshoeing can be enjoyed solo. I am not opposed to team activities. I have enjoyed more freedom to be in motion when I am by myself and on my own time frame.

One thing I have never been good at nor have I practiced very often is the simple action of saying, "no." There is a connection in my mind between being available and being acceptable to others. Over decades of pastoral ministry the needs of family and self have been set aside due to not practicing, "no." As much as this has been on my mind, as much as I tell myself to practice in order to grow internally stronger, I am very hesitant to practice. It is not that my body will hurt, but the more powerful and controlling self-image will be bruised and battered. Recently I opted to help another pastor by covering two afternoon worship services in a skilled care facility. The services are not difficult. I receive compensation for leading the services. The residents and staff appreciate my presence.  However, those benefits no longer cover the cost to my being. 

Could it be that I realize my time is limited? Could it be that I finally acknowledge my acceptability is more an internal issue than an external one? Is it the acceptance that I am replaceable? There are many other people who can and will take over when I gain the strength to say, "no." The harsh truth is not only am I out of practice, but the concept is still foreign to my being. I recognize my rudimentary understanding and appreciation for that two letter word. At times I marvel at those who use it well. Other times I become angry because I believe when others say, "no" the responsibility upon myself becomes greater. This is a misguided perception that only I can solve. 

It is time to practice! I look forward to the healthy benefits it will provide!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Time Perspectives

Zion National Park

In not much more than 50 hours I lead worship, cleaned a few miles of road ditch, hiked in two areas near Las Vegas, and began another hike in southwestern Utah. From the dancing, kodachromatic fountains at the Bellagio and turbulence along the Vegas Strip to being awakened by a rooster crow, bright sunlight filtering through the trailer's curtains, and the serenity of outdoor morning coffee in northwestern Arizona, I am grateful for the variety of settings in which I live life. Being fortunate is not an appropriate expression. Being privileged is a major factor in the equation. The opportunity to spend time with friends and  especially immediate family is something greater than I ever envisioned and beyond the capacity of words. 

Climbing with a view

Even in a desert region ample diversity is found. The bright magenta of beavertail cacti blossoms boldly stand out among the browns, tans, and light greens. Ascending from the canyon bottom spruce roots cling onto cliff sides; chipmunks scurry along the ground and ascend crevices like skilled climbers; while gusts of winds allow both for evaporation and a need to grab one's cap. Along with the diversity of nature are the diversity of people. Bright eyed young adults in jeans and flip flops anxiously begin their hike. Senior senior citizens with clicking trekking poles and a constant cadence ascend and descend like it is second nature. Other fit people use the trails for their running adventures. One couple, ascending from an overnight or two

Grand Canyon

in the bottom of the Grand Canyon appeared oblivious to others, looking as if they were on a death march. Their minds, their eyes, their spirits did not realize the top was eleven switchbacks away. For them it may have seemed like a hundred.

Valley of Fire State Park

The Grand Canyon, while massive and awe inspiring, also seemed distant and a bit irrelevant. The spectrum of color was narrow. Distinguishing distances and depth of filed proved difficult because of the absence of color differentiation.  Along a portion of the paved Rim Trail, rocks were displayed with estimated time of formation. This increased my perception difficulties significantly. Even as a college history major, I have difficulty comprehending 1,000 million years ago. The current reality, book-ended by a couple of hundred years is understandable in a time perspective. However, to speak of millions of years past has no relevance in my mind. 

Northern Arizona Trailer
The wanderlust of exploration has been a part of my being. The ability to see, ask questions, and broaden perspectives from interacting with others is vital to my well being. I live in the present, influenced by the past, and moving into the future.  What is vital is experiencing the current setting and pondering the possibilities. I am grateful beyond words for these opportunities, especially with significant family members. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

If You Do What You Love -- Part 2

Life is a journey
I regularly listen to a podcast called, Make Me Smart. It uses the tagline, "None of us is as smart as all of us.When I asked in the previous post for insight and wisdom regarding retirement I heard from many. The lived experiences and understandings covered the spectrum. Here are some of those:

Retirement is fluid; changing from day to day. You have freedom to go in many directions, offering support to those who are younger. "Come play with me Grandma." makes retirement perfect.

I have 2 siblings in retirement. One retired at 62 and does  what she pleases. She walks, reads, and spends time with grandchildren, as well as a lot of time on Facebook and Netflix. The other will never stop working. She does not need money. She is compelled to contribute to society as long as she is able. I will (when that time comes) choose my own work and projects. I want to truly b personal interests, professional interests, and self-care. I hope retirement is a time to really find greater peace and balance in a more fulfilling way!

Trails are diverse
I remember someone older giving me advice on retirement. She said, "You will know when it is time to quit." As time went on, I pondered if I should retire at 64, 65, 66??? The time came when I realized it was physically difficult for me to be an effective teacher; I desired more time with family; I had enough money and insurance to live. I knew it was time.

My mom is still working at 66. Definitely for money and not for fun. Her husband retired a few years ago. He plays golf in the summer and watches golf in the winter. None of us understand that level of retirement. On the other side: he worked and then retired to care full-time for his wife. Since her death he keeps busy with hobbies, mainly fixing anything with an engine. He has rekindled friendships and joins his buddies at the local bar to shoot pool. His wife would never have been cool with this activity.

When I left the tech college I told my boss, "If you get any little odds and ends that might fit my qualifications, I might be interested." I am busier than ever with training sessions to teach this year. I enjoy the work and the people. I have choices. The extra money helps my wife and I travel. My take on retirement, "Continue doing what you like, but limit it to a fun amount. Take time to explore new ideas and interesting places."

It is the beginning of the third quarter of the championship game for the Virginia High School playoffs. In the movie, Remember the Titans (2000), Coach Boone tells the players, "This is our time! The second half is our time!" From my interpretation of the various perspectives received, I believe that retirement is: "our time!" I liken it to being a teenager. Everything is up for grabs. Nothing is off limits. Perspectives are as wide as the electromagnetic spectrum. There are intense swings in moods and movements. Mistakes are made. Yet if nothing is created, no joy is generated. If an established formula is followed there is no motivation for experimentation. What is the worse thing that can happen?

Time for a new trail.
Hopefully by the age one enters retirement, resiliency has become a part of life. Unexpected events, medical issues , transitions in living settings and location may come by choice or be chosen for us. Skills and attitudes nurtured for decades can now be used in innovative and nontraditional ways. It is time to once again explore and leave the beaten path.

I have come to internalize the perspective of "embracing what is." Most events are outside of my control. I can choose how to respond or not respond to events. Marcus Aurelius says, "You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength." "Hang on to your youthful enthusiasms, you'll be able to use them better when you're older." says Seneca. Again Seneca says, "True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient."

So what is retirement? I asked this in the previous post. My answer: It is whatever I want it to be each day. Each day is a piece of the canvas of life on which I can paint. There are no patterns or lines to follow. No "paint by number." It is a patchwork in progress. I am going to fully embrace the limitless possibilities and be content!
Going whatever direction I choose.