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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Unveiled: Why I left. When should you?


"We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can 
- namely, surrender our will and fulfill God's will in us."
~St. Teresa of Avila


When first asked by my friend Vishnu to write about the second phase of my life (transition from convent life to the world outside), I was a bit hesitant to share. I needed to find ‘peace’ within me in order to do that. 

If you read my journey to the religious life previously, Unveiled: My Life and Lessons as a Nun, you know my faith journey and spiritual life lessons. Today, I want to share with you why I left my old life as a “nun.”

Why I entered

I received my dispensation of vows from Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

Nobody dared ask me this personally but relatives, friends and neighbours went to talk to my mom when they all saw me ‘without’ the habit.

To explain why I left, you must know why I entered the convent in the first place.

I was filled with idealism and concepts of God, vocation to love, service and what religious life is all about ~ but it entails much much more than that since what should be formed first and foremost is the heart.

I had chosen the Franciscan road out of romantic notions of poverty, devoid of knowledge of community life.

Finally, I realized that I had entered religious life not to serve God, but to hide from myself.

I was challenged and confused with my personal relationships. I feared work life and
had apprehension over my career. My poor self-esteem was exposed and  I doubted my ability to survive in my community.

The pressures great, the choices unlimited.  

An escape was necessary.

Why I left

It’s hard to admit this now to you but I left my life to escape from my world as I knew it.

Sadly, to escape from myself.

Instead of staying to work through my life’s dilemmas, choices and relationships, I thought I would find comfort and freedom in the religious order. I wrongly believed the convent would liberate me from the struggles of my daily life.

Over some time, I came to realize that I was carrying myself, not Jesus, in the mission field. I slowly came to terms with why I had entered and why I must leave despite the disappointment and pain I would cause to those dearest to me.

I realized that the journey to holiness is a grace that needs our cooperation. And in my case, cooperation to fulfill God’s plan was outside religious life.

I realized that I need not force myself into doing something that is contrary to my happiness.

As my spiritual companion puts it, the Lord wants our happiness whether that be with Him as a religious or outside as a lay.

When should you leave

It doesn’t matter what situation you find yourself in life. You may find yourself in circumstances which no longer serve you.

You may have your awakening
[earthquake and crisis] at the most inconvenient times. God may be telling you to move on. To leave the structures.

With my story as the backdrop, I share with you 5 signs you should know when it’s time for you to leave behind your vocation, your dream, your relationship, your fear, your insecurities.

1.     When you feel the need to be true to yourself.

I realized that I had been afraid of other people, especially the opposite sex. Afraid of relationships, afraid of heartbreak and afraid of the pain which came when relationships evolved.
 
You will find that hiding behind the veil of what you’re afraid might be scary and unpleasant but you still have to let go. If you decided to let go, you evolve through the pain and change and come out stronger. 

If you face your fears, you might find pain, but you'll also find your strength.

It is a very humbling and liberating experience to accept the truth.

Once you decide to be true to yourself, you'll no longer compromise your mental health or emotional well-being. Your heart [desire] and mind [will] will be aligned.

2. When you need to face your fears. 

One of the main reasons, I did not decide on leaving immediately was fear ~ of the future. How would I fare outside? I was already in my thirties and I felt inadequate.

Since I have been out now for some time, I can assure you that with God’s guidance, all will turn out well for you. Your worst fears won’t materialize.

You might stumble and take some time to stand on your feet but you will stand. You will find new opportunities, more suitable employment, more fitting partners.

3.    When you need to confront the unknown. 

There are two roads one follows in decision making:The road to trust the process that will lead to discovery and reality or the road back to despair and dependency.  

I constantly chose certainty which led to despair. It took me several months more to finally tell my superiors that I wish to leave the religious life.

While no one likes what the unknown may offer, the unknown is filled with possibility and will allow you to live your essence, your true self.

4.    When you need to stand up for your life.

I didn’t wish to take full responsibility so I waited for my superiors to decide but that did not happen. The decision, despite the presence of a spiritual guide, was mine to take. 


Life will not give you the easy way out. You will have to choose affirmatively to change your situation. You might have to do something you’ve never done before; take responsibility for your choices and decisions.

You may have to turn back on your culture or your family. You may have to turn back to everything you know but in the process, you will become who you were meant to be.

5.    The need to grow. 

I wish I had this mind when I entered and I wish I had removed the blocks as easily as I do now. At the time of entering the convent and for most of my time there, I feared coming to terms with the reality that I wasn’t meant to be there. I was fearful of my true intentions because my true intentions would have forced me to leave.

You may have a nagging feeling about what you should do in life but you have to do it when the time is right for you.

When you decide to leave what no longer serves you, you have gone through the process of coming to take that big step. That act of faith and the readiness to act is growth.

Growth is nothing but God’s grace along your journey for self-understanding and awareness.


My life began anew when I left the convent. While I had entered the convent for all the wrong reasons, I know I left for all the right ones. Inside, I was hiding from myself and Christ. Outside, I was ready to be who I truly am and give myself completely to Him.

I have learned to see Christ everywhere. I could still love Him here outside through the people I meet in my workplace and in the streets.

