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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TAKE A DAY OFF FROM RETIREMENT

This first appeared in this month's Vintage Voice the newsletter accompanying the checks to retired Episcopal clergy.


Take a Day Off From Retirement

The cliché is so true: “I am so busy in retirement, I wonder how I got any work done when I was employed.” For me these past eight years have been delightfully busy with traveling reading exercising and occasional preaching. Then there is writing, entertaining, shopping and cooking, which I have always done in my marriage to Ann. The last twenty years of my now 54-year ministry was at Trinity Church, San Francisco, a lively downtown inner city parish.

After a couple of years of not working, I discovered I was too occupied to enjoy my new life. I was running, toing and froing, lurching from event to event, appointments, examinations, classes and lunches. I realized I was not retired, I was just busy. After a hard look at how I was spending my time I decided to take a day off, from my retirement. One day a week I make no medical appointments, lunch or dinner dates, shopping or library trips. I take a day of rest. Sound familiar?

“Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath Day.” I used to keep Sunday as a holy day by working at church, preaching, teaching, youth group, vestry meeting and celebrating Eucharist. It certainly was not a day of rest. While an active priest I took my day off but that was not a day of rest. Shopping, cooking, exercise, reading having to do with my work, house, yard and washing the car took up my day off.

Orthodox Jews keep the Sabbath as a day of no work. They go to great lengths to avoid work of any kind. No cooking, no traveling in a vehicle, no turning on or off lights, no dropping in at the office. Sex between spouses is encouraged. In this time of 24/7 and type A personalities we need to heed the wisdom of the Jews. Our bodies and souls need rest, quiet and a restoration to holiness and sanity. Some Mormons also hold Sunday as a day of worship and quiet. No cooking, no business, and even the children are excused from homework.

Taking a day off from work or retirement is difficult for the formerly busy parish priest. In fact we clergy pride ourselves on being busy. That notion smacks a bit of justification by works. It often carries over into retirement. Not me. In addition to taking a day off from retirement, I schedule only one or two major activities a day. I attend a weekly vigil for peace. It is near the library where I make a weekly stop for books and DVDs. That’s it for that day.

Yet it is important to note that people are different. We have different paces and styles. Traveling is a good example. My wife, Ann, and many of my friends like to get to London or Paris and visit as many museums, grand houses, gardens, castles, ruins, plays and churches as possible. They go from breakfast to bedtime stopping only for lunch and dinner. Others are more like me. Up in the morning, I go off to the café for coffee, croissant and some fruit. I get the English edition of the Herald Tribune, read for an hour, do the crossword puzzle and jaunt off to a museum to join my wife for an hour and then a bite of lunch.

She goes on to other venues while I wander back to our hotel or apartment for a nap and some reading. I love to shop and cook in foreign climes so I do that so dinner is ready when Ann returns. We enjoy good restaurants and often go out to eat. Sometimes we go to the theater but more often we read and go to bed early. I have any number of friends who have similar lazy ways of touring. I used to feel guilty that I did not get more out of my travel dollars. I now am clear that I travel the way I do not the way I don’t. We are all different in the way we travel and choose to lead our lives.

We Anglicans don’t have rules hovering over us to order our lives, traveling, work or retirement. We have the enormous freedom of choosing our own path and program. The bad thing is that we often are in disarray about our schedules. The good thing is that we have the freedom to order our own lives. We can learn from the Jews and the Mormons, the Benedictines and Franciscans and spiritual directors that have sprung up among us. But finally it is up to us to order and regulate our lives for enjoyment and refreshment.

The old story is that God rested on the seventh day. The ancients knew that their bodies needed rest from toil in order to be creative and productive during the rest of the week. Working or retired, we Americans, clergy and lay, need to learn to rest, keep quiet, listen to music, enjoy nature and feel the pulsing of our bodies. So take a day off from retirement.


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