Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 12--day three

I'm thinking, should I count up to my April 30 retirement or count down from now? I'd have to go to a calendar and figure out how many days there are between today and April 30 to count down to 1. I could probably do it in my head--Feb has 28 days, March 31, April 30. That's, if I counted right and it isn't a leap year (I didn't cheat and look) is 89 days. January has 19 left, I think, which boils it down to 108 days before I leave St. John's. That just seems too few after 20 years (some 7307 days and more). That really bums me out, having 108 days left out of so many. So, I won't count 'down', I don't think. I'll simply keep writing and let it go at that.

I'm having a hard time with this right now. There was an article in the newspaper today "Popular Rector Leaves Church". One of the reasons I'm stopping is that I believe, in a positive way, I still am 'popular'. Not with everyone, surely, but with enough and those who matter. I am always distressed by athletes who play one or two years past their prime and leave because they have to or aren't given a contract extention. That saddens me. So, leaving now, at--if not at the 'top' of my game, at least still playing well--seems the right way to go. One of the most wondrous members of the parish told me in the parking lot yesterday that he was happy I could leave 'on my terms'. He was forced out of his job decades ago and it still hurts. So I go now, even though I think I could still contribute to the life and ministry of the church. "My terms" aren't bad, not a bad way to stop.

Which is what I'm doing: I'm 'stopping'. I'm not quitting or leaving or finished or resigning...none of that. I'm stopping, now, on my terms, before I 'have to' quit or enough people want me to leave. And I'm having a hard time with it today. People I love have told me how they are having a hard time with it all and I don't even tell them I am too. I just tell them "I know" and try to honor their feelings of loss and pain even though I have those feelings too.

I've started noticing 'what I will miss'.

I'll miss my 'smoking porch'. I'm stopping smoking as well, but it, like my leaving St. John's, is a drawn out process. The only place I allow myself to smoke is a little porch off the sacristy. Smoking there is like being in Dr. Seusses' book about "I saw it all on Mulberry Street." Every time I go out there to smoke I see something amazing: an Orthodox Jew carrying a cat across the street wrapped in a blanket; a woman smoking and talking on her phone with her Pug dog driving the car, apparently; a crow as big as a chicken; a woman with jeans so tight I would pay to see her take them off (not for 'that' reason, but just to see how she does it); a plastic bag that blew around my head and then off down toward the Green like the bag at the end of "American Beauty Rose"; a guy with so many returnable bottles and cans in his car that I couldn't see through the windows to see him driving; a drunk man who stopped traffic until a young woman could get her baby carriage across the snow bank and cross; homeless couples holding hands like all lovers should; secretaries out walking on their lunch hours from the law firms that line the Green; a lovely woman jogging, thin and taunt as a dressmaker's dummy, her pony tail shifting side to side, grave and precious as a newly laid egg; large people on small bicycles; cars with the radio or CD player turned up so loud they must have permanent ear damage; old men shuffling, wheezing, on their way somewhere, perhaps to die; young people, their coats open even in the chill, strutting their stuff....and lots more. I see it all from my smoking porch.

And I've seen it all here as the Rector of St. John's. I've seen and experienced and known more than you imagine...more than you CAN imagine....And I'm going to leave that behind in 108 days or so. I've having trouble with it now, right now. It will pass, I know, but right now I dread that leaving....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.