Posted by: Banta | June 17, 2013

New Roots and Deep Gladness

June 2013. Month 1 of what I still call “my husband’s retirement.” Clearly that is something of a misnomer. If he is retired and living in North Carolina, and I want to live with him, then do I need to be at least semi-retired myself? We no longer have a Florida address or a bed of our own in the 904 area code. When we do drive south, we will stay in someone’s guest room. That speaks to short and infrequent visits, lest we wear out our welcome. Still, when someone from Florida asks, “So, you’ve moved to North Carolina?”, I experience a tiny internal panic attack. “It’s complicated,” I say. Hence, I must confess, I am still in a little bit of denial about what is going on here. That, and neither of us really likes the word “retired.” We are not stopping, nor going to sleep. We just began a new chapter.

Truth is, deep down I am ecstatic that we do indeed live in North Carolina now. If anyone in our local mountain community asks, “You’re finally here for good?”, I will unabashedly and joyfully say, “Yes! Finally!” My answer (and my emotional landscape) depends on who’s asking the question. I have a fair amount of ambivalence about moving a seven-hour drive away from my elderly mom. Yes, there are other siblings nearby. Yes, I have lived within thirty minutes of her for twenty-five years. Yes, I can show up within those same seven hours in case of an emergency. Given her memory challenges, my mom scarcely remembers where I lay my head, so if we talk on the phone often enough, we can both pretend that nothing has really changed.

The other source of ambivalence comes from my attachment to a well-established psychotherapy practice in Florida. Built over several decades, it is a practice characterized by clients who are committed to personal growth, and invested in learning how to manage more effectively their anxiety and depression, their own life transitions, the residual effects of early trauma, family issues or other intimate relationships that are estranged or riddled with conflict. They show up, they do their work, and they take the lessons they learn back into their daily lives. I have no wish to leave them in the lurch, or disengage prematurely from the alliances we have forged together. Nor do I wish to hold on longer than is helpful or necessary to them.

For now, it feels right to simply sit with the ambivalence. Over a period of time, as yet without a date or deadline, I hope to navigate the inevitable transition from being a therapist with a full time private practice, to – well, to the next thing. Parker Palmer reminds me (in his lovely book, Let Your Life Speak): “As often happens on the spiritual journey, we have arrived at the heart of a paradox: each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around – which puts the door behind us – and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls. The door that closed kept us from entering a room, but what now lies before us is the rest of reality.”

Already, the rest of the world is opening up. The natural rhythms here invite us to wake with the sun and go to bed early. Morning birdsong and evening fireflies punctuate those rhythms. Any day that I have dirt under my fingernails, or Bruce has sawdust in his hair, is a very good day. After thirty-five years, we may even discover how to occupy space in the kitchen at the same time. Two days ago, I put up half a dozen jars of strawberry and lavender jam, while Bruce made goat’s milk yogurt. Yesterday, I dried several pints of cherries in the dehydrator. We did a Fathers Day float down the French Broad River with our daughter, and I planted a second round of sage and lavender, coreopsis and phlox.strawberry-lavender

I think of this stretch of time as putting down new roots, exploring and cultivating new community. The outward and visible signs are plentiful; energy is running high and we fall into bed exhausted at the end of our days. On the inside, however, a different kind of energy works its magic. The largeness of life that now lies open to our souls includes an evolving sense of vocation. Again, from Parker Palmer: True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

The place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. No small calling, that. I’m guessing that true vocation rarely coalesces all at once, in a bolt of lightning or a burning bush. We should be so lucky. Rather, for most of us, vocation shows up one leaf, one bud at a time, over months or years – and often quite by accident or disguised in a serendipitous collision of happenings. The least we can do is keep our eyes open, listen with our whole hearts, and stop pounding on the doors that close, ever so gradually, behind us.


  1. Interesting reflection

  2. Beauftiful, Banta. I am so glad for you and Bruce. We never did have that lunch. Maybe next time you’re here. I’d like that. love…………..Bobbie

  3. Your writings are a joy to read and thoughts to ponder. Love u Banta

  4. I love your articles. You inspire me. I shall answer your letters soon.LoveandDeep Peace t o you both Dekle

  5. raining morn in jersey with a little extra time in a life, though well spent gets to busy.
    just read your post and as always just so enjoy your take and expression on life.
    am excited for your new chapter.
    hope to visit my nephew in ashville one of these moments..
    if i do…i am tracking you down.
    much love

    • Hi Lynn, Thank you for all your kind words! Please DO track us down when you are in the area. I would love to reconnect in person! Love and hugs, B.

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