Lessons from the Monastery: Part Two (Sixty Year Old Memories of Sensible Shoes)

Part Two in a series: Lessons from the Monastery.

I don’t find it hard to confess that dissatisfaction comes easily to me, along with the admission that my life has disappointed me. Disillusionment too, as my life is not what I thought it would be. I can admit this is true.

Well, that’s not exactly right – I had no plan.  No grand scheme.  I didn’t have any idea what I would do with my life as a youngster.

One thing I knew.

From that moment when I was swiftly rescued, “healed” in an only God could have done it miraculous sort of way.  As I grew up, I was told the stories over and over.

I was “the peanut baby.”  The miracle was something of God, everyone said so. And for whatever reason I began to believe that God had something special planned for me – for my life.  Eighteen months old I was choking on a peanut. I should have died. I will have to get my mother to retell the story because even as I ponder it now, there is much I cannot remember.  I don’t want to lose the details.

I have no memory of it.  In fact I have very few memories of childhood at all.

They are all gone, stuffed somewhere safe.  I haven’t in all these years of healing been able to find the key to unlock that precious girl’s life.

My life. My memories.

I’ve been going to the monastery with my mother.  Being with my mother is startling and even as I learn to trust her, I am afraid.  She’s a blurter.  And she has for memory everything, and more, that I don’t.  Her brain is iron clad; she is a beast of remembering.  And her stories come out at the oddest, least opportune moments; like the shock of ice-cold water.

So much so, that sometimes I cannot bear to be with her, sometimes.  I am learning to not be so afraid.

But today her memories were of her childhood.  A controlling father “much like your father” she said.  “Only mine was around less often, which was perhaps less damaging …” her thoughts trailing off.  In my mind, I too found I was wandering back to my dad’s controlling ways.  She’s remembering that her dad made her wear ugly shoes, because she was “hard on shoes.” Even though her sisters got any kind they wanted.

Those are sixty year old memories about sensible shoes.  Her father long dead and yet still, she remembers it today. 

God save me from bitter memories I say, not to her but inside to myself and to the ghosts.  Perhaps that’s why I keep them all locked up safe, because I don’t want to be bitter.

Today the speaker at the monastery spoke of stability and the descent into darkness as a way of becoming comfortable with uncertainty; a willingness to explore our pain.  Moving down into it and facing it.

No way!  I thought immediately.  This is simply nuts.

Then I remembered…

all the ways I learned to numb my pain, to forget.  And in that moment saw my progress – over time, over years.  A decade flashed.

I used to work hard at my job, to do really well and I received tons of praise and it was never enough.  I was never happy about it.  I was always afraid – of being unmasked, shown for the farce that I was.

The speaker spoke of learning to live deeply in the monotony of life, as do the Benedictines, monks, others – shall l I just say it?  The stay-at-home mom’s life was the epitome of mundane to me.

I see now that is was because I was running.

I couldn’t run fast enough from my internal demons.  Michael Casey, the Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia, says that distraction seeks to avoid and that we need to accept life as it is given to us. 

Ten years.  More than a decade of running.  Looking back I can see progress.  My heart was full of self-deception.  I couldn’t feel my feelings for many years and I numbed my feelings with alcohol, work, shopping, obsessive busyness, Christian service, action and movement of every kind.

And now I attempt to live in this moment — to see what’s in front of my nose. 

The speaker asked: Where do you find sources of stability in direct opposition to the running?  What does life look like when you need some stability? How do you know when you’re running? What prompts our perpetual running? What stops it, for you?

I was able to see, today that I have come a long way.   There are still moments of grievous disappointment in myself, but I lay that aside knowing that life is a long, long path for which I am only partway there.  It felt good, even divine, to gaze backward seeing the timeline of the years to appreciate that I am altered – different  – shifting and less flustered and more resolved.

I am able now to go unhurried into the future.  And I can now appreciate the dailies of life. I look forward to remembering, when it comes.

The deep monotony is good, in order to simply be.

MHH

Inspired by Stability and Balance in Relationships and Prayer led by Carole Kretschman at the Holy Wisdom Monastery, March 7, 2012