This Monastic Life

It’s amazing how many monastic elements are already present in my life. I find it in my 3 o’clock prayer, and the simple tray of melons-my dinner. I don’t watch TV. I don’t make phone calls. Rarely people call me.

I struggle to open some windows to let the breeze in since it had rained this afternoon and it feels much cooler outside. These old style plantation style windows make me feel like I have travelled back in time. The squeaky sounds they make as I open them are the first noises I am hearing since I got back from the Sunday Mass. That was six hours ago. The silence is broken momentarily, but I am not stirred. I find this act of opening the window and letting the world in very sacred.

My last contact with the world outside today was very out of this world. I talked with a nun who came to visit the church to collect donations for their divine work of God. She invited me to come to volunteer when I showed interest, but having no car, I am not in a place to answer yes or no. I have my own begging to do. I have to beg my sister who raises three small children if she can give me a ride-an hour away- but I know she has no such time. I am here to help her. Being her fourth child with many needs is the last person I want to be.

I really should get a car. But first I need to wait for the prospect of an employment. I think I almost have a chance after my interview, but getting a job does not happen over night so I have to be patient. But buying a car would mean being on a loan, and once I have a loan I have to pay off, I will be forced to stay in this world making payments and it doesn’t take an Ivy League graduate degree to know that buying a car so I can visit monastery sounds a bit… ironic. So there lies my dilemma, but then, I am suddenly delighted by the realization that at least I don’t have a student loan! I have such financial freedom, and I would like to stay this way.

In the meantime, while I actively discern my call, what I do is I make monastery where I am at. Home is where you make it, they say. Same is true with the monastery. Monastery is where you make it. To transform this apartment of my sister’s into a monastery is no easy task. Little that I can do is to focus on daily manual labors- such as sweeping, mopping, washing dishes(which is my favorite thing to do), laundry(my next favorite work around the house), and organizing toys and sorting out the donation items. Sometimes my urge to donate is so strong I have to gather extra measure of self-control and moderation. There is this pink toy kitchen sink that my niece Elaine plays with once in a while that I would so like to donate. Two reasons. 1. She is clearly growing out of it. 2. It’s so huge that it gets in the way every time we travel from the bedroom to the living room. Also Elaine tends to use this as a giant door to block the entry of her big brother and baby sister. This triggers the biggest battle between the siblings and I just don’t find this way of life christian at all.

But, Elaine is still quite attached to this big toy and God knows I understand the attachment issue. I know the pain the untimely separation causes, and I sure don’t want to be the one to cause that pain to my adorable niece. She’s such a darling and I love her very much. Last night, she used my whole body as her pillow starting from my chest then down to my belly. When I woke up in the middle of the night, she was using my thigh as her pillow and when my alarm rang, she was all the way down to my ankle. I guess she does have Korean blood running through her although she was born here in the States. Koreans like wooden pillow to lay their heads on. Those hard pillows are called “mok-chim” and I am thinking, in the future, if I do become a nun, I could use this as a way to do penance, and method of self-mortification during my sleep as I have no desire to use this pillow to sleep on unless I feel the need to be punished. But Elaine didn’t seem to have any problem resting on my hard ankle pillow.

It was a lovely night, being a pillow for my little niece. It was a very monastic night, giving myself to serve another. And the beauty of it all was that Elaine has no idea that I offered myself as her pillow, and that she was free to use my entire body to lay her head down throughout the night.

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