Crazy Real

the official blog of author and poet Jennifer Wilson

Category: musings

Ten Again

When I was about ten years old, I wanted to be a nun.

On the other side of the playground from my parochial elementary school, there stood the abbey, and inside that building lived the sweetest habit-bedecked woman I had ever met. Unlike the formidable stanchions of respect that taught us five days out of the week and smacked us with rulers upon occasion, this nun (whose name I have completely forgotten, if I ever knew it) was wizened and gentle.

My friends and I used to sneak over during recess and knock on her door. She would welcome us in and give us hard candies and prayer cards printed with saints and Mary. The atmosphere when you stepped into her small kitchen was one of perfect peace, and unnerving quiet.

After a few weeks of banging at her door on a daily basis, we were told to stop pestering the longsuffering sister, that it interrupted her day and that she didn’t like it. At eight years old I was skeptical (I have always been a little skeptical). She had never greeted us with anything but open arms, adjured us to pray, and told us to come back anytime. The conspiracy to thwart my daily escape from the noise of my sweaty and boisterous comrades on the playground seemed patently unfair.

I obeyed, however (I have also always been obedient), and never went back. I missed her. I wonder if she missed us. I am still skeptical that the injunction to cease and desist actually came from her lips. When I think back on it now, I have to think hard as to why, exactly, I thought her life was so incredibly cool; why, exactly, did I want it? And I know the answer.

The little house was always dim, and silent. The noise of the playground sounded far away and faint. She never gave the impression that she had been doing anything but meditating and praying when we knocked. Her life was one of patience and holy stillness, and peace. I didn’t have that in my life. I wanted that.

Instead, I grew up and had 13 children. Peace now is just as difficult to find as it was then, when the canvas of my home life was tension and stress and anxiety, stretched tight over the framework of my days.

I think about that little nun, and her solitary existence, and sometimes I wish I was a cloistered sister in a monastery; sometimes I think there would be nothing better than to escape into silence and vows and daily liturgy.

My life lacks serenity.

And I feel the craving for it, like a pot that’s boiled all the water away and now sits over the fire, burning into nothingness. The stench of my need is acrid like smoke, and it fills my heart.

I don’t want to be catholic, nor a nun, not really. I love my family and the boisterous, obstreperous people that populate my days. My soul, however, needs the quiet assurance that this life, this noisy chaos that dominates every waking hour has legitimacy too, that it, also, is holy in the eyes of God.

In my heart I am still ten, a little girl in need of direction, in need of purpose, in need of a word from her Creator. I sit in my small monastery, my wee house, the little room built with such great love,  and I pray. And he comes, and he whispers “be still” and he whispers “courage, dear heart” and he whispers “you are mine.”

And I find peace amidst the strife.

Top Ten Ways to be a Big, Fat, Jerk*

10. Patience is for pussies. Have none.

9. Desire to control everything. Insist on things being done your way. From filling ice cube trays to loading the dishwasher, your way is not only the best way, it’s the only way. Unless you’re an idiot.

8. Treat service people like they are below you. They are. That’s why they are serving you.

7. Make more work for others. They’ve got nothing better to do. Leave your mess everywhere; somebody else with far more time on their hands will clean it up.

6. Monopolize conversations. Yours is the most soothing and melodious voice. Naturally everyone wants to hear it over all others!

5. Be too good for common courtesy. Friendly waves, thanks you’s, and holding the door for someone are simply enormous taxes on your limited strength.

4. Be easily offended. The bad drivers, the person who didn’t hold the door, the waiter who give you bad service…they are doing those things on purpose because they think you are  a schmuck. Prove them wrong by acting like one in return. This is certain to work.

3. Walk only in your own shoes, ever. Never assume that someone else’s way might be the best way for them. Don’t extend grace. Don’t give the benefit of the doubt. If someone is doing something you disagree with, it’s because they’re stupid. The end.

2. Have no respect for the natural world. Look at the earth myopically. Kill snakes. Smash spiders and bugs. If it doesn’t look like you, it doesn’t deserve to live. God gave you dominion, remember? He doesn’t care anything about all that other stuff he made. Stomp away!

1. Beware others’ opinions. They are almost certain to be bankrupt. Surround yourself only with those who agree with you, so that your ideas are never challenged. Forget that “iron sharpening iron” thing. It’s stupid. You’re the only iron around, anyway.

*this list was frighteningly easy to come up with. What does that say about me?

 

 

Skip to the End

Here’s a confession: I read books back to front. I sneak peeks. I look ahead.

When the final Harry Potter book came out I ran to Wal Mart to snag a copy and stood there in the aisle, reading the last few pages. I had a very specific list of things that needed to happen, and not happen, in order for me to invest the time and energy in reading the whole blasted thing.*

Perhaps I overvalue my time. Perhaps I am a control freak. Mostly, I think I just don’t like surprises, even when they might be pleasant ones. Uncertainty stresses me out.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in life. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. No one can ensure that those you love will not suddenly be taken from you, or that you, yourself, might not cease to exist on this plane in another moment. Every breath is a gift. Death is the only certainty, yet it always takes us by surprise.

I know that, as a Christian, I can claim the pat promise that God is working all things together for my good, and that His plan, ultimately, is what I can trust in wholeheartedly. There is a vast gulf between believing this, I have found, and being okay with it.

I have felt at times that my life is like a pinball machine, with all my children and my loved ones careening about the board, sometimes with disastrous results. I imagine God pulling the plunger again and again, laughing maniacally. In other words, He causes the action, but the results are random. I’m not sure what sort of philosophy that lends itself to, but it’s not terribly encouraging.

Other peoples’ lives seemed much, much more orderly and predictable. Mine, with thirteen children in play, tends to resemble anarchy and chaos more often than not. I used to feel that I had to control everything around me, to reach out and grab the pinwheeling metal balls and force them to go where I wanted them to go. I thought it was all up to me. I was wrong.

Some people believe that all control is an illusion; that we control nothing at all, ultimately, and that the universe carries us along and everything is just as it needs to be in the moment. There is a lot of comfort in that idea, but I don’t know why it’s easier to trust “the universe” than it is to trust in “God”. Perhaps they are the same thing, ultimately.

I don’t know what I believe. All I do know is that thinking I needed to control everything, by my thoughts, words, and prayers, was destroying me quite literally. The idea that I was moving God’s hand to do what was best is one I embraced and now eschew.

God will do what is right, and the only things I can control are my own thoughts and actions. If I trust in a higher power, I must give myself up to it completely, and not constantly be in a tug of war over what is mine and what is its. It’s all going to be all right, in the end. If it is not all right, it is not the end. Or so the saying goes.

For now, it works.

*I read the final book, and loved it. Mostly because I knew that things worked out according to my specifications.

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