Thursday, July 16, 2015

Goodbye Ohio

I've had numerous people asking me why I haven't posted anything lately.  It's not that I haven't written.  But I've found that it's been hard to actually post what I have written.  The goodbye sermons for my church here felt too private for public viewing.  And I'm grieving.  Every change, whether good or bad or a mixture involves grief and involves loss.  And grief is a complicated thing.  Grief involves all kinds of emotions from sadness and depression to anxiety, denial and even anger. Additionally, I find that every loss brings up all the past losses that have also been experienced.  So as I've grieved this place, I've found myself reliving my time here in Ohio, and re-grieving in particular many of the losses I experienced here. As part of that, many feelings have come up again including a resurgence of anger, sorrow and regret.  I have learned, in some cases the hard way, that expressing those feelings in writing is not very helpful.  It's not helpful to me, it's not helpful to those who read it, and it burns more bridges than it heals.

So, in order to properly say goodbye to Ohio, I think I have to start by just owning that my time here has been complicated, and that as I've reflected on it, some of the anger and much of the regret that was created over the last 6 1/2 years has risen once more, along with some sadness.  Things that I have forgiven I am needing to forgive again.  Hurts that I dealt with I am needing to heal once more. We experienced a great deal here, and much of it was hard. I'm naming it for what it is.  But I don't need to say more about that.

What I do need to say is that despite the horrors and traumas and regrets that come from my time here, there is also much that I am deeply thankful for and much that we will miss.  I have met some of the most wonderful people in the world, and made some friendships that I know will be lifetime friendships. For those I am deeply grateful. There are amazing people in my congregation here, and I was blessed to be part of a Presbytery full of truly gifted pastors, many who became close friends. I have made friends outside of my church life as well and those friends too have been such great gifts to me.  These are all people who saw us through these hard times, have stayed the long-haul, have given me their trust and shared with me their stories. They have allowed me to cry, allowed me to vent, have taken the kids places, have made me laugh again and again. They have proven themselves to be incredibly faithful, strong, loving, supportive, forgiving and gracious people.  I am so thankful for each one of you who contributed to my life and the lives of my kids. I cannot say this strongly enough. Each of you are a gift and I love each one of you. Thank you!

There is more, too, that I will miss about Ohio.  I have treasured the slower pace, the friendly openness, the "live and let live" lack of judgmental-ness, the fact that people here are slower to become enraged (especially true in their cars!!).  I have found comfort in being in a place that is not as quick to condemn or "box" all clergy persons or people of faith.  It has been wonderful to be in a community where people value family so deeply and spend their holidays, ALL of them, with their families.  We have been blessed by people who have included my family as part of their own and have invited us to join them for holidays.

While Cleveland has a "low self-esteem" in many respects (I still experience people asking why I ever would have left CA to come here, for example), this is an insecurity that they don't need to have. The cultural opportunities here are AMAZING.  Everything from a world-renown FREE national art museum (truly an amazing gift!!), to the Cleveland Orchestra, Playhouse square which is second in the country only to Broadway in terms of quality of dramas and musicals offered, an outstanding science center, botanical gardens, natural history museum, etc make this a great place for people of all ages.  But for me, the jewel in the crown of Cleveland is the Metroparks system, 119 acres of pathways through beautiful woods and over rivers, with horse trails and bicycle/foot paths.  The Cleveland Metroparks also offers other amazing opportunities year round.  From an incredible zoo, to canoe trips at night, to the Train, to free dancing opportunities, to historical recreations and events, to story telling in the evenings, to nature hikes to the Nature Centers, my family has so enjoyed these parks.  And so, on days like today when I am feeling the grief, a walk through the woods and time in these amazing parks calms me, centers me, and reminds me of what is really important in this life.

I have been blessed by my time here.  And I will carry the lessons I've learned, the friends I've made, and the experiences we've had close to my heart, no matter where I go.