Sunday, April 18, 2010


Past Made of Salt

Karen asked if I'm OK because I haven't posted anything here in over a year. Not sure about OK, but I am still here.

One question is: Why bother writing a blog? If it takes a year for anyone to notice the absence of news, what's the point? At the same time I do check Lu's blog now and then, hoping for news, so there may be some people interested in mine. This still doesn't answer the question of why write. For now, I'll write while the answer is still, perhaps, coming.

Life has changed. First, a few weeks after I wrote the previous post, I got to thinking about God and purpose. What might happen if I loosened the choke-hold I had on my life's path, and let God influence where I went? I figured it couldn't be worse than what I've done to myself. The result? No long journey. Just... I met someone.

A little while after that, May or so, I realized I'd about had it with work. The straitjacket was becoming increasingly onerous. I walked into the City of Los Angeles retirement office and talked with one of their people about early retirement options. I'd be eligible in December, at the end of a 2-year experiment turned into 25-year career. It looked to me as if it would work, so I decided I'd go in January.

The economy was already in trouble. The City's revenues were down and they were discussing several ways to save money: layoffs, furloughs, and even rumors of an early retirement incentive. All of this went on for the next few months. My boss and I talked about it. We were both ready to go, but figured it would never happen in that on-again, off-again dealmaking in City Hall.

It actually turned into a go. They told us in November: you have a month in which to sign up. I sent in my paperwork on the first day, which meant I had a month to wait. I figured... this is bureaucracy. It'll take months. I was thinking I'd actually retire sometime in the spring, if not early summer. But then we started hearing that the City was really keen to move things fast... and my date came up. January 2. I heard this in mid-December. There was the usual round of holiday things and then, suddenly, I'm on the street.

January was fun. Lots of sand sculpture in very cooperative weather. Then the weather internal and external went to pieces. No sculpture, and the internal landscape torn by brushfire war. Only God's hand kept this from turning into some kind of armageddon. Work, it turned out, had been a dandy distraction. Now, all of a sudden, the clock had rolled back 30-odd years. Questions I hadn't answered then and didn't need to because I could push them off into some nebulous future were suddenly in my face. The future was ... now.

I sometimes wonder about stories in the Bible. For example, why did Lots' wife turn into a pillar of salt? Is this metaphor or reality? We have no clue, other than by our own experience; those who live in their pasts don't do much. Salt doesn't do much. In small quantities it's great for flavor, but in great quantities it kills. Did Lot's wife die just because she looked back? No... she devoted herself to not wanting to leave the old ways.

Two points make a line. You can extrapolate from those past points infinitely far into the future... undeviating. Not much life in that, but there is survival. Life means experiment, wiggling, ups and downs... all things that tend to call attention to the one so involved. I've survived partly through just being consistently in the background.

Freedom means being free from the past. Free to make something new. And now I know why people are so afraid of freedom. Churches especially should be supporters of freedom because Jesus came to make us free, but they are the very fountainhead of conservatism because freedom is just too frightening. If you can't extrapolate from the past... what do you do? Figure things out on the fly? Perhaps fall down and scrape a knee... and then have to endure a lot of artificial sympathy from those around you whose worlds shake when yours falls?

So... three and a half months into retirement. Questions continue. Answers? Maybe. We're working on it, but I'm tired.

I'm still here.

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