Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tears Make Rainbows in your Soul

I am not even sure that I remember how to do this blog thing.  It has been so long.

I last wrote in October of 2018.

Bernie & I had just moved to Portland.  We were living with our son and his then wife and our beautiful grandchildren, Sullivan Bernard and Cassidy Rae.  Oh, and Baxter, the dog.  And tons of chickens.

Our first 2 houses fell through.  That was difficult.  But, looking back, I am so glad they did.  The house that we ended up in in Beaverton is EXACTLY what we wanted.  God was watching over us along the way.

We moved into our home right before Christmas 2018. 

At that time, Bernie was still working nights at Providence East Portland.  The commute from our new home was ONLY 1 hour vs. the 90 minutes it took him to get to work from Kevin's home in Hillsboro.  Life was pretty good.  However, Bernie's real desire was to find employment at St. Vincent's Hospital in Beaverton.  The commute would only be 10 minutes each way.  In March, he was accepted to join a new unit there.  It was a step-down from ICU.  There would be weeks and weeks of training and learning new things.  For 12 years, Bernie had been a cardiac nurse.  Now, he would be expanding his field to whatever patient came from the ICU to the IMCU.  From the start, something was wrong.  He was not eating.  I would make him breakfast, and he'd take a couple bites.  He usually brought home most of his lunch, uneaten.  As soon as he finished trying to eat dinner, he would hit the computer and study till he went to bed.  The next morning, the routine began again.  This went on for 2 months.  I was worried about him.  On May 2, 2019, our 38th wedding anniversary, I came home from a meeting to find him just standing in the garage, staring.  He had worked with a new mentor that day and she called into question the order in which he visited his patients at the beginning of shift.  After his shift was over, the charge spoke to him about the way he prioritized his patients that day.  He vehemently defended why he chose to see whom when.  It was not a big thing.  The charge just wanted to discuss it with him.  By the time he got home, during that 10 minute drive, he had lost all confidence in his ability to function as an effective nurse any longer.  He was overwhelmed.   There was no anniversary celebration that night. 
The next day, I suggested that we go somewhere for a walk.  It was a beautiful day.  We walked through beautiful forests and wetlands.  School children, out on outings, passed us on the trails.  All the while, Bernie's eyes were on the ground, his hands in his pockets.  I wanted to shout:  LOOK UP!  See the beautiful trees?  Hear the birds?  But, something kept me from doing that.  At the end of our walk, his charge nurse called and they talked for a long time.  I went walking on my own while they spoke.  Whenever I was within hearing range, I would hear Bernie again trying to explain why he chose to treat his patients the previous day in the order that he did.  His charge was very kind, but didn't back down a bit.   It was Friday.  Bernie had invited a co-worker from Providence East Portland over for dinner that night.  He was in no shape to entertain, but he tried.  Houston was a real friend, understanding, offering support where he thought appropriate.
Bernie went in the following week and informed the charge that he would not be returning to that unit.  She told him to look into taking medical leave, which he did.  The following weekend, I booked an Airbnb in Rockaway.  I thought some beach time would really help him.  I invited Kevin & the kids to come down, too.  I will just say that it was the saddest weekends of my life with Bernie.
His condition would be a classic catatonic state.  He could not enjoy the ocean.  He could barely get out of bed.  What had happened to this man of mine?  What had happened to the guy with the endless quips and deadly sense of humor?  How was I going to get him back?  Kevin and the kids went home on Sunday morning, and Bernie & I stayed one more night.  I packed us up as he wandered around aimlessly.  My heart hurt, but I loved him so much.  What was I going to do?
Kevin, who, at the time was seeing a counselor of his own, really, really encouraged Bernie to find a counselor.  It took a few days, but he got in to see Dr. Brunstein fairly quickly.  The first few visits were pretty uneventful.  Bernie was just telling him about his childhood and our life.  He filled him in on our years in the cult. 
