“To start seeing that the many events of our day, week, or year are not in the way of our search for a full life but are rather the way to it is a real experience of conversion. We discover that cleaning and cooking, writing letters and doing professional work, visiting people and caring for others, are not a series of random events that prevent us from realizing our deepest self. These natural, daily activities contain within them some transforming power that changes how we live.” (Henri Nouwen)
My days were packed with parenting and a profession – calendars, carpools, assignments, memos. All had to meet the high standards God set for me with his command “Be ye perfect.” I tried to redeem the exhilarating, exhausting days with Henri Nouwen’s words, “I used to complain about the interruptions in my days, until I realized that the interruptions were my work.” It worked. Until I retired.
Retirees can find plenty to do, especially if they believe that “there’s no end to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care if you’re paid or get credit for it.” I bought that! So I dove into non-profit work, grandparenting, exercising, and reading a few good books. That worked too.
Then came health problems: heart issues, broken bones, and more. Each time I did recover, but I began to feel more diminished, less useful. Questions nagged at me. Where did my energy go – and with it my motivation? Was my memory slipping? What contributions was I making to my community and world? Was I living the full life God intended for me?
I felt like I was on a downhill trajectory. Looking back, I realized that in my retirement I’d entered a new stage of life that required new thinking. And I’d resisted it. I turned to authors I valued, especially Henri Nouwen and Frederick Buechner. Nouwen reminded me of the power of our daily activities to change our lives and recognize everything we do is God-ordained [God-blessed?].
Buechner has nourished, blessed, and enlightened me countless times and didn’t fail this time. When he wrote, “Listen to your life. There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, leaving you room to recognize or not recognize him…. because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace,” I listened. What I heard was that I’m still honoring God when I enjoy the dailyness of life – birds at the feeder, the silence of falling snow, my grandson’s bear hugs.
I’m not done with meetings (a few), writing (less) or days when I don’t feel I’m doing my share. But I am on my way to knowing who I am meant to be at this time in my life. And it’s okay.