Purposeless in little boxes drenched in sunlight, what we wanted to ease our troubled minds. And a handy workout room to tone muscles, generate endorphins, release tensions of various kinds. Road runs straight up the valley, hemmed in by mountains on either side. This here is the town for ordinary people, and twenty minutes north is the ski resort and the town where the movie stars and billionaires live, with slopes dedicated entirely to the amusement of their children, and stores with fifteen hundred dollar coats, four hundred dollar hoods–at sale prices.
The lodge at 2 pm is full of retirees and older vacationers. People are friendlier here, says John, than in our town. They invite you to dinner, call you back, try to stay connected. I might be friendly too if I had nothing to do but spend extra money and fill hours.
In some ways I live in the past, and a good deal in the future. But sometimes I can be in the present. Interrupting you in mid-sentence to call attention to a hummingbird, or pausing in the midst of taking out the recycling to feel sunlight on my face after several wet days.
What about people? I am suspecting that my memories of happy times with people–friendships, respectful colleague relationships, are inaccurate. I am assailed by doubt, since I’m having so much trouble getting along with my own family, and wonder if my only friends are the type of people who like everyone and everyone likes. I want to withdraw into myself and cut everyone off. Because I’m not necessary to anyone, have very little to offer.
But I need people to stay healthy and grow, and, at the very least, perhaps some people need me for the same.
Then there’s the curious situation of my success so far as a substitute teacher. There I have excelled (according to the existing standard), am recognized, remembered, called back. I’m confident that I have a shot at a teaching contract. Why so different in my private life? Do I not make the same effort there? Why do I think I am intelligent, knowledgeable, intuitive, skilled, creative, and energetic at work, but no good at home? Why the feeling of wanting to retreat, retire, withdraw?
At the same time I am mourning the loss of my former social life. I had people over once–for tea and cake, for a musical jam session, study and discussion, a birthday party. Even lots of people, when we would have a camp out at our property for all the families we knew, with bonfire, music, and a barbecue buffet in a clearing overlooking the sound. I liked to bring together folks from different circles–church friends, homeschooling friends, neighbors, family, old friends, all generations, and see them meet and connect. Just like years ago. My proudest accomplishment being to introduce a couple that later married and raised a family.
I got overwhelmed somewhere, became intimidated, inhibited, lost my confidence. Internalized a feeling that I can’t organize, that no one would want to come, I’m bothering them, that I don’t make a good host, that our house is too small, too chaotic, the yard too cluttered with scrap wood, toys, and dog poop.
Isn’t it curious how people make a life? Some retire to ski, others work until they’re eighty. I taught my kids that their purpose in life was to be a blessing. What does that look like? Is it living from the place where one’s greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need? Am I once again over analyzing, and need to lean on what I once learned from the book of Ecclesiastes, and later George MacDonald? Macdonald comes back again and again in his sermons and stories to how one ought to do the duty that is before one. The writer of Ecclesiastes “decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work [[and] realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.” (2:24)
And so again I walk out that door, not to abandon my post, but just to put one foot in front of the other. The birds sing, the rabbits hop along the edge of the bramble bushes with one eye on me, the little fish jump, and the rhythmic pounding of my feet stitch back together the raw edges of my psyche.