One of the issues that Bernie discussed with Dr. Brunstein was something at work called "competencies".  There were 25 -30 areas in which each nurse was supposed to show their manager that they were COMPETENT in these areas.  Bernie took it very seriously.  Periodically, the unit manager would ask him how he was coming with his competencies.  He had, by this time, maybe got ONE checked off by his manager.  First of all, he was busy taking care of his patients.  Secondly, when he did have his manager observe, he said she took about 90  minutes to do it, because she wanted to go through everything and not just observe him doing it for her.  That was discouraging.  He asked his friend, Houston, if he had completed his competency check list.  Houston had been there for about 18 months.  He laughed and told Bernie that he had just taken them home and thrown them under his bed. 
After one session with Dr. Brunstein, Bernie came home just a little annoyed and said that the Doctor was trying to tie all this into his past with the cult, and Bernie thought that was ridiculous.  I suggested that he not push back, but go with it.  So, the next week, he and the Doctor pursued this avenue.  After much discussion, Bernie discovered that because of how we were taught that everything we did had to be 100% perfect, he had applied that to this list of competencies in his adult life.  Sounds insane, doesn't it?  And yet, it was very real for him.
And, so the months wore on.  Bernie was on medical leave from May through August.  I can't tell you how many days there were that he could not even get out of bed.  He kept the shades drawn in our room, and a pillow over his head.  I could not do anything for him - except be there.  On Memorial Day weekend, I bought him some plants and bushes, knowing how he loves to work in the yard.  When I brought them home, he was very sad.  I couldn't understand it.  He loved working in the yard.  He told me weeks later, that when he looked at them all he saw was WORK and he had no energy to take care of them.  Eventually, they got planted.  Every single one of them will always remind me of this time that we came through - together.  
Bernie continued to see his counselor over the next several months.  His other Doctor tried various medications with him.  None of them helped.  He was jittery, anxious, void of any energy or direction.  Finally, in December, he was able to see a psychiatrist.  She tried a few different medications, and they have worked well.
In late summer, Bernie decided that he would start looking for work again.  He was feeling a bit better and was not ready to quit nursing yet.  And still, he questioned his abilities as a nurse.  He put out dozens of resumes and endured some pretty awful interviews on the phone.  Imagine how hard it was to watch this man, a brilliant cardiac nurse, endure rejection after rejection after rejection.  Each time, he would try to be positive.  It just made me so sad.
Without dragging this on too long, I am happy to tell you that he applied for and has been hired as a cardiac nurse in Tuality Hospital - the same hospital where Sully and Cassidy were born.  The commute is about 20 minutes each way.  But, the best thing is that he is finding his purpose again.  He is so excited to begin this next chapter in his career.    March 9th is his starting date.
We should never underestimate what stress can do to our lives.  This move to Portland was a BIG thing.  Bernie had been happy and in his job for 12 years at Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane.  Life was really, really good.  The years went by, but he didn't really notice that whole aging thing, because life just WAS.  The newness of Portland brought that state of zen to a screeching halt! 
*Big city  "I hate big cities."
*Traffic  "I hate the traffic."
I sit here in Rockaway Beach today, February 25, 2020.  I ponder the things that have taken place since my post of October, 2018:
We moved into our beautiful little home in Beaverton.  Christmas.  Early 2019, the extreme, gut-wrenching heart ache of our daughter in law choosing to end her marriage to our son, Kevin.  My heart screamed:  WHY DID WE MOVE HERE?  WHY DID WE DISRUPT OUR COZY LIFE?  When I saw the pain my son went through, is still going through, the answer is clear:  God put us here for him and those 2 beautiful children of his.  And, our son was here for his Dad during Bernie's time of crises.  Family.  All of our family has just been amazing through all of this.  When his brothers heard of Kevin's situation, they were both here immediately in support of him.  It was beautiful.  We raised good sons. 
For those of you that have been with me through the past year, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your love and support.  I have felt it.  I don't know how I could have done this without you.  I love you all.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Shame. On. You.

