A busy summer

Over the past week we have been putting the finishing touches on our summer plans. It probably isn’t fair to even call what we are doing “finishing” touches, because there are still a lot of variables in our lives that will play out. A year ago, when we were envisioning how our first year of retirement would come to its end, we thought we would focus on housing this summer. It would be a good time to stay in the area and search for a home to buy. The plan of renting for a year as we scoped out the market seemed to make sense and a year seemed long enough for us to decide what the next steps might be.

There were several things that we had failed to take into consideration.

Our siblings have decided to make the summer of 21 a summer of family gatherings. Both sides of our family have set dates for family reunions this summer. We weighed in on the dates selected for both gatherings and expressed our reluctance to gather so soon, but there were other voices. People are eager to get together. The dates were set. We will work around those dates so that we can participate.

A year ago our daughter and her husband did not know where they would be living after they came back to the United States from several years of living in Japan. Now they are settling into their new home in South Carolina. For the record, that is 3,042 miles from where we are living her in Mount Vernon. The distance is a factor because we have several boxes of items, some a bit heavy to ship, others a bit too fragile to ship, that we need to get to them. That is no problem. One of the things we wanted to do in our retirement is to take a few trips with our camper and explore the country.

Planning a 6,000 mile trip with our camper, however, isn’t quite the way we imagined retirement. As recently as 2006, when we took a month to travel with our camper during a sabbatical, we were able to travel without a set schedule. We headed out with a destination in mind, but we were able to camp wherever the end of the day found us. Except for a few holiday weekends, reservations were not needed. Campgrounds were easy to find and there was room for us. A few years later, we learned to estimate where our day might bring us and call ahead to reserve a spot in a campground. We could adjust our travel schedule day by day as circumstances, energy and other factors demanded.

Those days are gone. In order to have a place to stay in a campground, reservations need to be made, often weeks in advance. As we planned our trip to South Carolina, we discovered several campgrounds, including those in South Dakota, were filled. We had to check campground availability and make reservations for each night on the road. This means that an unexpected event might throw off our entire schedule. If we are delayed by even a day, we will lose deposits on campgrounds and be left scrambling to find places to stay. No wonder the parking lots of Wal-Marts and Cabellas have campers parked in them every night.

When I was envisioning retirement, I thought that there might be less schedule and more free time. Now I find myself working out my schedule three months in advance. Yesterday, I struggled to schedule a routine visit to a dermatologist because my August schedule is so packed.

I don’t mean to be complaining. We have a very good life. We have a supportive and loving family. We have the means to take a wonderful trip this summer. We can delay our house hunting until the fall. We have more flexibility in our schedules than many people.

It is just the nature of the times in which we live that we complicate our lives by trying to do too many things in too short a time span. I’ve been doing that all of my life. I guess I shouldn’t expect retirement to be all that much different.

the journey of Moses and the people of Israel from slavery towards the promised land was much shorter in distance than our planned summer trip. It took them forty years and there were a lot of changes in plans over the decades. During that time the people kept forgetting, over and over again, the basic rules they had received regarding the defense of their freedom. They kept making decisions that led them away from their relationship with God and placed restrictions on their newfound freedom. At one point in the trip, they were prepared to sacrifice their newfound freedom to the security of idol worship. They had to learn over and over again how to live as free people.

We tell their story, over and over again, precisely because we also keep making decisions that limit our freedom. We have to learn, over and over again how to live as free people.

The process of becoming retired takes a bit of practice. As much as I thought about retiring before I did, and as much as I planned, I know that there are many adjustments that need to be made. That is true of any plan. Even when we have a schedule and think we know where we will be each day, we need to develop the kind of flexibility that allows us to make changes and to adapt to new ways and new realities.

2021 will be a year of changes for us. We’ll drive a lot of miles. We’ll make the adjustments needed. We’ll make and change plans. We’ll enjoy seeing family and friends. And there will be days when we are tired and feel like we pushed just a little bit too hard. That’s OK with me. I’m not ready to spend my days in a rocking chair on the porch.

Besides, we haven’t found a home with a porch yet.

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