Monday, July 9, 2012
My French Nun Period...Revisited
Back in days of old, a woman could enter a French convent without becoming a nun. Perhaps there was too much tragedy in her life, or she wanted away from a terrible marriage, or sometimes women were sent to convents by husbands, brothers, fathers, just to be rid of them. Girls were educated in convents, usually with the understanding that when they were old enough, they would take their holy orders. I suppose in modern terms, a woman would consider being cloistered behind the walls of a convent like being on retreat, retiring to a place of solitude for quiet contemplation.
After my heart was broken and cast aside by Toxic Guy, I went into what is known amongst my family and friends as my French Nunnery Period--later shortened to just French Nun. I didn't go all religious or biblical, certainly wasn't born again--once is enough, thanks--but I did swear off men and relationships. The Sisters of the Broken-Hearted was born, becoming my cerebral convent. I was the only member until a year later, when Jan (BFF) joined after her husband ran off with--well, that's not my story to tell.
Belonging to the convent didn't mean I stopped having fun. I went to concerts, danced with wild abandon at clubs and parties, traveled, had adventures, loved my job, drove a flashy car. I had everything, except a man. And I was so fine with that. I did whatever I wanted, when I wanted. It was one of the best times of my life. The freedom was just empowering. I learned so many things, about the world, and my part in it. And I had time for thoughtful contemplation, and uninterrupted solitude when I needed it.
I only broke my vow once during those years. Yes. You heard me right. Years. I was in my French Nun Period for over three. It sounds weird, unbelievable even, for a hot-blooded woman to abstain for that long, but it took that much time for my heart to truly begin to mend--plus I just wasn't interested in the bullshit involved in being with a guy.
About two years in, out with friends one Friday night at our favorite club in lower Queen Anne (Seattle), I met this guy from England. He was taking a year off work to see the world and had already been to Iceland, Greenland, up and down the entire eastern seaboard, across the whole of America. After Seattle he was headed south to San Francisco, then Los Angeles, and on to Australia.
He was funny, sweet, looked like Sting, and was leaving on Monday. Perfect. We spent the weekend together, he stayed at my place, we explored the length and breadth of Seattle, laughed until we were nearly unconscious, ate great food, drank bottles of wine, and sinned blissfully. Monday I took him to the airport. If I was going to fall from grace, I couldn't have picked a better guy.
More time rolls by, and by an accident of fate, or maybe I was just finally ready, I meet the Music Man. I left the convent shortly thereafter. Jan followed on my heels about six months later with the Music Man's best friend, and the convent closed its doors forever.
Until, it seems, this past weekend.
Becoming a widow was not something I ever imagined; it just never entered my head. I mean, come on, I'm not old enough to be a widow, this was totally not part of the plan, and I'm having to learn as I go, find my way, hope for the best.
So. My neighbors invite me out for a big event last weekend. American Graffiti, with the old cars, and the music, and beers and burgers. A week ago, I agreed to go; it sounded fun, and man, I haven't had any real fun for a very long time.
I'm eating my lunch Saturday afternoon and realize I can't go. I don't want to go. I wish I'd never agreed to go. This is the last thing in the world I want to do. Fuck! How am I going to get out of this? I stew for an hour or so, try to talk myself into going anyway, but in the end I call my neighbor and beg off. Then I beat myself up for the rest of the day for bailing. I can't complain about not having any fun if I don't step out there and grab some, can I??
Sunday is the BFF phone call. I tell Jan about the invite and the bail. Never one to judge, she says--and I can almost see her shrug--"So you didn't go. It's no big deal. You're just not ready."
"But what if I'm never ready?"
She laughs, then says, "You know, I was the last one out of the building. I still have the key."
Confused. "What?" Did I miss part of the conversation?
"The key to the convent. Hey, you did it once, you can do it again. Your French Nun Period was epic, and when the time is right to move forward, you'll know it, there won't be any hesitating or bailing or waffling. You'll just step out there without giving it a thought."
"I don't have to think. I know you." Before I could reply, she said, "Close your eyes, I'm sending you the key. You'll feel better with those convent walls around you, at least for right now."
I haven't thought about the convent in years. I smiled. And closed my eyes, picturing the key: it was a skeleton, old, heavy, ornate and a bit rusty, hard to wiggle into the keyhole of the massive wooden door, until with a screech of metal, the key turned, the door opened, and I took a deep breath of cool stone and sweet incense.
And Jan was right. It does feel good to have the convent walls around me again. At least for right now.