Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Meaning of Retreat....

I have been a bit "MIA" lately in terms of blog posts, and the reason is that I've been doing a lot of thinking. Probably far too much -- there is a lot to be said about getting outside of one's mind every once in a while -- and yet, there has also been a lot to think about.

And yes, I do realize I just ended that sentence with a preposition. But really, if you have nothing better to do with your life other than be the Grammar Police, well then.... I think I might have found someone more pathetic than me.

And yes, I do know I then started that sentence with a conjunction, but (ahem!) I would like you to know that this is not only in vogue these days, but (ahem!) it is actually not grammatically incorrect.

So there.

Needless to say though, I have not been MIA because I have been thinking about grammar. On the contrary, I have been thinking about the meaning of "retreat".

For the layperson, retreat is usually associated with failure, collapse -- simply general all round negative consequences. But in military parlance, where the word is most commonly used, it is not considered with such negative connotations in most cases. It is usually more about pulling back, solidifying one's gains, marshalling one's resources, and ensuring those resources and capabilities are not stretched too thin.

In fact, if you look in the dictionary, the definitions are hardly negative, except as an idiom -- and really, that's about "layman's terms" now isn't it?! See:
re·treat [ri-treet]
1. the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armed force before an enemy, or the withdrawing of a naval force from action.
2. the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion.
3. a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy: The library was his retreat.
4. an asylum, as for the insane.
5. a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation. 
verb (used without object)
8. to withdraw, retire, or draw back, especially for shelter or seclusion.
9. to make a retreat: The army retreated.
10. to slope backward; recede: a retreating chin.
11. to draw or lead back.

12. beat a retreat, to withdraw or retreat, especially hurriedly or in disgrace.
As I will be the first to admit that I have been on quite the "retreat" from Murphy's Cabin the last few weeks (the physical location and the blog). And by that, I can point to every single meaning for the word under the usage as a noun.

Really, including the insane asylum.... Of course, I'm pretty sure I am insane for taking this on -- and really, I'm pretty sure that not only do all of you think I am insane, but also that all of you would have gone insane long before I finally seem to have hit that point...

Well, okay, I was insane simply for buying the place -- but that's really besides the point right now.

Frankly, the whole thing finally got to me in the last few weeks. The constant stream of things still going wrong for example.

After all, during that last really bad storm that hit Colorado? The one that was crazy enough to be reported on the national nightly news, as it was snowing with hurricane force winds? Winds reported (near the cabin!) at more than 100 mph? Yeah, take a moment to do a visual.... Snow. 100 mph winds. Snow. 100 mph winds. Snow. 100 mph winds. Ummm. Yeah. That much fun.

Well, as you might imagine, it was not so good for the cabin (or any where nearby for that matter). In fact, not only did the power go out -- it stayed out for more than 48 hours.

I, for once, was smart enough to not even be there. To flee the scene of the crime, so to speak, and take refuge in a girls weekend at Keystone. And to not leave it, even when all the other girls left (yeah, I realize that makes it no longer a "girls" event nor, for that matter, even a "weekend", but details schmetails).

But, once the power came back on? Went to go check on the place, and to finally change out the filters, which, to be honest, were quite overdue. I usually aim to wash the filters every two weeks, and then change them out every month. This time, I did nothing for an entire month. So after ensuring the power was indeed back on, and no pipes seemed to have frozen or anything else bad upstairs, I went down to the basement / mechanicals area, and proceeded with the water filter chore.

The last filter casing would not budge -- no matter what I tried. And clearly everything I tried was not a positive experience for the dripping valve next to the casing. As next thing I knew, the valve was now spraying me with water, and no longer a minor drip that was nothing more than an annoyance. In fact, it was a full on shower, and I was fully dressed, and it was cold outside. Yeah, I was soaked and I was pissed. You ever seen a wet cat? Then remember I'm a Leo.

Yeah. That pissed.

And yeah, I did actually hiss several times. And no, you don't ever want to experience that in person. Not even as a dare.

Needless to say, I had to turn the entire water system back off, rendering the house inhabitable again, and call a plumber. Eventual house call and several hundred dollars later, I had a working water system again. But I had not stopped hissing.

So I must be ever grateful for the fact a dear friend let me stay a few extra days in Keystone -- where I had a completely functioning (and pretty much unable to dysfunction!) place to hang out, and most exciting of all: cable television.

At first, I did absolutely define this period of not writing, and just sitting in front of a television all day as a positive thing. A "retrenchment", not a retreat. Well, the "retrenchment" definition of retreat. A pulling back to solidify my gains, to marshall my resources, to ensure I was not stretched too thin.

I patted myself on the back for "being smart" -- for executing a "strategic withdrawal." Well, at least I patted myself on the back the first day or two... But when I added in the fact that I had spent an extra week in Denver, also simply to hang out in place where nothing goes wrong and there is yet again a television, this time with satellite! I had to perhaps start being a bit more analytical about my actions...

Heck, not even just analytical -- but actually critical. It was not about solidifying my gains, it was about gaining some solids. It was not about marshalling resources, it was about wasting them.... It was not about ensuring I wasn't stretched too thin, it was about doing nothing more than stretching out on the couch. It was not about the "television", it was about the "teevee". It was about hiding out, not being strategic.

So the definition becomes the cause, and the cause becomes the question....

If it was a retreat in the sense of the layperson's negative understanding, in the sense of the idiom -- of "especially hurried or in disgrace," well then that is a good cause for feeling depressed and sorry for myself, and thus belies the cause for the retreat. Of course, if the feeling depressed and sorry for myself is the reason for the retreat, then what exactly is the meaning of my retreat?

And that my dear friends, is indeed the question.....

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