My Happy Place

I’m not becoming a nun.


After months – years, even – of prayer and discernment, I’ve decided I just can’t. Rather than rejoice at the prospect of becoming a religious, I cry upon thinking of the many treasures I’d have to abandon. Earthly treasures, yes…but treasures I believe God’s happy to bestow upon me.


Treasures I believe He’d be saddened were I not to accept them.


If anything, I think my discernment of religious life was meant to wake me up, snap me out of the trance I’ve been living in. Not so long ago, I was lax about God, romance and goals, as though I had the rest of my life to tend to them. I don’t, though. My mind’s many trips into the convent – where I felt imprisoned, barred from life’s possibilities – made this evident.


I need to be free – free to love God, a good man, others.


While thoughts of the convent made me cry, thoughts of another place made me smile, as it always has. On Lake Oneida in Upstate New York sits a tiny, cracker box of a house owned by my Aunt Alyce. It’s nothing fancy – just four walls with a tiny kitchen, living area, and two bedrooms – but to me, it might as well be a palace. Were I to become a nun, I could never revisit this setting to my childhood, and the thought of this breaks my heart.


Yet another reason to remain in the world.


I visit every couple years or so, but I know this haven is only a mind’s throw away. If I concentrate hard enough, I can actually smell the lake’s seaweed – mossy, nasty…wonderful. It gets tangled between my toes as I stand upon the shore rocks, coated with slime. To the left and right of me are Tiger Lilies, as far as the eye can see. Their orange petals are opened wide, embracing the sun’s rays, but I know as soon as evening hits, they’ll tuck themselves in for bed.


From the dock, I gauge the lake’s distance to the opposite shore. It appears no further than a mile, but looks are deceiving. I know this, because my cousin and I tried swimming the expanse when we were kids. We lasted about fifty strokes before running out of steam. It’s still beautiful to look at, though. With the sun overhead, it appears no different than a murky, green blanket studded with a billion diamonds.


Screams fill the air as my cousins throw one another into the lake, clothes and all. We would be mad, but there’s too much joy for that. In this place, problems don’t exist, and cares blow away with the warm, July breeze.


This is a happy place…my happy place.


My aunts are in the kitchen, where they’re preparing a smorgasbord of food. Ham, potato salad; hotdogs; hamburgers; buns for both; macaroni-and-cheese; salad (for fair measure); watermelon; an assortment of cookies…it’s enough to feed an army. And considering the number of kids and teenage boys present, it might as well be.


We fill our plates to the brim, seat ourselves at the picnic table, shovel in the food and talk with our mouths open. So what if it’s rude. Nobody cares, here. We’re all family – a cohesive unit buzzing off of the love for one another. The portable radio is set to the oldies station, where Mick Jagger declares he’s “the tumblin’ dice,” and the Doobie Brothers insist we “listen to the music.” But we barely listen; it’s only background noise.


It can’t compete with the melody of our laughter.


The paper plates pile up, and Uncle Donald starts the fire that will become their final resting place. Why do dishes if you don’t have to, right? As day turns into night, the flames of this fire will replace the sun in the sky. We will sit around it; stare into its orange magnificence while continuing our chatter. Relationships, work, problems…no topic is off limits. But we never lament; this isn’t the time or place for that. This is a moment to rejoice in – for receiving the love and strength necessary to face tomorrow.


Should we need more love and strength, we know it’s there.


And it is for this reason – this insurmountable joy – that I cannot become a nun. I know this joy exists, and I know exactly where to find it. I thank God for reminding me of this, for blessing me with these memories and the family which created them. I thank Him for the lake and its brilliance, the Tiger Lilies, the scent of seaweed, and Mick Jagger. I thank Him for rekindling the flame of passion in my heart…


For reminding me of how beautiful life can be.


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Brown_Eyed_Girl
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"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." - Cyril Connolly
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Published Date
2/14/2011 12:00:00 AM
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