As I ran my hand under the automated towel dispenser in the cafe's bathroom FOR THE THIRD TIME, I could hear Sr. Catherine in my head.  I heard Mother Teresa.  (No, not SAINT Mother Teresa, a different one -a bipolar freak who was placed in the position of Sister Superior.)  I don't like these voices in my head.
If you've ever read about or been exposed to destructive cults, you know the tricks they use to keep their members in compliance.  Shame is one of their most effective tools.  It was used to try to bring me into submission time and time again.
Shame on you, Miss Urban, for using to much tape to hold together your May crown.  Kneel for class.
Shame on you, Miss Urban, for chewing gum.  Put that gum on your nose and leave it there till I say you can take it off.
Shame on you, Sr. Frances, for using too much water to rinse that lettuce.
Shame on you, Sr. Frances, for not being more vigilant and watching that garlic bread.  Now, it's all burned.  You will eat nothing else until you have finished it all by yourself.
Shame on you, Sr. Frances, for not using that kleenex until the entire thing is saturated with the discharge from your nose. 

I got a nasty cold a week ago, right after arriving in Hillsboro.  The final shame that I mentioned above has come back to me again and again.  As I blow my nose into the kleenex one time and pitch it into the garbage, it's kind of like flipping off all those voices in my head trying to shame me for being so wasteful.  I smile every single time. The young girl that was subjected to it didn't have the strength to react that way.  Fifty years later, I can.

It has taken a lot of work to get beyond the shame. It is interesting, because I no longer have anyone shaming me.  They did a good job.  For years & years, I could do it all by myself.  Shame on me for not being the perfect body type society expects.  Shame on me for not being perfectly put together every time I left the house.  Shame on me if the house wasn't perfect every day all day.  So.  Much.  Shame.

Thanks to a wonderful counselor that I met 2 years ago, I am shedding the shame, one incident at a time.

So, going forward, I will use as damn much water as I want to rinse my lettuce.  I probably won't burn the garlic bread, because that just makes the house smell bad.  And, with flourish, I will blow my snotty nose into a kleenex once and pitch it into the garbage while grabbing another.  And, tape?  Tape?  Just ask any of my family how damn much tape I use on their Christmas presents.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Things, they are a-changin!

Wow....... I am having a moment......
In 48 hours, I will be leaving Spokane to start a new chapter in my life in the Portland area.
I am so excited for all the new and exciting things to come.  I am totally in love with the new
home that Bernie bought, even though I haven't yet passed through its front door.
I am looking forward to lots of Meemaw time with Sullivan and Cassidy. 
I am looking forward to being so close to the ocean.

I have lived in this area for the last 49 years of my life.  That is a long time.  Many of those years
were not happy years.  I suffered a lot of physical and mental abuse.   These thoughts and memories still haunt me.  I have spent the last two years working through that with a therapist.  I have made great progress, but I am not yet where I want to be.  I am hoping that a complete change of venue will help.  This place brings up so many memories that I would rather forget.  I can't even tell you how many nights a week my sleep is disturbed by haunting dreams from the past.  It is not fun.  So many characters from THAT past.  Is it too late, at 60, to create enough wonderful memories to drown out the nasty ones?  I am going to give it a shot. 

But then, ...... there are a LOT of great memories here, too.   Meeting and marrying the love of my life, Bernie.  Giving birth to 3 of the most amazing sons ever!  And, on & on with our little family. The homes we shared.  The yards that Bernie turned into little paradises for us.  The vacations we took with the kids....

And, then, there are so many of you who have become dear, dear friends.  You don't make it easy to say good-bye.  I've spent the last 3 weeks saying goodbye to many.  I always have a huge lump in my throat when I leave another of you.  So many fun memories of times together.  So many laughs.  SO.  MUCH.  WINE!!!

So, to all of you who have traveled this journey with me:  THANK YOU!  Thank you for your love and your friendship.  Thank you for the ears you gave me.  Thank you for the shoulders to cry on.  Thank you for the hands that reached out to help me back up.  I love you all....
stay tuned for the next chapter.  It's going to be a doozy!!!




