isolation

Years ago, inspired by a book I had read about inner awakenings I sought the solace of a nearby Abbey. This unique place offered retreats to individuals of different lengths of time and, completely unaware of what I would encounter I chose one for five days, the longest offered.

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I am not Catholic. I have attended and joined nearly every denomination that exists in my search for God. This five days helped me see where He is.

He is within us.

I was shown my quarters and invited to attend any or all of the monastic service or prayers. They begin at 3:00 a.m. which required rising at 2:30. I wanted the whole experience.

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The services followed an order of worship, psalms, an illumination on the readings. At 7:00 a.m. they were completed for the day, until vespers and compline in evening, 6 p.m.

Thus the whole day stretched out before me.

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I guess I had never before been completely, utterly alone. At this time I had no cell phone. There was no television, no radio at the Abbey. There was an order of silence on the grounds except for the services or times of community (meals or, for the residents, the workday). There were books and a wonderful library. There were gardens and a historic Civil War-era cemetery. So I began exploring. But I began to feel and know the impact of being in a place where God was the singular focus of life. And it hurt. I was appalled, shamed, humiliated, and, at moments, terrified. There, I was, by self-imposition held against the perfect One. In the light of His focus (inescapable) and His love I squirmed. I cried. I pleaded. I begged Him to not see me. And finally, spent, I stopped fighting. I released my fears, my selfness. I began to listen. In His complete love that exists for each of us I heard His gentle coaxing and came near. I think for the first time I realized I could come near.

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I have been back to the Abbey many times. Each visit is like going home because the reason I go there refocuses my mind, resets my heart. I find clarity. These stressful days where we are asked to voluntarily close ourselves away are not difficult for me. But I hear comments from others of boredom, anxiety. It is hard being alone with yourself, until you know, beyond who you are, Whose you are.

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At least, that’s how it was for me.
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Not long before I (temporarily) returned to my parents’ home after divorce my father was on a 5-foot ladder changing a burned out bulb in the lamp on the front walk to their house. My mother said she happened to pass by the dining room window and glanced outside in time to see him begin to lose balance, topple and fall onto the hard sidewalk. My mother said it was a terrible, helpless feeling. There was nothing she could do to stop the fall, so she watched as he fell, “just like a tree falling,” she said.

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One broken shoulder later Dad nursed his arm (in a sling, they could not actually cast a shoulder break) and happily welcomed me back into the fold because the entire production staff  of his small newspaper business had walked out a week before. It must be said that progeny in a small family business are not always treated well. Be that as it may I learned valuable lessons from my father, intentionally or not, about teamwork, managing stress, learning to maximize potential, manage time, and humility.

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However short-lived my tenure was with Dad’s company, I have been able to apply what I learned in many ways since, though for a long time I tried not to, feeling it would be disloyal to use it elsewhere. I realized these were life lessons and if not used I would be nothing more than inert.

Some of it is effective in survival, looking out for others and bolstering the environment with no reflection on myself. But this virus? Totally out of control. People have lost a sense of perspective over this thing.  Yes there are inconveniences. If one chose to travel someplace after the disclosure of this illness there are consequences due to normal precautions regardless of whether you think a cruise or trip out of your country would be harmless. There are other persons, no one knows where from so please keep your wits about you if you test positive for this virus about which no one knows much and have to be quarantined.

Then there are the efforts to stock provisions in the unlikely event you will be stuck at home

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Our local hospital announced it would be preparing for this virus. Sensible. Everyone should. This was even before the one case of the virus surfaced in north-central NC because for some unknown reason an individual traveled to the same retirement home in Washington state where a few people have died from this. But panic? Doesn’t help.

How is it we have lost our collective sense of humor? Is death that terrifying? Or illness? There are many things that were never hard to find, now even amazon is price-gouging. $14 (in some cases, more) for an 8-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.

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At least we can still find dog cookies. And toys.

And toilet paper.

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