April 28, 2007
The road you’re walkin’ might be long sometimes,
But keep on steppin’ and you’ll be fine.
Ease on down, ease on down the road.
— Charlie Smalls, 1944-1987
American composer and lyricist
R&B version for The Wiz of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”
I am finished. Having retreated into the spiritual realm of my own inner thoughts for eight solid days, I am retreated out. I am ready to go home. I am ready to go back into my regular life, where I have to make my own dinner and wash the dishes but where I don’t have to walk the equivalent of the distance to my neighbor’s house (and dress as if I am going there) to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
I told a friend this morning that the hard interior work was over and it was all about play and joy today. The title of the session was “Breakthrough,” (following “The Call,” “The Search,” and “The Struggle”). Sounded like celebration to me.
I spoke too soon. Today was pretty serious, involving dividing your life into seasons and examining the signal events (such as marriage, divorce, the deaths of loved ones), the lessons learned from each, and the traits you developed as a result. I am happy to report that the season of my life I am currently in is (I decided) “late summer,” not “autumn” as the facilitator’s chart would place a sixty-year-old.
I wound up with five charts that fit the eras that shaped my life. (I am eager to get home and pull out the papers outlining a similar exercise I did in a similar workshop thirty years ago.) I analyzed the data looking for peaks and valleys and learned (not for the first time) that the best part of my life began when I was 36. And I cried some, for the first time this week, over hurts that I inflicted, ways in which I was careless of people’s hearts, more interested in what they could do for me than in what we could do together for each other.
I think maybe a retreat experience isn’t authentic unless you cry a little.
And now I’m finished. I’m a different, wiser, maybe better person than I was last Friday (and certainly a more productive one — I have twenty-five pages of notes and ideas and eight shaped essays posted here). We have one more session in the morning, a sort of wrap-up and review. Mass is at noon and lunch is not until 1:00, and much as I would like to receive the Eucharist one more time in the community of this House, if I can talk to Father Henry at breakfast I might ease on down the road a little early.
Thank you again for reading, so much and so often.