Retirement’s coming…

I hadn’t planned on retiring. I thought my job was mine for as long as I wanted it–and I was still enjoying it. But then I found that I had been misinformed–that the position I was in had mandatory retirement, and I was old enough that it was kicking in.

My initial reaction was frustration and–yes–some anger. I could still do my job effectively…still loved what I was doing. I asked for a waiver, something I thought might be possible, based on some of the information I found. But it was denied.

So then I had a choice.

I could either go angrily and grumpily into retirement…or I could embrace it and leave on good terms. I had already been through one very difficult time when I struggled with similar reactions, and I did not want to go down that road again. So the choice really was relatively easy.

And you know something?

The closer it’s getting to retirement, the more I’m looking forward to it!

Yes, I have loved my job…and there are still elements of it I want to be involved with–as a volunteer.

But as the author of Ecclesiastes said (and the Byrds appropriated for one of my favorite songs)…“To everything there is a season…” And I’m discovering that facing retirement–while it closes one door behind–opens up a myriad of choices!

There are so many things I’ve wanted to do in the past but didn’t have time for…and new possibilities, new discoveries.

I’ve heard people say before that they didn’t know how they had time to get everything done when they were working, and I’m beginning to understand that statement. As I look at the options before me…all the doors just waiting to be opened…I’m excited.

Sometimes we make choices…sometimes they’re made for us. But we determine how we react to them–and while there is much I will miss when the new year starts, there is so much to look forward to.

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Perspective…and privilege

I sometimes wonder if I’ve been cursed rather than blessed because I tend to see shades of gray rather than only blacks and whites. I’ve been thinking about that especially recently as we (as a country) have been dealing with the incredibly different ways people of different races have seen events.

“Privilege” is one of those terms that can bring sharp reactions…especially when paired with a color adjective, as in “white privilege.” I used to bristle at that myself, but maybe this is one of those times when age begins to allow me to see it in a different way. I am a white woman…somewhat past middle age. And while there are some things I don’t think are necessarily fair in my life experiences,

I have come to realize that there are ways in which I am privileged (and have been privileged). Some of this perspective comes from hindsight–and some of it is still pretty new. I remember coming of age in the 60s…and being aware of the civil rights movement, but not totally understanding at that point why it was necessary. Yet I walked quite frequently past a housing area just a couple blocks away that the city didn’t seem to care about…and it was populated by folks who were a different color than me. I never really wondered why that area was so ignored…or why the people who lived there were uncomfortable responding to my greetings. Nor did I understand my mother’s reaction a couple of years later when I invited an African-American friend home to stay with us. My mother was fine with it–but she let all of our neighbors know what was going on so that they would not be unkind or cruel to Gwen.

In later years, when Gwen and I would compare notes on our sons–who were about the same ages–our concerns and fears for our sons were so different. I worried about my son making a stupid mistake (and he made several of them during his teenage years!) and hurting himself in some way. Gwen worried about whether they would be pulled over for some small driving mistake and being treated as sub-humans…and whether they would simply be coming home safely.

I have never had the experience of my right to vote being questioned. I have not had family members beaten simply because of the color of their skin. I have not lived with the legacy of lynching…of mob violence in other forms…of fear at looking someone in the eyes and wondering how they would react. Not personally.

And I think that in some ways that imprints itself in our psychological DNA. Yes, it can be overcome…and yes, it’s not true for everyone.

But to have lived with that fear as a part of your history for generations colors perspective…just as my living with the privileges I have experienced as a white person have colored mine. To say that this perspective should simply (and easily) be set aside ignores the fact that these inequities still exist in so many places in our society. To acknowledge those inequities brings the possibility of dialogue, of learning from each other, of beginning to make changes in ourselves and our society.

Stephen Covey says it this way: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Perhaps if we all try to live that way, we can begin to make the changes we want. 

Fears!

Rascal

Rascal

Last night was a scary one for our little dog. Rascal is very brave when he is outside–if he had his choice (i.e., could get out of his fence without his leash), he would go after squirrels, rabbits, wasps, bees, flies… Inside, he definitely lets us know when anything (human or 4-legged) is in his territory…which is as far and wide as he can see!

However, there is one thing that he is terrified of in the house–and when he sees or hears it, he will cower as though his world is coming to an end. That happened last night.

All of a sudden, Rascal saw something fly over his head, and he heard it buzz. That was all it took–he headed for the door to go cower in his dog house outside. We finally got him to come back in when it was bedtime, but he was very tentative about coming inside.

We were just getting ready for bedtime preparation (teeth brushing, showers), when he heard the noise again. We wouldn’t let him go outside…much to his dismay. I wrapped him snugly in the comforter so that he (hopefully) couldn’t see/hear the problem, and he was okay for a few minutes…but only a few. Then it was down on the floor, into the bathroom, and behind the toilet stool–the safest place he can think of when he’s restricted to those two rooms. He cowered there all through Charlie’s shower, looking at him with pleading eyes. We called him into bed with us–no deal! He wasn’t going to budge from his safe place! The only way we got him to come to bed was to physically pick him up and carry him in–and then hold him until he began to relax and feel safe.

So what is this horrible thing that terrifies him in the house? A fly. Yes…a common house fly!

He will snap at them outside…he will snap at (and eat) wasps and bees…but if a fly is in the house, the world is ending!

It seems crazy…and we try to reassure him that he is safe…that we will protect him. But he’s not sure he buys that–at least not until the fly hasn’t been seen or heard from for quite a while.

And this whole incident got me to wondering about myself. What am I afraid of? Is it really something as simple as a fly? Why?

I call myself a Christian and say that I trust God. But do I really? If my fears are the equivalent of Rascal’s “fly” fear, then there’s a disconnect between what I say and how I act.

How is it that Rascal can deal with big things? but a small thing that only buzzes can send him into absolute dread? And me? Well, I think that’s something I need to spend some time figuring out for myself…with God.