• The first person in our extended family to catch COVID 19 is my brother's brother-in-law.  Bill Skaggs, whose sister Linda is married to my brother Steve, is on a ventilator in St. Louis.  He is showing signs of getting slightly better, but is not out of the woods. Prayers for Bill are welcome. 
  • I am in my last three weeks before vacation...followed immediately by retirement.  We move out of the Mattoon parsonage on June 10 to our new home at 1508 Marc Trail in Urbana, IL.
  • Here are my future plans for this Sunday letter:  after a brief sabbatical from it in June and July, I will resume writing it.  I hope you will keep reading.
  • Working my way through Joseph Flynn's quick and easy political thriller/mystery, The President's Henchman. It is a nice respite from everything.

May 16, 2020
Getting Rid of Our Clothes
First, let me assure you that this essay is neither  titillating... nor  gross. You may read on without fear of being overly worked up over it...which is more than one can say for watching a 24-hour news network these days.

With only 24 days left until we move, it's time to get packing.  Not every married couple approaches packing in the same manner.  Let's just say that I'm very meticulous and methodical...and let you read between the lines.  This week I'm working on books, the garage, and clothes, sorting through what to discard and what to take with me. I'll spare you my angst about the books and my aggravation with the garage...and bend your ear about clothes instead.
I have different sorting rules for different types of clothing.  When it comes to socks, I keep 100%.  Half of my socks are white and other half are black.  That way I seldom mistakenly mismatch my sock colors on a groggy morning.  

And I don't need to throw any out because I weed my socks every time I take them off.  If a sock has a hole in it, I just toss it in the garbage instead of the laundry basket.  Then I save the good one for when another sock of the same color gets widowed.  

I learned once how to darn my socks, hoping that I would not have to ever throw any out, but I didn't darn very darn well darn it and the darned sock would irritate my foot to the point of a darned blister.  So now, I just throw the darned things away.  Getting ready to move, the sock herd has already been culled, so they all get to go.
I will not mention unmentionables, except to mention that if an unmentionable is uncomfortable, it gets thrown out instead of packed.  (That sentence really didn't come out right in several different ways, so let's just not mention it again.)  
This brings me to shirts, pants, jackets, and suits.  In the past, I have always moved to a new church and needed to dress for success.  But now I am moving into retirement.  I googled, 
"Dressing for successful retirement" and was surprised to find several articles.  

One article challenged me to start the decision making process by urging me to determine my personality.  It seems to me that I have always dressed according to other people's personalities:  the parishioners, the hierarchy, the wife... Indeed, what would I wear if I just dressed according to my personality?  But what if it turns out that I have the personality of an astronaut (I'm pretty adventurous) or a nudist (I am quite a free spirit)?  Maybe I'll pass on that.

Since I'm retiring, I obviously don't have to dress for success anymore.   When I was just starting out in the ministry, John T. Molloy was just publishing his 1975 book,  Dress for Success .  Unfortunately, it came out the year  after  I started in the ministry...a few months too late to prevent me from buying that lime green leisure suit, the white belt, the white shoes, and the huge felt navy blue bow tie.  If I would have waited just one more year to start my ministry, for the book to come out, I might actually have been a success.  
The Atlantic had an article this month that stimulated some further thought on this whole subject:  "Kill the Office Dress Code" by Amanda Mull.  She notes the confusion these days about what people should wear to work, given the changing standards of American workplaces.  People are increasingly wearing the same thing to work as they wear around the house.  And as more and more people are working from home, there is even less distinction between what people wear for work and what they wear for play (or sleep...)  
I've been harboring this notion that retirement for me will be a freedom from the demands of time.  I'm thinking that I can trade in my digital clock for a sundial, a lunar calendar, a quarterly festival to mark the changing of the seasons. Sundays will no longer bear down on me.  And with this freedom, I will at last be able to dispose of all my suits and dress shirts and ties. 
But then I think of those few days when I have been totally freed from the clock, and none of them were any fun.  The only times that clock-time utterly disappeared in my life were times of serious illness or surgery or injury...whole days when I was oblivious to the hours.  All I could do on those miserable days was wait helplessly for that particular season of my life to go away.

And suddenly the erasure of clock time doesn't seem so desirable.  When clock time is erased, all I would do was wear a hospital gown...or sweats...all day and all night, hour after hour.
In childhood I changed clothes more frequently than I do now We put on our best clothes to go to church on Sunday.  And as soon as we got home from church, before mom even let us sit down at the dinner table, we had to go straightaway to our bedrooms and change out of our church clothes.  We had clothes for playing outside and clothes for going to bed. We had clothes for school and clothes for company coming over.  There were particular outfits for Cub Scouts, or little league, or band.  We were always changing.  And while all my clothes back in those days could fit inside two drawers, how we dressed gave order to days that could have been chaotic and confusing.  
There are few things better in life than finally getting over being seriously sick, getting up, taking a shower, and putting on some "going out" clothes...even if you're too tuckered out to go out after all that gussying up.  
had been thinking that as a sign of my retirement liberation, I should just chuck all my clothes.  Well...not all of them, as I plan to spend a lot of time writing and reading in the room in our new house that has all the windows.  My first thought was to just take some white socks and some black ones, two pairs of khaki pants, a stack of black tee shirts, and a belt.  Shoes are an easy decision, as I only ever have four pairs of shoes these days:  black for formal church services, tennis shoes for tennis and gym, brown shoes for every-day, and the worn out brown shoes for gardening and yard work. 
But as I am about to be liberated by the demands of the work clock, I am more and more sensing the risk of falling into chaos.  I do not want the rest of my life governed by  the ten o'clock news...and when  the Cubs play...and when Jie is coming home .  So, for me, that means I'm going to need to keep some of my variety in clothing.  
If my worst days have been when I wore sweats all day (because I was too sick to put on anything else) and my best days were when I was a kid...and we threw ourselves 100% into what we were doing...partly by dressing the part, I guess I should be wise enough to keep just enough clothes to keep myself alert, and interesting.  
Therefore, I guess I'll end this epistle and go tape together another couple clothes boxes for the move.

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I used to write it when I first woke up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation. Now I write it on a Saturday, revise it, and send all of them out by email.This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than pontificating.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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