A few weeks ago now, I was blessed with the opportunity to go home to my Woods.
If you’ve been following me since before the big breakup, you know that I am very close with a group of Roman Catholic Women’s Religious, also known as Sisters (not nuns! Look up the difference!): the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods, located just outside of Terre Haute, Indiana. I have discerned with them, become an associate in the Providence Associate relationship program, lived in their novitiate house for many weekends, led retreats to their motherhouse in hopes of bringing more people to the woods, and even spent my MA comps summer working at their White Violet Center for Eco Justice. When I lived in Indiana, I would make trips to the Woods fairly frequently, but even during my first three years in Texas I made it home 1-2x per year. My trips to the Woods, along with most of the things I treasured in my life, were impacted and temporarily put on pause after the breakup and breakdown and my life falling apart.
I promised myself in the midst of the worst part of my depression last year that this year I would get home to my sisters for our annual meeting no matter what. My sisters and their love and prayers were a huge part of my recovery. My love for them was a huge part of my staying alive. I knew that I needed to get home as soon as possible and I’m so grateful it actually happened. That I ended up spending this summer in Cincinnati—only three hours from my beloved woods instead of the 14 from Texas—was purely Providential. That this year we received enough donations for the PAs to offer a scholarship for associates to come home was also Providential and a huge blessing, as I could never have come home without it. Gary’s becoming a service dog sealed the deal because I knew with him, I could make it through if things became painful or triggering, given that my last two trips home were with her.
When I drove onto campus, I felt a combination of relief and anxiety, thinking about the fact that some of these people had seen the darkest part of my breakdown take place. Yet, as soon as I walked into La Fer hall and ran right into my friend, Mel, everything but joy emptied itself from my body. Pure, complete joy. I went through the check in process, greeted by my dear Peggy, and took my stuff up to my room after chatting with even more friends. It was in some ways like I had never left and in other ways like I had been gone for a millenia. It was strange to see my friends with more grey in their hair, and sad to note the absence of dear ones whose celebrations of life I had missed when so far away. But overall, I was hit over and over with waves of relief, contentment, and love. I was truly home.
Over the weekend, I got to spend time with people very dear to me, though not enough time to be sure. I ended up sleeping through almost every social event, my body suddenly so relaxed and my mind so at peace that I could sleep in a way I haven’t in a long, long time. I missed out on spending time with my closest, dearest sisters because they were busy and I was busy and sleeping and overwhelmed. But still, the peace at being in meetings and looking around and seeing so many people I love so much—it’s something I haven’t had in a long time. Lately in Denton I’ve been surrounded by so much toxicity that this space of love and generosity and non-violence was just so much sweeter than I even remembered. During my time there, I suddenly felt more myself, more alive, and more happy than I have since January 1, 2017. It was a pure gift.
It’s only been a few weeks since my weekend at the woods, but it already feels like a lifetime. There’s a lot of work to do here in Ohio and I’m behind—simply because there really was never enough time to begin with. I’m blessed with a compassionate community of support here—the wonderful doctor, my dear roommate, and several kind and loving patients and workers that I spend time with at the office. The work I’m doing here is complicated—there is the literal work I’m doing for Doc, then there is the physical work being done to my body both through treatments and my (often failing) own job of being active and eating clean. Then, there is the much harder work of my emotional-mental-spiritual-self work, including using new techniques for processing false beliefs. In addition, I’m working on growing my Etsy shop, in the process of starting my own LLC, taking classes to become a life coach, and researching for my dissertation. Life is full and complicated and the ongoing transition that my body and soul are experiencing causes some discomfort and anxiety. But I’m okay and I’m surrounded by love—both from the people here and my sisters and fellow associates at the Woods. For right now, that is more than enough.