Monday, June 11, 2018

It Is Odd

It is odd.
Sometimes, I sit and wonder how things might have been so different.
What if my mother had never had the misfortune of meeting francis schuckardt?
What if?
How would my life have been different?  Would I have gone to college?  What would I have studied?  What would I have become?
I wonder about these things from time to time.
Tonight, June 11, 2018:  I am sitting on the patio of my son's home in Hillsboro, Oregon.  The family is fast asleep.  Traffic is buzzing by on the highway out front.  I am situated on a gliding bench in the rear of the house.  2 acres of land stretches behind me.  There is a river back there somewhere.  I hear the sounds of the evening birds and insects.  I don't want to go to sleep.  I am enjoying the beauty of all of this.  Somehow, right now, I don't want to remember where I've come from.  Life is good right now. I am cherishing this moment.
Would it have been different if I had gone to college?  What would I have become?  When I was a little girl, I wanted to be one of two things.  Promise not to laugh?  I wanted to either be a waitress or a librarian.  I loved how the librarians back in the 60's used those really cool stamps to indicate when my book was due.  And, I loved fantasizing about taking an order from someone who was hungry.  Hey!  Give me a break!  I was little and innocent and had not yet been exposed to the cruelties of the world!
When I got older, I thought it would be so cool to study psychology.  What is it that makes people do the things they do?  This was not meant to be, because in the cult of francis schuckardt, women had either one of two roles:  a religious sister, or a wife & mother ---women did not need education.
And so - I am grateful for the life that I have.  I am not going to look back with any regrets.  My gosh!  I met Bernie, the love of my life.  We had both come through the same horrific experiences of growing up in a destructive cult.  Together, we had three amazing, wonderful, loving sons.  They, together with their dad and their significant others, are the reasons I love life.  And, then there are Sullivan and Cassidy.  My heart can barely contain the love they generate within me.
So, what would I change for what I have now?  Absolutely nothing.  God is great.  My family is everything to me.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Trying to break through the chains...

"Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Traveled by many, remembered by few
Lookin' for something that I can believe in
Lookin' for something that I'd like to do with my life
There's nothin' behind me and nothin' that ties me to
Something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open, right now it seems to be more than enough
To just be here today, and I don't know
What the future is holdin' in store
I don't know where I'm goin' I'm not sure where I've been
There's a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth livin', I don't need to see the end
Sweet, sweet surrender, live, live without care....."

I am going to go back a bit in time and tell you how I tried to break through the chains of mind control.  After my graduation from 'high school' in June 1976, I stayed in Coeur d'Alene.  I could live at the Villa Maria until I figured out what I was going to do.  Since I was a graduate, I was allowed to go places by myself now.  I don't remember much about the month or so after graduation, but I do remember that I was frustrated and lost and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do.
So, one day, I wrote a letter to my sister, Sue, back in Endicott, N.Y.  To say that I asked her if I could come stay with her would most likely be an understatement.  I am pretty sure that I begged.  I had no money, so I was depending on her to provide me the means of getting there.  I had written the letter in secret.  Only one friend knew that I had reached out.  The Villa Maria did not have a telephone, so I gave my sister the phone number of this friend.  (Isn't it convenient that there was no phone for the girls at the boarding house to call home and beg to get out of there?  Any phone calls that were made were made from the little book store where they sold all their schuckardt publications, etc.  And, every phone call was monitored.)   Within a week, I believe, I heard back from my sister.  She had made the reservations and sent me the ticket.  I was going to New York!
Oh my gosh!  It was so exciting to be flying across the country.  But, remember, I was still in the full garb of the cult.  I remember being SO proud of myself for navigating my way through O'Hare airport.  And, for all the years that I had been warned about the evils of the outside world, I wasn't afraid. 

