I was exhausted by the time I crossed the finish line. I've slept and napped a lot. I figured it would take six months to recover from forty years of stress and schedule-keeping. I was wrong. I was still beat up by Christmas. Of course, I had some surgery in December, and there was that to recover from, but the tiredness was something more than that. And then, I had a bad cold -- not once, but twice -- that sapped what energy I had left. But then came spring, and energy began to return. I feel pretty good most days now. I get tired when I overdo, but I recover. By the time June gets here, I hope to be completely over the exhaustion.
I am struggling with my weight right now. I'd gotten so out of shape trying to keep up with the stress. I think this will come right eventually. It takes time. But I'm eating better. My coffee consumption is less than half what it was. I'm exercising regularly, and going out to the holler to lay block and shovel dirt every week. I'm really in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in, as they say.
There are certain things that give me anguish yet, mostly having to do with the train wreck that The UMC is determined to make of itself. I was already grieving over the mess that GCUMM has made of Scouting ministry relationships. Now, I see The UMC leadership attempting to steer its own ship onto the rocks. I was looking forward to retiring and being a grand old man as regards The UMC (and UM Scouting Ministry). I didn't want to be in charge of stuff, I just wanted to be proud of what we did together, and be able to hang around and enjoy seeing others take things higher and farther. Now, I feel like an exile, at least on some days. On other days, I'm okay with it. We are part of a good congregation, with good relationships. Jesus is there. I don't miss being "up front." I am at peace sitting in worship, sharing communion, being part of a community.
One of the weirdest things about being a clergyperson is that so many of your relationships are handed to you. It's hard to make and keep friendships that aren't squeezed into a particular formula by the circumstances of The Job. Many pastors -- including me -- experience severe loneliness, even when surrounded by people. After a while, one loses the knack of being friends. One of the things I worried over as I looked forward to retirement was the challenge of building new, stable relationships with people. Well, I still spend far too much time alone; it helps that as an introvert, I'm comfortable in my own head, but one does get a bit people-starved after a while. I remain open to new people and new things, and slowly, I think this is coming right.
So much for the bad and the balance of good that is making it okay. Now, for the completely good. First, I am as busy as I want to be, doing things that matter. I have been teaching God and Me to some little boys at the church. I have several commitments -- but not too many -- in Scouting ministry. I have been given the opportunity to teach theology for the Lay Servant Academy. So I'm still doing the ministry to which I was called -- without the 24/7/365 responsibility for the institution. I'm a volunteer, which is wonderful. Volunteers get to say No, and volunteers don't have to put up with other people's bullshit.
I am at peace with myself, too. When you're so crushingly busy, there is no time to resolve old issues, or at least, little inclination to review the negative from the past when you're dealing with so much stuff in the present. So you wind up carrying things around with you, like so many bricks in your backpack. Well, one of the things I did all fall and winter was to revisit and replay just about everything over the course of my life. Not just the successes and failures of professional life, but everything -- childhood, youth, school days, the lot. Painful memories, lost opportunities, conflicts, I went over it all unblinkingly with Christ. Not saying that I'm all sanctified or anything, but I can honestly say that there is nothing I flinch at any more. It's all been given up, and I know that God loves me as I am. The decks are cleared for the next part of my life.
I love my wife more than ever. She's beating herself up trying to do the professional trip I did for so many years, and I support her in what she wants to do. I do almost all the shopping and cooking and a whopping lot of household care. It's not an imposition, it's just my turn. She unloads on me over dinner the way I used to do to her. That's okay; I'm glad I can be there for her. We are growing older together.
I continue to make progress on the house. While I get discouraged over how long it's taking, I also feel good about seeing it take shape. If God gives me the strength, I'll get it done. In the meantime, Wilderstead is beautiful. I try to get over there to work every week. And I spend a lot of time there talking to God, and listening to him. God has been so very good to us and I am full of thanks and praise to him.
I love my grandcubs. I enjoy spending time with Anna and her family. I've started taking Zach out for dinner every so often as a way of keeping up with him, too.
There is enough money. We are not hurting for stuff. (I'm finding that you spend the first two thirds of your life accumulating stuff, and the last third trying to get rid of it.) We're hoping to do some traveling, too. Taking trips with family is first on the priority list, but I may get around to doing some Scouting high adventure again. We'll see. No rush.
I'm happy. Really happy. This surprises me. We Collinses aren't known for our capacity for happiness. But it's true. God is good. I am loved. And each day is an opportunity to rejoice in the gifts God has given me.