Who knew it is possible to be gently happy and at peace even in sadness and uncertainty? With each passing day taking me closer to the day when I might lose my job, I expected the pain within me to intensify to the point of bitter grief. Instead, here I am, filled to the brim with a strange sweetness, a pink and white nectar I’ve never known before. And not only am I sustained through the hours, I can even sense a silver brook tumble elfin bells within me.
Even as one life seems to be winding to its end, another has already begun. Towards the end of May this year, I finally admitted to myself that I was experiencing a deep burnout over work. Despite the changes I had made and the improved quality of life, it still wasn’t enough to shore up what was inevitably crumbling. Even though I could still handle work and do it well, something was clearly dying inside me. All the years of struggle and tyranny had taken its toll. I only wanted to stay on for financial reasons, nothing else mattered any more. Even then I wondered how long I’d hold out, because although money is important, it has never been a major motivation for me. When I reached breaking point, would money be enough to convince me to stay on?
At that point, everything that held me in place fast fraying, one Sunday in May found me musing about trying something, something different that would offer a respite from the intensity of life as it was then. If I couldn’t escape from my job, could I then build another world within it, a new world that would nourish and sustain me even as the old one drained me dry?
The minute I began to give it serious consideration, something was set in motion. Despite being filled with trepidation and doubt in myself, I applied to go back to school, fulfilling a dream I’ve long had. Even as fear and shame over my lack of abilities and past failures held me back many times, the moment I opened one door, it seemed as if unseen hands were gently pushing me from behind and tugging me forwards.
On and on, those unseen souls led me down one rutted path after another. Sometimes, overcome by fear, I would question my sanity in attempting something like this. If I could barely manage my job, how was I to study and work? Was this not the height of lunacy?
In response, yet another door would open. Keep your eyes on the Lord and move forward, St Margaret Mary said.
Just as the storms whipped around me more violently, the acceptance notification came on the Feast of St Teresa of Calcutta, to shine a light through the gathering darkness. And it was significant because 11 years ago, St Teresa had taken me on a journey through the book on her life, Come Be My Light. At the end of that journey 11 years ago, I understood what carrying our cross and following Jesus meant. While I fell many, many times since then, I know that those lessons St Teresa taught me have brought me to this point in time when light is somehow piercing this darkness. There are some days when I still I cry and rage at the world for the unfair hand it is dealing me and my family – but I cannot remain in the pit for long, for there are books to read and words to write, meetings to attend and thoughts to think.
Today, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, little bells are stirring in my spirit. Their light chimes lead me to forgive all who are hurting us. To ask for the grace of silence as I carry my cross as Jesus did.
And finally, to accept with humility and with generosity of giving, the will of my Jesus that sometimes we must suffer so that someone else is saved.