“In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” ~ Albert Camus
Sister Alberta Marie said, “Stop daydreaming, you have much to accomplish, and you will need your wits about you.” I was only eight years old and had no idea what that meant, let alone if I even had any “wits”. Much later I would remember that statement. Slogging along under a strict, totalitarian, religious regime was not easy for a curious, imaginative, visionary thinker. Too many questions to ask, and too little in the way of knowledgeable, willing responses. I couldn’t figure it out. Were they dumb, and didn’t know the anwers? Maybe they didn’t like me? Where could I find the answers? Wait! What if there are no answers, only reasonable questions?
So, I asked Sister Marguerite Mary, “How come you aren’t the priest? You seem to like the tasks he performs, and you certainly are more pleasant than Father David.” That seemed to get an instant, angry reply and a trip to the dark coat closet for lunch time, with no lunch. It was scary, and effective. Even though dissuaded from asking any more probing questions that day, there was another day and another conundrum to be explored.
At that time, the realization that religion and spirituality were worlds apart was eons away. Though it never strayed from my unconscious mind, my conscious mind knew that some boundaries were too volatile to cross. The idea that god could be boxed up in a specific spot in one’s heart did not compute for me even as a small child. The rational, intelligent me heard and understood the “us” and “them”; but the deeper soul me didn’t get it at all. Lots of superfluous rules and regulations that god had ordered just didn’t seem right! How could god love me and want me to be a good person, but that meant I couldn’t play with or talk to the protestant kids up the street; or stop and talk with the beautiful dark skinned “foreigners” in the city; or go out with boys from another faith; or choose to teach the “heathen” immigrants.But the contract breaker was when I was directed not to see or visit my best friend jude. She was the funniest, coolest, most generous person I ever knew. I loved her unconditionally, and she loved me the same……and she was jewish! Imagine my frustration when suddenly this religious path I had been tracking, dared to bann me from the one person in the world I could count on. Never mind that I had been learning hebrew words, was part of shabbat, and loved the challah bread mama ruth made every week. The heartfelt rituals with many glowing candles, and solemnity, intrigued me. So, is this god different from “our” god? Didn’t appear so. What’s the big deal? It was incomprehensible I couldn’t get my mind around it. I would never give up my friendship with jude………..
Fast forward twenty years or so. I realize what a gift jude was in my life, as were the teaching sisters of NotreDame. They spurred me to follow my heart. Ask probing questions. Accept love as the powerful force for change that it is, and always listen to that still, small voice within—the goddess who is me.
The ultimate outcome for me is indeed an awakening, opening, acceptance of all that is god/dess. The evolution of soul is timeless, and time consuming. My understanding, and willingness to embrace all that is, and can be; letting go control of all that is not mine; staying fully present, and savoring each moment. And finally, releasing all the fear and anger that does not serve me. Where fear and anger live, love struggles to abide. As Marianne Wilson so eloquently speaks, “If you give your life as a wholehearted response to love, then love will wholeheartedly respond to you.”
Lolly O’Dea Polvinale is a writer/editor, and a massage therapist; both for over 20 years. She has spent the last number of years creating and presenting seminars and “playshops” for Stress Management, Energetic Body Healing, Breathwork, Spirit and Creativity, Croning, StoryTelling and Labyrinth Design and Building.