Some would say I’m an old soul.
I have always felt a little out of place in this world, more of an observer than a participator. An intent listener, selective with my words. Conversations usually sputter and die in the shallow waters of pleasantries. I literally feel a weight in my chest as conversations dry up. It’s a thirst quenching occasion, indeed, when one ventures into deeper waters, to contemplate and explore the secrets of the universe with me. I feel invigorated after these immersing communions.
“What is life?” As a child, this question haunted me in the night as I lay staring, listening to the wind, shadows and moonlight fighting for my allegiance. I don’t remember when my late night musings turned to prayers, I must have been 5 or 6 years old. “If you’re there God, if you are real, give me a sign. Make that reflection on the wall flicker three times”…it never did. Such are the ways of childish prayers.
I liked going to Sunday School.
My Dad would drop my sister and I off every Sunday morning.
I enjoyed singing the songs with the curious words I never heard spoken at home. I liked the way my dime clinked in the offering plate as it passed by. When the Reverend dismissed the children for Sunday School, I always wondered what mysteries I was missing out on. The longing look in my sister’s eyes, as she headed to Catechism, made me feel curiously homesick. I’d picture her sitting at her desk, alone, in our bedroom, frustration etched with tears running down her face, dutifully trying to memorize long answers to lofty questions about God.
After church, we waited with growling stomachs for Dad to pick us up. I passed the time in guilty amusement, sneaking peeks at the Reverend in his flowing, black and white robe, the smoke of his cigarette anointing the exiting Parishioners. The ride home always seemed longer than our stomachs could endure. The fragrant aroma of French toast and bacon were the first to greet us, followed by our Mom and little brother. My heart is filled with wistful, cherished memories of those Sunday brunches with my family.
I have vague recollections of truths learned, the few years I attended Sunday School. My teacher said, “Never pray, ‘…if you will do this God…’ or ‘…I hope you can do this God…,’ that shows a lack of faith in God’s greatness.” It would be many years before I understood the truth of these words. I was most excited for church at Easter and Christmas time. I loved the unfamiliar contentment I felt, my siblings and I wedged between Mom and Dad, dressed in our finest, as we joined in singing familiar holiday hymns. All three of us children were baptized on Easter Sunday, I was eight years old. We stopped going to church after that. My prayers faded back to musings.
I was twelve when my parents divorced. There are some memories I wish I could go back in time and change…even now, after all these years. I was bitter through most of my teen years, my revenge displaying itself in distance and silence. That sounds so calloused; divorce has a tendency to do that to a young heart. Inside I was hurt, disillusioned, numb. Why couldn’t my parents see past their own hardened hearts and into the broken hearts of their children? It took many years to find compassion and empathy for what they did to us. I understand now. I forgive them.
Along with divorce came freedom, and far too much for a teenager. Mom had no choice, she had to go back to work. She was single again after being married sixteen years, only 34…and beautiful. My older sister tried to fill the void; I resented her for that. My friends became my world: life was a party. I experimented with drugs and boys. I loved what we now refer to as “70’s Rock.” I’d listen to and contemplate their lyrics for hours, searching for some secret code of meaning not comprehended by my hazy-brained peers. I felt like I didn’t belong, like I was on the other side of a window, looking in.
I didn’t like what I saw on the other side. Every now and then, a beckoning light would cast my own reflection onto the window and I would stare into glazed eyes wondering, “What is life?”. I couldn’t ignore the darkness of my own soul any longer. Musings became prayers, again.
I love to be alone with my thoughts and books. But, I was never a loner. My chest of treasured family and friends has grown rich through the years. I have much to be thankful for in this life. God’s call is mysterious. I kicked and screamed and questioned the call…God always wins, I’m thankful He does. Saint Augustine said, “You have made us, O Lord, for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” I have now been resting in God’s cleansing love and grace for 34 years. I will save those stories, with all their joys and messiness, for another day.
About twenty years ago, as I was flipping to the next month on an inspirational calendar, my eyes were drawn to a quote. My breath hitched, a torch was lit. I had an epiphany as I read: “There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.” ~William Makepeace Thackeray (how fitting is his middle name). I prayed, and I knew from that moment that being a writer was in my veins and in my future. The words and musings in my head would have an audience someday. Starting, today.