Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Honey in your heart

I am 8 weeks into retirement, which is also 7 weeks into my recovery from having 3 vertebrae in my neck fused, along with the removal of 2 herniated disks. This isn’t exactly how I envisioned retirement, but it certainly has been a forced quiet, resting time. Bookended by 2 weddings in which I participated (a story teller at the first and officiant at the latter, the marriage of a cousin), and a wonderful retirement party in the middle, this has also been a time of celebration.


Perhaps more than ever I am aware of friends. The first wedding was for the daughter of a college roommate and sorority sister.  Then during my down time several sorority sisters (friends for more than 40 years) stayed with me and Mother, helping out as we needed.

At the retirement party, there were over a hundred people I’ve known through the years. Of course, family who has been part of my life forever, but also friends from high school and university, mentors from working days at UW, church friends from places I pastured, clerical colleagues and others from around the State. In the days prior to this official “do” friends from as far away as San Francisco (a young woman I baptized here) and New York (my farming, organ-playing, hiking nun friend of the Community of the Holy Spirit) came to celebrate with me. These were moments for me of what the kingdom of heaven is like: when brothers and sisters are gathered together in unity. It is so good when people from different aspects of one’s life gather around a table for food, drink, laughter, song, retelling of stories and maybe even a crazy game. To find that all your friends get along and everyone adds to the mix in a spontaneous, synchronous way is heaven for me.

In addition to being aware of the importance of friends old and new and realizing I have more time now to correspond, visit and enjoy my friends, I have been reading a couple of books (besides 3 or 4 novels) about how we look at life and how we share our story as part of the universal Story. Wayne Muller's, “a life of being, having and doing enough” is a book I wish I had found years ago. It has valuable approaches for avoiding the exhausting, overwhelming and bone-wearying life that comes as the result of the seductive practices of our culture to achieve more, have more, and be more through increased pressure, responsibility, communication, demands, and activities. As he writes, “The sheer pace and volume of their lives seems to corrode whatever joy, wonder, nourishment, or delight they may find in simply doing their best.”

To reset our inner thermostat so that we might discern what is “enough of anything” Muller suggests asking this question: “When approaching a task, a responsibility, or some choice between this and that, take a moment before you begin and ask yourself: Am I truly able to say that I really love this” Or is it more honest to say that I can handle this? (my emphasis) You will know instantly which is true. How you answer this question, the information you receive, may or may not cause you to stop, start, or change anything right away. But over time, if you step back for a moment before approaching any task…you will gather a tremendous amount of clear, useful, trustworthy information about your heart’s authentic desires, preferences, and dreams—as well as your sadness, discouragements, or regrets. Each and all of which, over time, shape a life of enough.”

This same notion of learning to listen to the quiet voice within is taken up the second book, “Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story” by Cristina Baldwin. In one of the numerous passages I underlined she writes that the parting blessing of the Tzutujil Indians in Guatemala is the wish for the other “for long life, honey in the heart, no evil, thirteen thank-yous.” Her advice to one desiring to become a Storycatcher: “Each of us has someone who put honey in our heart. That person is often an ordinary person who becomes extraordinary through the power to touch another life. Teaching ourselves to recognize these persons and remember these moments is essential to becoming a Storycatcher.”

I am so blessed to have so many of these folks who have put honey in my heart through the years. As I begin to meander forward into this new adventure of retirement, I hope to find new ways to share the honey together as our stories twine, intertwine, heal, encourage, and build wisdom. “Each of us begins the journey toward personal discovery because someone else gave us a vision that allows us to be more creative, more resourceful, more powerful than the child inside us ever thought possible.” (Juan Williams)  Now isn't that a sweet thought for today?