Two events on the one day this past week triggered painful flashbacks.
Many of my posts have been upbeat, grateful, even celebratory. At my other blogsite I deal with one of the areas of pain in my life – and in the lives of others who have struggled with varying degrees of PTSD.
Because I don’t want to give the impression that my life is always a bed of roses, because I value openness and balance, and because I imagine that few of my readers will regularly spend time at both my sites I think it’s time to talk about the biggest challenge I have as a public persona: the way people know and see me. Mind you, not to whinge or indulge in self-pity, but because after 50+ posts I need to be fair about myself and with my readers.
As I write, the state delegates of the federation of churches I’ve belonged to and worked with most of my life are meeting in Sydney for a week of “Synod” as they do every 3 years. This is the first time since 1976 I’m not there. I’ve always done considerable work at the national level as well as in my local church and community. Committee work has various facets, all of which I enjoy, and I clearly have God-given skills to share, as I’ve been privileged with being chosen as a national executive member for 12 consecutive years (that’s 4 terms – but our “pond” is relatively small). So it was reasonable for Helen (my dearest) to ask if I was going to miss the synod.
My simple answer was “No”, and we talked about why.
I hate conflict and politicking, even though I realise it’s essential to people living and working together, that I too have strong convictions on some matters, and that I am a passive aggressive type (yeah, sigh, that’s arguably the more dishonest and frustrating way of disagreeing).
But I’m also slow: in my thinking, sensitivity, reactions, speaking and debating. This means I’m best speaking as a teacher or from prepared notes, and in discussions only after taking time to sort through my emotions before I open my mouth. Have learnt that from bitter experience.
So committee meetings and behind-the-scenes work suit me, as I’m then working in a cooperative setting and not adversarially. Meetings are often times when I decide to listen only, and I have learnt to express my agreement or objection only by my vote. That’s frustrating but more productive and it allows me to sleep much better.
So enjoying 3-yearly issue-charged assemblies of men has never been my thing, even though I’ve made the best of it and have happily observed my growth from and angry and outspoken young man to a quiet, considered and effective elder. And I’m thankful that as a now-retired guy and no longer expected to be a delegate I have good reason to save on time, emotions, and the airfare.
Productive retirement is good!
Earlier on the same day, one of my church friends told me about a Saturday morning mens-meet he was organising at the local tenpin bowling place. “Get in quick: we’re going for two teams, and it’s first in best dressed!”
Which I felt immediately raised my “flight” responses… a reminder that at school and in team sports, I was always a liability and usually one of the last to be picked for a team. I am slow and uncoordinated physically as well as in debate. Despite years of trying to learn how to bowl, throw, kick and catch balls. And my mental slowness and/or somewhat understandable lack of interest mean I have trouble remembering the game rules of all but the most basic ball games. I’m absolutely sure that the group going bowling love and respect me, and that they won’t be unfeeling or mean about the deadweight on their team.
Unlike at school, I expect I’d be my worst enemy. Helen and I know I should go, but is it worth the pain? I’ve gone bowling from time to time with family members, that’s just fun. But blokes will be blokes, and I’m rarely comfortable doing blokey things that involve (amongst others) balls and beating others. Will keep you posted.
I often wonder why I am so slow in my mental and physical skill set, more so (it seems to me) than my parents and four siblings. This despite not struggling with a low level of skills overall: I’m just slow! I made it through two lots of tertiary study although I’m no academic. I walk and swim much more and faster than most people. Several possible causes have made it onto my list, and perhaps they all contribute to make me just be me…
What do I do about this one? Live with it, put up with the discomfort and join in sometimes, avoid it at other times and let the sports lovers of my world go for it.
Having got this off my chest, I return to my overriding feeling as I’ve expressed it in my “About” piece in the Header of my blogsites: there are many things I enjoy doing and do well, and overall, I feel grateful and richly privileged. Not many have enjoyed as good a life as I have.