People were nice.  They smiled.  I smiled back.  It felt so good.
From Chicago, we flew to Binghamton, N.Y..... I think.  I remember the fellow sitting next to me asked me where I was from.  When I told him Montana, he said, "Oh, your dad must be a sheep farmer."  What?  I was just glad that he didn't ask me about my outfit!
I loved, loved, loved being at my sister's house.  It was a beautiful little neighborhood, with lots of young families.  Sue & Doug had 3 little boys and there was always activity of one sort or another.  The boys kept me entertained with their hilarious personalities.  I believe her son, Matt, was 3 or 4 at the time.  One time in the car, he asked his mom:  "Mom, how do you spell relief?"  I was expecting to hear the Rolaids commercial, and then little Matt said, "G-A-S!"  (Uproarious laughter followed.)  I was living in such a different world.  I was away from all the eyes watching to make sure I didn't step out of line.  I took off the clothes I came in and wore my sister's pants.  I wish that I could say I was fearless doing this, but that would be a lie.  Even though I dressed like the rest of society now, part of me hoped and prayed that I wouldn't die in those clothes.  For surely, if I did, God would send me straight to hell.
I have wonderful memories from that time.  My sister and her husband were so kind to me.  Sue took me to Philadelphia to visit her inlaws and to see the sites.  They took me to dinner at a fabulous restaurant downtown.  We ate on the 26th floor.  I felt like I was on top of the world.
One evening, Doug broke out his motorcycle and took me on a ride in the incredibly beautiful hills of  upstate New York.  I recall that it felt surreal.  I wanted to embrace this new way of life, the wind blowing in my face, the sun setting over the gorgeous rolling hills.  But, there was that part of me that kept nagging that this was not right.  The turmoil in my soul was immense.  I tried to ignore it.  Before we headed back home, Doug stopped somewhere and bought me a drink.  Looking back now, I laugh.  I wonder what we talked about.  He had always been my favorite brother in law of the two I had.  I had absolutely no idea what to order.  So, Doug ordered me a Singapore Sling.  I'm pretty sure I haven't had one since.  I might just have to give that a shot again after all these years.
And, this is where it gets difficult to write.  Tears begin to fall.  Soft sobs become a little more than soft.  I remember exactly where I was standing when the phone rang in Sue's house.  It was my Dad! He told Sue that he had gone to the Thompson's house to use their phone so that Mom wouldn't know he was calling.  He wanted to talk to me.  Sue handed me the phone.  I don't remember much of the conversation.  What I do remember is this:  "Sis, you take as much time as you need back there.  There's no need to rush back."  I listened and I agreed.  After hanging up, I really believed that I could do that.  I even thought that I could learn to live back there.  There would be so many opportunities.  I knew that Sue & Doug would help me any way they could.  I was on the verge.  (I honestly cannot remember if I got any correspondence from my mom while I was in Endicott.  It is hard to imagine that she would have passed up the opportunity to warn me of the dangers to my soul.)
I was so close to deciding to stay.  It felt a little rebellious, and that felt good! 
From Billy Joel's  'Goodnight, My Angel':
"Goodnight my angel, now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me
Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die
That's how you and I will be."
 My Dad was never overly sentimental or verbose.  But, I can imagine those words coming through to his little girl in New York that day.
And, then, the phone at Sue's house rang again, a different day.  Remember the friend who had persuaded me to enter the convent in the first place?  It was her mother.  A full-fledged believer of all things schuckardt, she was on a mission.  I have no doubt that numerous minds got together and decided that she should be the one to call me.  I really liked this woman and valued her advice. Again, I don't remember the exact conversation, just the theme.  And it was this:  You absolutely cannot stay back there.  You have to get back out here, or you WILL lose your soul in that environment.  In THAT moment, a switch flipped.  I went straight into mind-control-mode.  I had an urgency.  I had to get back to Coeur d'Alene.  My poor sister.  She just did not understand.  How could she?  I was completely unreasonable.  I had to go!  She reminded me of Dad's call.  She assured me she would be there for me. There were some angry words.  There were a lot of tears.  In the end, she drove me to catch a flight to California.  There, I would join my friend, Lucy and her family, and then return to Idaho. 
I have no words to express the guilt I felt for years for asking for help from Sue, then turning around and going back.  I understand it now.  I know that is how destructive cults work.  She had exposed me to the real world.  It wasn't as scary as I had been told.  She loved me more than I knew.  But,in the end, her love and support were no match for the hold of the cult and the tremendous fear of losing my soul. 
Sue had every John Denver album there was, and I really loved his music and the words resonated with what I wanted but was afraid to pursue.  I will close with just a few from his song, It's Up To You:  "
You can do whatever you want to do
Wherever you want to go it's up to you
And wouldn't it be fine
Following your heart, playing your own part."
 
Yes, it would have been fine.  It would have been fine.
 



