It’s about Loving Me

heart in Ink

Today is Valentine’s and I awoke to find a voicemail telling me that I am a very loving person. I’m seldom acknowledged as such and struggle to take it in.

As a  proper former nun, I should be allowed to consider myself nice, considerate, respectful, deferential, and even thoughtful. But loving? I’m not sure why it moves me so to take it in.

My tears flow like rain after a long drought, moistening and loosening what feels tightly bound within. Perhaps it’s the space I’d so long ago begun to reserve for what I had hoped would be filled by God.

Maybe I’ve finally begun to fill it with me.

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Poverty

double crossed

I just had a heated discussion over the phone with one of my former nun friends. We each left the community during the massive exodus of the 1960’s and ‘70s. Unlike me, she has remained a practicing Catholic until recently. Over the yeasr we have shared a growing disappointment and disgust toward the stuanch patriarchal attitude of the boys in Rome toward women. I left the convent the day I left the convent, but my friend has persisted until now. The fundamentalist, anti-women attitude of her new young pastor has finally pushed her away.

I told her about the book I’d recently discovered: Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns, bKenneth Briggs. We were reminded of how much  our services had been taken for granted and how little we nun has been paid for our dedicated work in the Parochial schools.  The amount were were given did not even constitute a living wage. For years, my friend faithfully served as both principal and full time classroom teacher with a salary of $75 a month. An entire staff of nuns received an average total of $200 a month. As a result, the schools flourished and the nuns were left with paltry retirement funds for our future.

At the time, money mattered little to us. We never dealt with money. Financial matters were handled between parish priests and the Motherhouse Superior and her staff. Each mission received a budgeted amount for its basic household needs directly from the Motherhouse. Never allowed to question anything at all, we nuns were expected to put our trust in God. It wasn’t until we were rudely awakened in the aftermath of Vatican II when we were forced to deal with the world of finances again. The day would come when would see how shortchanged we would be for retirement. Whether we remained in the convent or not, we would be forced to live deal with the consequences of our current/former Vow of Poverty.

The Pedestal

pedestal

Once I left the convent, I wanted to consider myself normal. I lived in the regular world, had a boyfriend-soon-to-become-husband, a job, and lived a regular house. Everything seemed unremarkable and normal to me. But I was soon to discover I was anything but. My family didn’t want me to be regular. They bristled at the fact that I moved from the convent to a live-in situation with my boyfriend. They were shocked that I’d given up my faith, since my parents and most of my siblings were faithful Catholics. How could I NOT be, when I’d been a nun for so long?

They had put me on a pedestal and then eventually forgotten I was real.

In the meantime, I’d spent too many years breathing the rarified air from the top of a pedestal and found it lonely and uncomfortable. I’d learned to  obey without question and respond immediately to the call of the bell. I became a dutiful nun. A good girl. A saint–a woman worthy of praise.

Having finally rediscovered my humanity, I began listening to my own voice and gradually fell down from the pedestal.

Though I have had to learn to live in its shadow.

The Next Chapter

Nun with Ruler dreamstime_12895823

It’s unbelieveable. At last count, I’ve sold over a hundred copies of my book since publishing it on Amazon in July. I’d never thought much about getting my book out there, simply wanted to finish it. Now, I’ve begun the next one, which will be a continuation of the first–a peek at how it is for a longtime nun to transition from one world to another.

Initially, I hesitated to write another book about me, me, me. The well established convent voices in my head, shook their accusing fingers at me and scolded,

Concentrate on others, dear Sister, and upon God.  Don’t let yourself succumb to your feelings and your own selfish, sinful desires

In spite of the fact that I no longer believe such nonsense, the voices have continued to wheedle at me over the years. At times, when I think I’ve nearly conquered their debilitating words, they return. Or I have my recurring convent nightmare. However, within or without my convent mind, I’ve begun to write again. About what it has been like, to try and leave the convent behind.

Stay tuned.

Rule of Silence

During my early years as a nun, I resented the Rule of Silence that was forced upon us.

Now I often crave the quiet.

I bask in the stillness and seek it out in order to make sense of it all.

From the Parabola magazine:

“As my prayer become more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent.
I started to listen
– which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is.
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking,
Prayer involves becoming silent,
And being silent,
And waiting until God is heard.”

–Søren Kierkegaard, quoted by Joachim Berendt in “The Third Ear,” translated by Tim Nevill (Shaftsbury, England: Element Books, 1988).

Where’s It Gone?

Where’s it gone?  My self-esteem. Don’t know if it’s because I spent so many years in the habit, humbling myself or if it’s simply because I’m human, but my sense of self-worth fluctuates downward a bit too often. I recently called a halt to my floundering three-year relationship with my significant other and I’ve been scraping bottom more than usual since. Funny thing how I measure my worth through someone else’s eyes–that someone who has rejected me.

Though I tap, use affirmations, read uplifting messages, and meditate daily, I spiral downhill. I rely on the steady encouragement of close friends, and yet still struggle. The face in the mirror looks back at me with sadness, even though I smile. “Oh well”, as Mom used to say “This too shall pass”.

I can only hope.

Today’s thought from the Sedona Journal of Enlightenment provides me with hope:  “Bring your hands to your heart and feel within every cell of your body, ‘I am divine love.’ Can you feel that? Allow every cell in your body to recognize this. From this divine, compassionate action of receiving you already comprehend and trust the gift of you. You are divine love. You are divine. You have always been and will always be.”