These past weeks I’ve often envisioned Yosemite Sam, yelling “Retreat!” You remember that cartoon, don’t you?
Sam charges towards Bugs Bunny’s fort – Bugs calmly swings open the door at the last minute and Sam runs smack down the barrel of a large gunnery cannon. He stops…He looks…He realizes……”Retreat!” and runs back the way he came, managing to just barely escape the end of the cannon before being blasted into a little black, charred, beardless Hessian.
(Hey, I still watch cartoons – and you cannot tell me that the new Batman or Captain Planet or any of these modern ones are ‘less violent’ – Bugs Bunny Forever, says I!)
For various reasons, both known and unknown to me, I have struggled more this year than last over the death of my son. Lost to bacterial meningitis shortly after graduating from high school, he slipped away from us just 4 short days before his 18th birthday.
As I write this, I have just made it through the day that should have been his 20th birthday. I should have been making a cake, fixing a BBQ and saying, “Nope, no beer until next year.”
(For those of you not familiar with my previous comments regarding ’shoulds’ I will tell you the above sentence is a prime example of “shoulding on myself” – if you’re confused, say it out loud and you’ll see why ’shoulds’ are not the best thing to engage in…..)
Instead, I did my best not to mope and cry uncontrollably around my youngest son, who will turn 12 in a couple of days. (For some reason, the Universe decided I was only to be fertile sometime around September – my boys were born 8 years and 3 days apart…… the two I lost would have been born in June too.)
Because I’ve been struggling more lately and seem to have taken a detour in my healing, I’ve often fantasized about escape.
Winning Powerball, building a fence enclosed fortress somewhere in the middle of nowhere with provisions stocked for 2 or 3 years. No phone, no email, no one to cope with except hubby and son. No need to be witty, capable of engaging in intelligent conversation. No call to be nice to others when I’m not feeling nice…………..ahhhhh, don’t I just wish.
But after several years of faithful purchase, I’ve decided my son was probably right – I’m more likely to be struck by lightening 5 times in one day than I am to win Powerball (which means, I do still have a chance………………)
And then it was suggested I go on retreat. Perhaps to a monastery or abbey? And the longer the idea-man talked, the better it sounded.
The main attraction was that I have threatened the males in my house with ‘running away to live with the nuns’ for years, anytime I felt like dirty socks were purposely being thrown on the floor, just to watch me pick them up and take to the laundry. So, having threatened this action for so long, I was intrigued with the possibility of actually getting to make good on my threats.
I’m also a big Brother Cadfael fan, that wonderful monk created by author Ellis Peters – an aging crusader who came to the monastery late in life and always manages to solve the murder mystery, help the young in-love couple get together and heal a few people with herbs while he’s at it, all the while both outwitting and maintaining a great friendship with the local Sheriff. What’s not to love?
How I’ve often wished Brother Cadfael was real and that I could visit him and talk with him. Ellis Peters once said in an interview that writing Brother Cadfael made her a better person. I can believe it. He’s my hero.
I also don’t do well with meditation practices. I can, however, immerse myself in some mundane task and contemplate the mysteries of the world and my connection with the divine quite readily. So as the idea was suggested to me, I could already see myself regaining my peace and inner tranquility while scrubbing a stone floor on my hands and knees. (yes, I know, I’m losing it…..)
Some scenes from Sound of Music and Sister Act briefly flitted through my head, but since I can’t sing as well as Julie Andrews or dance as well as Whoopi, I quickly let go of those fantasies…………….
The yearning with which I’ve envisioned escape has surprised me. Until recently, I felt like I was dealing with illnesses, deaths and my own health problems pretty well. Just how or why I got to this place of deep grief again, I could not tell you.
It is both maddening and enlightening to know that no matter how much you read, research and learn about taking care of yourself, things can still sneak up on you when you aren’t expecting it.
It’s not that my everyday life is hard. I currently do not work for anyone else, so my schedule is pretty well my own. My hubby and son aren’t complete slobs and they pitch in and help around the house if I’ve decided to start more projects in the morning than I can possibly get done by nightfall.
I figure a lot of people would look at my life and wonder what the heck I had to be down about. And they would be right.
But that realization hasn’t changed how I’m feeling right now.
And so, I have requested and been granted sanctuary at an abbey for 10 glorious days while son and hubby are away at school and camp and won’t be around to miss me being gone, anyways.
No cell phone, no email or websites to maintain. No trying to figure out how to design a new database.
I’m taking my embroidery, some books and stuff to make sprouted wheat bread for the nuns. My gift for them.
In return, they’ve agreed to give me a bed to sleep on, food to eat, and the opportunity to join their prayer schedule. I will also be given work to do. I don’t have to figure out what the most efficient way to do the work is, or prioritize or manage or be inspired and creative. I just have to show up and do what I’m told. What a relief.
For a time, I’m going to retreat from the responsibilities of the gifts I have received…. a loving husband and son, friends and family, customers. I’m going to go where there is a schedule that tells me when to sleep, when to eat and when to commune with the Universe. I’m choosing to retreat from the world of choices and decisions.
In the military world, Retreat is not often seen as a positive way of dealing the possibility of defeat. Yes, there’s the saying, “Run away, live to fight another day” but I think the “With your shield or on it” is the more favored, popular one.
It is also interesting to me that in many literary works regarding ‘joining the convent’, a young applicant is counseled, “These walls are to be entered to embrace the life within, not to shut the world out.”
But, whatever the case may be, my wounds are sore and oozing, they ache from too many pokes and prods from my daily routine. So carrying what shred of a shield I have left, I shall enter into the walls, not asking to leave the world, only that it be kept at bay while I heal and repair my shield.
Rest assured I shall return with it.