I have let go of the habit but not the heart of a missionary for which I will always be.

I return all the blessings and graces I receive each and everyday ~ new insights and learnings ~ to God.

Leaving is never easy when you have so much uncertainty and fear to face but it is the path we must travel through to live our divine purpose.  

What must you do today? What are you ready to leave behind? Where must you go? 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Word of Hope for World Suicide Prevention Day 2013



I write this on behalf of friends who, for years, have waited for me to break my silence over  depression (my own, several years ago) and the suicide and death of a friend whom I cared for so much. 

April 2012, Holy Thursday, while the Last Supper and Washing of the Feet was being re-enacted, I looked at the altar of our church. Four years before that, a man shot himself in front of that altar ~ the church was desecrated and was closed for several weeks.

I was in N. Africa when that incident happened and most of the stories in our place were recounted by my mother. I 'knew' how my mom 'felt' when I asked her about it.

That very night, I received several calls from India, but every time I took them, they dropped instantly that I had to wait early the next day to find out what happened. I knew it was an emergency call. I opened my FB and was greeted by several messages from **'s daughter telling me to pick up the phone. I wrote her back and told her the lines were not functioning well. I communicated with ** through email and she told me our soul sister died ~ how? She committed suicide...


The incident was caught on tv and another soul friend saw it. I asked two friends living in different parts of India to confirm the news but they have not heard of it. I didn't wish to spend Good Friday on the net but I stayed because several people started asking me why there's RIP posted on my friend's Facebook page.  Another good friend asked us not to sensationalize the news and  warned me to be careful in case an investigation starts. 

I, admittedly, lost a bit of my peace. For five full days, I was wide awake.


Depression  
While reading the theme on this year's World Suicide Prevention Day, my reflections revolved around the suffering of a mental illness ~ depression ~ as a factor in committing suicide.

1) I was not aware my friend was suffering from depression nor was I aware that she took anti-depressants. In all our conversations, I found strength in her words especially knowing that she took care of her little daughter ~ she never verbalized plans of doing this.

2) Yes, she had problems which she openly shared with us, but we didn't know that these problems affected her so much that she'd take her own life. 

I felt a turmoil inside ~ it disturbed me much that I was with her all the time and yet I really never knew what bothered her and 'why.'

Was I so self-absorbed with Sam's loss that I was never able to truly listen to her? In fact, it was she who was consoling me around that time.

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Flashback a little more, in 2007 and 2008: I had depression at the last months I was in the convent.  

It is true what is written in the 'brochure' ~ 'knowledge is NOT enough to combat stigma." Negative attitudes do not help neither...

For the most part, it was 'fear,' lack of knowledge, negative attitude that prevented some sisters to understand what I underwent. For some, it was a locked idea on me 'acting it up' so I would have a good reason to leave.

I have given up to despair ~ for me, it was time to cease being strong. I need 'other people.'

For your information:

1) Depression doesn't happen in a day ~ it's a period of six months. ADL(Activities of Daily Living) cease. Chemical imbalance occurs and delusion happens.

2) With the delusions are suicide ideations. *I understood from this point, that my friend had been suffering for a time and found no way out.

3) Consult a psychiatrist not a psychologist in cases of depression. Medicines are needed to correct the imbalances that occur. *Usually, the person appears hyper in the evening and couldn't sleep. 

4) Stay with the person. Be really patient. *I'm sorry but I have not found this in my former community. It was only my mom who was extremely patient with me. I remember shouting at Belle, who was just around 4 at that time, to stay away from me but she never left me. My mom knew that I couldn't resist being with kids and she thought Belle could reach out. *She did and I am forever grateful to my niece.

------
But aside from all these medical help, I found healing in love.

The stigma was there: going to a shrink, visiting a psychiatrist, taking meds ~ I felt unloveable at that time. I felt unworthy, I couldn't work at that period ~ I thank God for my parents who were really there for me. *I remember they'd let me sleep with them. My mom would hug me often. She's a real saint.

Grace found me and it allowed me to experience God in a real way. It took me several years to be converted but that earthquake ~ crisis moment ~ provided me much strength and hope to walk through this life again.

*I prayed had my friend waited* ~ if all those who died this way ~ just waited...  
Crisis is an opportunity to grow.

At this point, it would also be good to raise the question of funds and projects in the government to help in this area. If we just take a look around, there are many suffering from this and money is needed to sustain medical assistance for a person to fully recuperate.

In our families and communities, our own friends ~ give time and 'listen' to what is not being said ~ to what appears to be invisible. 

And for those who feel faint hearted and weak ~ Coraggio! (Courage) ~ you are never alone in your struggles. 

Choose life! 

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I would like to thank my BS (Beautiful Soul), Corinne Rodrigues
who has invited me to write about this. She has been one of my pillars of strength. Forever grateful!

You may check out the other links on World Suicide Prevention Day 2013 at Write Tribe.

I would also like to thank Casey Bee whose blog has been a great platform for those undergoing grief. Thank you Casey for journeying with me.


We offer our soul sister's soul to Jesus and His Divine Mercy 
May she rest in peace.
And we pray for her family.