I am descending the long stoney path leading me down to the parking lot from the monastery. Last time I walked down this path was last October after I had just been told that the community cannot receive me. Was that really less than a year ago? I had some gut back then. I laugh as I slowly make my way back down to the car. Did I really ask Sister B that I want to join the community? To this strictly cloistered Trappist order? Yes, I did.
I remember being surprised by my own reaction when I stepped outside the monastery and took my first fresh gulp of air on that October day. Sister B told me that they cannot accept me because of my bipolar history. She asked me if I think that my episodes will relapse during our conversation, and I couldn’t say no. I would be lying if I did. I don’t know Sister. It did relapse many times before. But I feel that I got it under control now. I believe that I am fine now, and I wouldn’t ask to join if I didn’t. But there is no way of knowing it for sure. So my answer would be, I don’t know.
After our conversation ended on that day, I stepped outside to head back to DC. It was a bright, crisp, perfect autumn day, and somewhere from Charlottesville, my sister was driving to the monastery to pick me up to take me back to her apartment in the suburb of Washington DC. I stood there at the top of the long descend down to the parking lot, feeling a little shocked. I wasn’t shocked because I was just rejected. I was shocked because I felt liberated. I felt a big surge of new wave rushing into my heart and soul. A new beginning, a new life, and a million new chances and opportunities ahead of me. What am I going to do with my life now?
What I am going to do with my life was never a problem. For me, it was always more like, what am I going to do to not do anything with my life? How can I stay still and just be? How do I stop this restlessness, and stop trying so hard to do something with my life to the point of doing anything with my life? Why am I always so desperate to do something with my life?
I guess the answer is quite simple. It’s like all the kids in the elementary school wanting to become a president one day. I never dreamed of becoming a president, but I do remember dreaming of becoming an ambassador one day. I had many dreams, though they changed all the time. I was always an ambitious child, dreaming of big things, big goals, and I thought the whole world would be in my grasp once I grew up. I would reach for the sky. Reality was no concern of mine. Who wants to limit oneself when one is only dreaming?
There I stood, after yet another dream of mine was crushed. That year was bound to be a year of failures. I had just moved back from Hawaii with a grand dream of publishing my three books. I had just sacrificed my managing job at the new cafe I helped to start on the beautiful pacific coast of Big Island, HI. I clung to my writing future like it is my ultimate cure for my relapsing bipolar episodes. So when no publishers wanted my books, I was crushed big time, and it pushed me into a major depression that lasted throughout Spring, Summer and some part of Fall. I only came out of that dark hole guided by one last light I could still see in a distance: My dream of becoming a Trappist nun.
So it surprised me that I was feeling a huge relief, even a sense of freedom and liberation by the rejection of the community. I was confused. But I was happy, too. Feeling confused and happy, I slowly walked down the stoney path, to wait for my sister’s van at the bottom of the hill. She would be there in less than 10 minutes. I put down my backpack on the side of the gravel road, and listened to music with my eyes closed until I heard my sister’s car making its way on the unpaved country road.
“You look really good. So how do you feel?”
I am sitting with Sister B for our meeting. She carved out an hour for me from her busy schedule. At 4:45 pm, I sit in the office where I first came to see her. It was already 5 years ago. I was on my final journey on mainland before I moved to Hawaii. It was only a week before my move. I was still only 28 years old, then.
I answer with that single word and we both laugh. Then I quickly added.
“But I am really happy. I am very happy.”
“Good. You look very happy.”
There. Confirmed. My happiness is confirmed by somebody other than me.
“It’s good to see you smile.”
“Yeah, I know. I always cried in this room. I told you. No tears this time. Only smile.”
Then I give her another big smile. We smile at each other. I am so happy about everything. But at this moment, I am especially happy about seeing Sister B again.
We part 5 minutes before the Vespers starts. I step out to get some fresh air before I go back in for Compline.
I stand in front of the gate. I am at the top of the hill, looking down the long stoney path leading to the parking lot.
Last time I was standing here like this, it was a perfect October morning. I was confused and happy on that day facing the whole new world that was unknown to me.
And here I am still confused and happy. Well, maybe more confused but a whole lot happier.
Nothing has changed. I am still facing the unknown world, and everything is at stake.
And yet again, everything is within my grasp. Even the sky.
I look up at the sky. The late setting sun is way below the hill and my eyes don’t burn even though I am looking directly up at the sky. I feel overflowing love pouring out of my heart. Relentlessly, uncontrollably and passionately. “I love you. I love you. I love you!” I confessed. And in that very moment, I feel as if I can even touch God, the source of it all.