by Donna Sinclair
Last night three of us enjoyed a pleasant, pre-meeting chat while we waited for the fourth member of our little church committee to show up. She didn’t. She had forgotten that we had a meeting.
I was secretly rather pleased. Our missing member has recently retired. I too am retired, a little longer. And I too missed meetings in the most uncharacteristic way. Ergo, I said to myself (even as we welcomed her to our midst via speakerphone) this is not so much a flaw as a given. I am not alone.
Something happens when we move from one phase of our lives to another: the adrenalin that always propelled us through the door and into animated discussion has dissipated; or perhaps our memory has dampened a bit; or – and this is the reason I like – perhaps something else is going on in our heads, something important, and we need to consider it carefully.
Sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot noted this phenomenon in those moving into what she calls, in her book of that title, The Third Chapter. Those who had been purposeful seemed to need to drift. She describes, for instance, one highly productive professor who began to play online poker for hours each day, feeling “the need,” in Lawrence’s words, to “to slow down, to enjoy the laziness, and to relish the idea of wasting time.”
I believe that what my friend and I are experiencing is a necessary pause before the next stage – the stage of eldership – begins. Recalibration is needed. (Or as my five-year-old grandson murmurs when he is thinking hard “loading…loading…” )
New purpose is going to come into our lives. But we are not in charge of deciding what it will be. We can only wait and – like those ten longsuffering virgins Jesus describes in Matthew 25 – try to stay alert in order to welcome it.
In the meantime, we go about our lives. Our meeting went well. We accomplished more that what we had hoped, and reassured our extraordinarily competent friend of her wisdom. (It’s not wisdom that temporarily deserts us, it is our singleness of mind at a time when diffuseness of mind is required.)
After that, eased out of any need to be productive, we sat and talked. Perhaps the loss of our super-organized sheen allowed us to be more vulnerable to one another, because we met at a deeper level than any time before. Our souls were visible.
Now I have learned how to set an alarm on my computer. I make a note in my calendar and, a day ahead, I get a firmly-worded email from myself reminding me of the event. On the morning in question, a sweetly old-fashioned alarm clock pops up on my screen, ringing. Finally, another, noisier, alarm sounds just in time for me to get my coat on and get out the door.
I haven’t missed any meetings lately. Oh – and my new sense of purpose? You’ll be hearing about that. Watch this space.