A Perfect Peace…

What do I do when I’m overwhelmed by life?

And believe me, I am no different from anyone else…there have been many times when I’ve been engulfed and grasping for anything that will stop me from falling into the abyss of despair.

My pivotal experience happened when I was a young girl.  I had been left on my own at a boarding school I’d only seen pictures of in a brochure and had just stepped into minutes before.

As I crossed the threshold my mother handed me over to the nun who had been summoned by the bell and promptly left.  Something about needing a toilet.

Perhaps goodbye was too difficult for her; she didn’t even stop long enough to see where I was going to be sleeping that night…or all the other nights that followed.

A heaviness settled in my legs and I found myself rooted to the spot; I wasn’t experienced enough to tell the twelve-year-old me that over time all that was strange would become familiar and I would forever draw on the rich memories, etched onto my weeping heart, of the old stone manor house, wrapped around the presence of God, that was to become my home for seven long, life changing years.

All I knew, at that moment, was I was completely alone, wearing unfamiliar clothes and standing motionless holding my breath, too shocked to cry; there was no way back.  I had to find a way to avoid the embrace of  abandonment.

I was led by a swiftly moving nun through stone corridors and up uncarpeted wooden stairs to my room in the tower.

A dormitory of three beds, neatly made, a washstand, bowl and chair placed alongside each one, framed with white curtains hanging, crisply obedient, from metal railings.

I claimed the bed closest to the wall and unpacked, tears scattered carelessly on the clothes, meticulously folded by my father, socks tucked into shoes, brand new undies ready to be laid into a small drawer in the shared wardrobe.

I placed a framed photo of my parents on the night stand, my bear and pajama case in the middle of the bed, took a final look at the red fabric lining my little white suitcase and snapped it shut.

I sat on my chair in my uniform waiting…

Tough

No digital cameras in those days so you got what you got!

…and a princess named Homesickness came and sat down beside me; the life and soul of the party.

The nuns continued in their lives of prayer and silence; they were kind to me…they were kind to all of us.

We were living in their convent as pupils to be taught and fed…there was no love lost between us.

Slowly I immersed myself in their routine.

Early morning mass became a habit; the familiar Latin slowed my stormy thoughts.  When I showed up, God was always there.  He calmed my angry musings and saved me from bitterness.

Our daily walk in crocodile formation along the country lanes cleansed my weary spirit and lifted the crushing weight of loss for a moment.

Weekly ballet classes gave me the tools of discipline and self-control that rescued me when choices were buried beneath the governing hand of authority.

I wrote hundreds of letters to my family penned in palest blue ink. The outpouring of written words filled the hollow in the pit of my stomach.

Decades later I found my parents had kept two of these fragile correspondences their pages teeming with the humdrum of my days masking the contents of a broken heart.

I found a new way to live apart from those I loved.

Tough2

When life is overwhelming…become a cat

Somehow that first term passed…

and then the year…

and finally seven…

I was closing in on 19 and had found my way forward.

With God at my centre a constant sacred presence had sat with me when the going got tough.

The princess named Homesickness was long gone.

A lifetime later I draw upon the rich memories, etched onto my weeping heart, of the old stone manor house, wrapped around the presence of God, that was my home.

I am able to pray and breathe my way through changing times.

When my children ask me how I stay so serene in the face of a storm, I answer,

“I move furniture,”  they laugh as I expect them to, “it distracts me and helps me focus on the present instead of fussing about the future.”

It’s also a safe way of acknowledging my restlessness, a quick and non-destructive way to bring about change.  A valuable tool I discovered later.

I am grateful for those other things I learned early in my life,

to find God in the ordinary,

to walk and breathe fresh air,

to dance,

to write.

Today, the sound of Compline being chanted,

the clacking of rosary beads,

the swishing of a cassock moving through a hallway,

the smell of incense,

and the sound of consecration bells,

still carry me back to another day and in my longing I find a perfect peace with God at my side.

Tough3

and in my longing I find a perfect peace

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1 Comments

Elray

2017-12-12 15:42:37 Reply

That makes me terribly sad!

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