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Another Trip to the Funny Farm, aka: Convent

I was a lost soul. After 9 years in the cult of francis schuckardt, I had no mind of my own.  I was 18 years old and doing what they would now refer to as "couch surfing".  I had no home in the Coeur d'Alene area.  I had no family living there.  When I entered the convent in 1975, Mom had returned to live with Dad in Montana, so if I was going to live in Idaho, I had to depend on the kindness of friends.
In the early months of 1977, I was living with a lovely family in Dalton Gardens, just north of Coeur d'Alene.  It was a lovely, large, and growing family.  The husband was an electrician, and the wife stayed home and took care of the children.  I did what I could to help them out.  The children were normal little kids - full of energy and pranks.  Looking back now, this was a happy time for me.    A friend of the family was employed by the Washington State Department of Employment, and mentioned there was a position open for a clerk.  He thought that I might be interested.  I got the job.  I remember that my friends were jealous of the $4.15/hour I was getting.  Now, looking back, I wonder how much different my life might have been had I stayed with this job.  But, I was SO unprepared for the outside world.  I was so afraid of breaking the rules that I dressed in full garb:  skirt to my ankles, sleeves to my wrist, a sweater or vest to hide the fact that there were breasts on my chest, and a headscarf to cover up most of my hair.  (schuckardt told us that a woman's hair was her vanity and her downfall. It should always be covered outside the home.)  I stayed with this job for several weeks, and then went back to Montana to try to figure things out.  Where was my life going?  I was a lost soul.  I was an 18 year old girl who had spent the last 9 years in a destructive cult.  I had no marketable skills. I could eat burnt toast for days in a row.  But, that wasn't going to get me very far.
Returning home to my mother, who was still 100% in line with the Community in Coeur d'Alene, was a mistake I soon realized.  Everything I did, she scrutinized.  I remember her asking me one time why I was taking so long in the bath.  I told her I was shaving my legs.  She shouted, "I am sure you didn't shave your legs in the convent!"  Um, no, Mom. In the convent, we braided the hair on our legs during recreation.  (Sarcasm here.)  Dad was working long hours at the Laundry/Convenience store that he co-owned.  I was sad that I didn't get to see him much.
I stayed with my parents for a bit, then returned to Idaho.
I landed with Carol, a friend who was originally from Kalispell.  She was a lot of fun.  I hadn't even been there more than a couple days when I was "summoned" to the convent by one of my good friends.  She was a year older than I was.  She had entered the year prior to me.  In fact, she is majorly responsible for me entering the convent in the first place.  She hounded me about the fact that I had a very big heart, and I should give it entirely to God, not try to split my love between God and a man.  Hmm.... but, I didn't WANT to be a nun.  So, here I am in early 1977, meeting her for a chat, I thought.  It turns out she pretty much had an ultimatum for me:  You aren't doing well out there on your own, so you either return to the convent or join the youth group for people who wanted to find a "mate" to marry for life.  Well, I didn't have to give that much thought.  In my mind, I was thinking of the guys that I knew of at that time who were part of the group.  Nope.  Not a single one was the least attractive to me in any way.  So, then and there, I said I would return to the convent.
She wasted no time setting things up for me.  (She was an excellent organizer and leader.  I wonder what she is doing these days.  She stayed for many years more than I, but eventually left as well.)   So, the following day, I reported back to her.  I had assumed, incorrectly, that I would be entering from the bottom level just like I did the first time.  Oh, no.... not!  She had it arranged for me to go and put on the whole habit just like I wore when I left.  I was horrified - but I had no recourse.  So, I went along - on the outside.  Inside, from that very first day, I was stewing, trying to figure out how in the world I was going to get out of there.  I remember that the day after I returned, one of the sisters walked with me to Carol's to get my suitcases.  Walking back down 3rd street, Sr. Laboure asked me if I was going to take vows in September.  I told her, "I'm not going to be here in September."  I will never forget it.  It felt so good to say it out loud!  I had no idea how I was going to get out.  I just knew that I would.  Little did I know what schuckardt had in mind for this lost soul.
At the point where I returned, I was no longer in school.  So, I worked around the convent.  I helped with putting out mailings written and directed by schuckardt.  I was so unhappy.  And then, just when I was adjusting to this mundane routine, my superior called me in.  She knew that I wanted to leave.  She had talked to schuckardt about it.  He had listened and decided that I had not yet experienced TRUE religious life.  So, under his direction, I was sent to the part of the convent called the cloister.  In the cloister, you get absolutely NO contact with the outside world at all.  You don't see your family for a year.  It is intense training in how to be a good nun - I guess.  I cried and cried.  All I wanted to do was leave.  I didn't know what I would do once I left, but I just wanted out.  The headaches returned with a vengeance.  I wanted out.  I was given 3 very large books to read on the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.   I never read them.  To condense this part of my blog, I will just tell you that it took me 3 months to get out.  Every fear tactic imaginable was put before me.  schuckardt went so far as to tell my superior that if I were to leave, I would surely lose my soul to hell.  The night before I left, we sat and watched the film "Anarchy USA".  It was terrifying, but I wasn't afraid anymore.  Not really.  My friend leaned over and asked me, "Are you prepared for that?"  The film depicted the race riots of the 1960's.  It was 1977!!  Yes, I was ready.  I had had enough.  I was a lost girl.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  But, I was no longer afraid.  I was intrepid.




