strange: the new normal – first impressions…

The end draws nigh (4½ months hence). Life is strange. Wholly new.

I’ve never retired. 37 years of doing what I do, becoming who I am, in good measure shaped by my work (so, too, so true the converse). Shy of 65, able to do other things. I don’t wonder about that. Retirement will be “rehirement” working with my wife Pontheolla as entrepreneurial hospitality folk at our B&B.

Though not far off, it’s still future. And I’ve pledged to myself to focus daily as much as possible on the present (though dwelling in time and space it’s impossible, sometimes by willful choice, sometimes by chance or circumstance unbidden, not to contemplate the past and anticipate the future). And I’ve begun to discover the now is always new. And strange…

Writing sermons, conscious, on my way out, of seeking biblical illumination of the existential reality of transition, that of the community I serve and mine (instantly being reminded of an essential aspect of my preaching many years ago in those first months after I walked in)…

Attending meetings, the agendas with time-arcs spanning months, years into the future; feeling myself both present and absent, alive, engaged, and superfluous…

Greeting newcomers, some, delighting in the vibrancy of our community, professing to have “found home”; feeling the loss, knowing that I, no longer an open-ended resident, rather a short-term tenant, can enjoy only the briefest of relationships with them…

Accepting folk’s kindhearted recognitions of my coming departure and their tender recollections of our times past; feeling a sudden rush of anxiety as if I’ve unwittingly arrived at my own memorial…

Walking around Capitol Hill, riding the Metro, driving through the city, looking, head constantly swiveling, recording, preserving in swiftly overflowing memory banks the way things appear now; knowing, believing that should, when I return for a visit the scenery will have changed…

My first takes on strange, my new normal. Doubtless, more to come…

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4 thoughts on “strange: the new normal – first impressions…

  1. I’m going to be really honest here and say that I was simultaneously anticipating and dreading this blog which I knew was coming.

    On your first day back on Sept 7th, I was your verger. I was excited….. but I found myself counting all of the firsts of lasts of that particular Sunday. I kept trying to store the memories, your welcome to the congregation, your delight in hearing the choir again, especially when the kids sang … etc etc. We won’t ever have that Sunday again…

    Exactly what you described in this post, anticipating the future, and what that’s going to be like for you, is precisely what most of us are going through as well.

    During the meeting I attended with you after church, I listened to every word you added, and every question that you raised, as if I was hanging onto your every word! I have no idea what the future at St. Mark’s will be, and neither does anyone else. But I’m soaking up everything I can while you’re here. I’m not afraid to say I’m journaling the many lessons I want to remember and grow from. Some you’ll share consciously with me, and others I’ll just observe. Either way, I see the next few months with you as i gift that will keep on giving …… well, at least until the beginning of Feb. Then, to borrow your phase, the new normal ….

    I know your rehirement in SC will be awesome, and the saving grace for me with your departure from St. Mark’s is that SC will have become our favorite place to visit. ….. the future, indeed!!

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  2. Amen to you and Tim coming to SC for visits – many! AND I appreciate, Loretta, your response, your reflection on what I’ve written in this post. For your recount of your being present (and I hope I have something, anything to share with you that matters!) is precisely what I desire to do. Today, as one immediate case in point, several times, I was quite aware of the context and composition of a given moment. At one point, talking with a parishioner, conversation over, I began to walk away, conscious that I had not asked about his spouse. Though rushing off to the next appointment, I stopped, spun on my heel, returned and inquired. I was aware that the instant would pass and not come again, so, too, if I had not asked, the time for that personal, pastoral inquiry would be gone. Being present. Staying in the now. That’s where I strive to be.

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  3. Paul–Christine and I both feel sad knowing that if we ever return to Washington, DC, you will not be at St. Mark’s. HOWEVER, David and I have added Clevedale as a new destination! Prayers for you and the parish as you navigate through this time of transition.

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  4. Caroline, I WILL MISS YOU AND CHRISTINE should you return to DC and St. Mark’s! Yet, and this is something this old-dyed-in-the-wool-real-time-real-presence-kind-of-guy has learned. I am thankful for cyber/social media like FB for it allows me to keep up with those I love – and that most certainly includes the Greger-Douglass clans – though far away one from another we are! Thank you for your prayers for the people of St. Mark’s as we go forward into our/their/my (and Pontheolla’s) future! Love

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