One of the things that has been a part of my life as a priest, is that my wish to ‘have a shed’ has been put on hold: until now! Moving around from parish to parish, means that sometimes there has not been the room to put things, or I have said “Well, I don’t know how long I’ll be here, I can’t put down too many roots by buying equipment.” But now I’m retired. We have bought a house. I have collected the equipment I need to furnish a workshop.
But this has not been without its own associated challenges. First of all, I have been used to doing my duty. I have been used to putting off what I need, in order to do what the work required. Now, when I attend to what I want (I really don’t need this equipment) I feel a bit selfish.
This is the opposite feeling from the make up and perfume commercials that imply “I can spend a lot of money on cosmetics ‘because I’m worth it.’ I say “I feel anxious or guilty spending a lot of money on the equipment for a shed, ‘because I’m not worth it’
I think I have internalised the idea of ‘no’ as a first response the impulse to buy something. Growing up we were poor, so there were lots of things that we did not have (like a ‘Mechano’ set, or a slot car set) which I would have liked.
Now the not having of these things certainly stimulated my creativity. Necessity was the mother of invention there, so in a ‘backhanded’ kind of a way, not having all of these things to hand, also helped me to become imaginative. But I still think that I grew up with a sense of the mistrust of ‘wanting’ something, anything at all.
I think the ethos in our house was one of frugality.
So that is me. I guess I’m a frugal person. I think about the extreme wealth that there is in the world and wonder whether or not having so much stuff is moral or not. I look at the money that I have spent on equipment and wonder whether or not if having it all is moral.
The challenge to me is to explore this: Is the buying of this equipment going to be the means whereby I am allowed to ‘flow into the world’ for my own creativity’s sake or is it just another way of saying ‘No’. Is it a good thing to be able to say ‘Yes’ to some of my impulses or desires.
I don’t like the idea of doing something ‘because I’m worth it.” But I do like the idea of doing something because it allows me to ‘flow as a person.’ I do like the idea of having the equipment, which I can offer to someone else to use, or which I can use for the sake of making things possible for others. Otherwise I wonder ‘What’s the point?”
Being in retirement and in our own home, means that I can challenge this sense of ‘No-ness’ and in dong so, become a more generous person.
That is something which I am learning about, not just in the buying of equipment, but in social situations too. So I can see the purpose of buying this equipment as a means to the goal of not worrying so much about not having any money, that I don’t spend the money that I do have, which I ear-marked, in a way, for the completion of a project that I have long denied myself.
But I still feel humbled b y the fact that I can buy this stuff. I feel like Elizabeth, who says to Mary “And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to visit me.” I say “And who am I that I should have all this equipment.’
I am not ‘worth it’. But I feel terribly privileged that I am now able to embark on another set of projects that will be associated with the equipment that I have now bought.
I also think that I could look for ways of making this resource available to others. That is for the future.
One thing that I am sure of is that this resource has to find a place somewhere within a way of understanding myself as a Christian, and within my vocation.
The idea of being enabled to ‘flow as a person’ is a good one, and corresponds to our sharing in God’s own creativity and ‘flow’ (perichoresis) as God.
Looking for ways to be able to say ‘Yes’ when I have learned to say ‘No’ is also not a bad thing in Christian terms.
Looking for ways to make the resource that I have been able to acquire available for others is also worth exploring as a way of being a Christian, who has this resource at hand now.
Being ‘newly retired’ is like being a chrysalis. I am not a parish priest any more. I am not a new person yet, with a new sense of vocation for what this phase of life will hold. But I am in the middle phase. I see myself as putting into place the building blocks of a new life. I am pretty confident that in due course, I will work something out. At the moment I am praying and working and following Samuel’s advice to Saul in that I am attending to the ‘next thing’ trusting that God is with me, not knowing what the shape of a future life will be.