Saturday, August 20, 2011

Where and What Is Home?

(Conclusion of Thursday’s posting . . . )
The morning of Christmas Eve 1966 dawned. My last day in the convent. The bell summoned us to prayer and Mass. Afterward, I ate in the refectory and went to the Mother Superior’s office for her blessing.
            Then I walked the long hall from the convent into the college administration building. I wanted to say good-bye to the nun who’d mentored me during my four years in college. When I entered her office, she stood and looked pityingly at me.
            “What ever happened to the bright and shiny star you were?” she asked.
            The convent happened.
            But I didn’t say that. I faulted myself more than she did. Others stayed—over six hundred of them. A party of five nuns had traveled there by river over a hundred years before. Only a handful of women who’d made final vows since then had ever left. What was wrong with me? Why did I have no stick-to-it-ive-ness?
            I said nothing to this woman whose nurturing in college had steadied me. I merely went out the door to where my parents waited for me in their rusty Chevrolet. They tucked me between them in the front seat.
            Mom held me all the way home, brushing back my cowlick, wiping the tears that dribbled down my cheeks. Dad kept murmuring, “It’s okay, honey. It’s okay. We’ll take care of you.”
             Mom muttered, “I knew that place would do you in.”
            My parents didn’t know that three hallucinations sat in the back seat, bullying me: Anna. Dodo. Dolores. For the entire trip home, all three kept telling me just what they thought of my decision to leave and where it might lead me. Anna attacking. Dodo consoling. Dolores arbitrating.
            For the next three weeks all I did, day and night, was stare at the television, my mouth gaping, mute. Mom began to wonder if I could talk. She wondered also if she should have me admitted to a mental ward. Here I was—nearly thirty-one years old and incapable of stringing two coherent thoughts together, much less uttering them.            
            A phone call from a convent friend got me talking again. At grad school, she’d met a Dayton publisher who needed a curriculum writer and editor for a weekly Catholic publication. The firm would fly me to Ohio for an interview if I were interested.
            Once again my acting ability served me well—or unwell, depending on how one looks at the years I struggled to appear normal. The company had me take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Its results surely showed my psychotic tendencies, but the boss was a kind man. I think he took pity on me. He probably thought I was a little eccentric, but harmless.
            In the years that followed, I saw four psychiatrists, two spiritual directors, and a counselor. These five women and two men, plus a drug that balances my body chemistry, brought me to today.
            Entering the convent, I felt I was finally home, among kindred spirits. As the years passed, I realized I’d been running away from the past. The convent had been an escape, not a home for me. The question “Where and what is home?” has occupied me ever since.
            Today, I’ve come to some certainty: Our lives work out despite, or maybe because of, the mystery of darkness. It’s taken me a span of years to answer the rapping of authenticity with “Here I am, Holy Oneness, ready to enter into the mystery of my own life.”


  1. I typed out a lengthy comment, Dee, but Blogger has seen fit to cause it to vanish into thin air! I am not pleased :(

    I'd put so much thought into it and simply don't have the same inspiration to try to recapture what I'd said...especially if Blogger does the same thing again!

    I really have enjoyed reading this post!

  2. After reading this story I am at a loss for words--&, if you knew me, you'd realize how seldom that happens. All I can say is--fasciating story, beautifully written!

    PS--THANK YOU for the book!

  3. Incredibly moving story. I caught up with the previous post too.
    I am glad that you found yourself, your voice and your value in the world and that you have also found the courage to write about the past.

    Courage, my dear.

  4. Dee, I don't even know what to say considering this is heart breaking and at the same time somewhat inspiring. Change can be so hard on us but sometimes change is the very best thing that can happen to us also.. Nicely written. Oh and you can be in my tribe too! haha

  5. What an amazing life you've had so far, Dee. This is a bittersweet story - just the outline of you, but enough to make me want to hold you and comfort you and then ask you to tell me all your stories.

    I love that I got to read all three installments of this story in one sitting. I'm eager now for the next series from you.

  6. A truly amazing story. Thanks for having the courage to share it. I hope you'll keep going.

  7. Dee, could it be that if the convent had actually realized your illness and gotten you treatment things would have been different for you there? I am so saddened to think that somehow they didn't look after your health while you were there. I am so sad that you had to struggle through so much to find healing.

    I am grateful that you did find help. I am grateful that you were able to find the right doctors and the right medication, and that you took it.

  8. You always write the most amazing comments. Thank you.

  9. Dee, I am so grateful to you for sharing this portion of your life's story. Living is hard, making decisions is hard, learning from those decisions is hard. Thank you for letting us have a glimpse of the road you have taken. I know there is much more to the story of Dee, and I anxiously await the telling!
    Sending you a grateful hug!

  10. I think sometimes you need a reduced schedule in life just to accommodate your own reconstruction..but you didn't seem to get one...& made it through. And tell about it quite well.

  11. Hi Dee, I just wanted to thank you for your positive comments on my post. You are so right. I will really be paying attention when I exercise tomorrow, and I'll be thinking of you, knowing you are encouraging me on!

  12. You write beautifully Dee. Looking forward to reading more of your story.

  13. I am so pleased that you found compassionate people who were motivated to help you. And I stand by my assessment that it took a lot of courage to leave the convent. That was your first step in honoring your own wishes and beginning the healing process.

  14. These posts are just stunning in their honesty and reflection.

  15. former nuns are usually dynamic people, i have discovered, and continue to discover.

  16. I really enjoyed your story about attempting to be a nun, it's obvious you required a lot more stimulation from the outside world.

  17. oh no, my comments went away.. Hugs to you, too tired to try again