Monday, March 19, 2018

Memories In The Habit

It is fascinating to me how events, memories from our past don't simply go away, no matter how much we wish they would.

It was dark when I got up this morning.  As I left the bedroom and headed down the steps, I remembered:  "It's a rule.  schuckardt said you cannot go down the steps without turning on the light."  I turned on the light.  I didn't turn it on because HE said I had to, but I turned it on so I could SEE!  And, then I got to thinking about all his rules.  SO.  MANY.  RULES.  Why?  If you look into cults and how its members are manipulated, BINGO!  It is only common sense to turn the light on when you go down steps in the dark.  But, by making it a rule, he controlled one more little aspect of our lives.  Sometimes, I am quite rebellious, even now, and I just hold onto the hand rail and go down without turning on a light!  I'll show him!

I didn't have a regular task that was assigned to me while in the convent in 1975 - 1976.  Occasionally, I would be asked to help out in the kitchen.  On one occasion, I was in the process of rinsing the lettuce for salad at lunchtime.  The big cheese, Reverend Mother, happened to come through the kitchen and noticed that I was running the lettuce under a small stream of water from the faucet.  She raised her voice and told me that I was wasting water.  Of course, when scolded, you were to get on your knees before them and take it and then apologize.
On another occasion, I was making garlic toast to go with dinner.  Since it was quite the task of getting dinner ready for so many nuns, I forgot about the garlic toast that was under the broiler.  It was only the matter of a minute or so, but it burned.  Again, the Reverend Mother came through just at that time and told me how wasteful I was being, and that I would eat nothing but that burnt toast till it was all gone.  That took me a few days.  On top of being punished like this, there was always the humiliation that went along with it.  Everyone could see that all I had to eat was burnt toast.  You didn't talk about it.  You just did it.  You deserved it.  I don't really remember feeling sorry for myself, because on any given day, it would be some other poor nun who "transgressed" and felt the wrath of the Reverend Mother.
There were others who were, shall I say, less compliant than I.  I won't mention any names.  I know they read my blog, and I absolutely love them.  I wonder why I was so full of fear, and they weren't. It wasn't until years down the road that I learned how some of them would sneak off into the garage, where all the goodies were stored, and have themselves a party.  I applaud them now.  What balls they had!  I was so terrified of doing one wrong thing and thus suffering for eternity in Hell.  You guys know who you are, and I just love your spirit.  If you are so inclined, share a few of your stories.  I would love it.
Someone asked me yesterday if I was still finding it helpful to write this blog.  I said yes.  Some of the memories stir up feelings of intense anger at the way we were treated.  Others make me smile at the friendships that were formed back then that have never been broken after all these years.  I am saddened to think of the cruelty some of my friends and fellow nuns endured by being subjected to humiliation and ridicule by their superiors.  And, when I am done, I am proud of how far I have come, and the woman that I am today.
It seems surreal that in a short while, Bernie and I will fly back east, join my sister and her husband, and board a cruise ship for a 12 day cruise out of Baltimore.  Back in the day, I would never live to see this phase of my life.  I was sure of it.  Not a doubt about it.  And, so, yeah, I get a little emotional at what a wonderful life I have had in spite of the experiences of life in a very crazy cult.