Remodeling of the Soul
Construction and design. Growing up I lived in homes where my father created plans and built things. He remodeled kitchens and bathrooms and a whole second floor in Duxbury. My brother and I found our way through sawdust and power tools watching my dad begin countless home improvement projects. In this vintage photograph of my father’s, the cabinet doors have been removed. I see it as a metaphor for my adult life. Bare-boned transparency. The rawness of our authentic selves, showing what we keep, what sustains us—food, cookery and utensils, but also the mishmash of items we have carried with us from other times and other regions.
When we take our doors off, removing our armor, the protective layer we’ve curated that lies between us and the world, it can be startling. For me, my doors were ripped off while I slept in my late teen years. When my boyfriend died suddenly, the world I thought I knew vanished. I was left to sort out the items of myself, reaching into the cabinet of my soul, trying to grasp something solid. A couple of days before John’s funeral, I found myself at St. Mary’s Church in Quincy, searching for sanctuary. This was my church as a young girl, a place where I connected with the divine Mother and my Nana. Broken in pieces I made my way to the small chapel located on the side of the church. I eased into a pew and kneeled to pray. I fished out my Nana’s rosary beads from my pocket and held them with shaky hands. With my eyes closed, tears streamed down my cheeks. I felt utterly lost, abandoned and now defeated, as I realized I hadn’t remembered how to pray the rosery. Frozen in place, I surrendered.
In the quiet of the sanctuary, I heard the movement of shuffling feet and pages being turned. A man’s voice cut through the haze of my despair. His cadence was measured and soothing and after a few seconds I realized his prayer was an answer to mine. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…” and the prayer ended and began over and over. He was reciting the Rosary. I sat back on to the bench and cupped my face in my hands and wept. I was no longer lost; I had been found. In the mystery of her grace, I was lifted. I didn’t understand “why” or even how I was going to move beyond this excruciating pain, but I knew I wasn’t alone. In the valley of shadows, I danced intimately with death and life, while seeking answers. In an instant, I had lost John and my innocence. It shattered the illusions of my youth and as I swept up the shards of what was left, I stood at a crossroads. It is as clear to me now, as it was then. I could choose to lose myself in the party scene, to numb out and run from the pain, or to heal. I chose the latter. The search for spiritual connection and community landed me in nearly every Christian-based religion over the next year. I engaged in psychotherapy and after a time was introduced to Al-Anon, as my family had a long history of alcoholism and the man I currently was dating was in recovery. It was in the halls of Al-Anon where I felt at home. The twelve steps gave me a blueprint for living and the fellowship was warm and supportive.
Over the years I have initiated my own remodeling. I removed doors, dusted things off and took an inventory of what was inside. Sometimes it was a clearing and other times I have taken it down to the studs. There have been moments when I dragged my feet, ignored and even abandoned myself, but even when I chose the detours, I felt the presence of spirit. I knew I wasn’t alone. I also knew, the power to change rested in my hands and heart. I could wrestle in my discontent or step onto the path of healing. When I became willing, I became teachable. The lesson emerged and mentors materialized out of thin air. The mystery continues to hold me close, showing me the passageway to self-love and acceptance.
I have utilized many spiritual modalities to heal and expand my awareness. I am grateful for the foundation and spiritual freedom the halls of the twelve steps gave me early on in my journey. Today, I practice meditation, yoga and writing as a way to connect with God. Devotions and prayers along with rituals keep me grounded in faith. Being aligned with Mother Nature, finding the flow of the natural world and offering my deep appreciation to her is a daily reminder that I am encircled and held by all that is. At times I over-analysis or get caught up in the “earth-bound-bullshit,” of being human. But I have a spiritual toolbox and if I choose, I can always course correct. In the ebb and flow of life it is expected to have moments where I flounder. Moments where I am brought to my knees. It’s just part of it. As I allow myself to step into the light where trust and mercy reign, I am surrounded by peace.
May we all feel the presence of something greater than ourselves and find the internal sanctuary of light which resides within each one of us.