Thursday, 19 February 2015

Journey

I spent the last couple of days checking the proofs for the new edition of my novel The Hardest Thing To Do.

In every book, I try to write from a live place in myself, so that the struggles and insights feel honest and real – because they are! In fiction particularly I work through challenges and perplexities in my own life, trusting that human beings are similar enough for the result to strike a chord with readers.

I wrote The Hardest Thing To Do during 2009/2010, when I had some huge things to resolve. Reading the proofs yesterday, I came upon this passage (Brother Tom confiding in Brother Theodore):

“What can I do with all this old bitterness? I can’t see how to turn it into something different. And inside a man, the living soul, it’s like a cistern, a kind of closed reservoir with no outlet. What way is there for it to drain away? It just seems to stay in there, stewing and fermenting and not getting any less. How can I get rid of it? What am I to do?”

Those words came out of my own heart and situation – they were my conundrum as well as Brother Tom’s. Reading them again yesterday, five or six years on, I realized that for me those issues are now resolved. It has indeed taken all that time – only in this last year have the accretions of stuck-on trauma been soaked away, so that the past can be the past, no longer alive in me, something in which I have simply lost interest.

Yesterday, too, a friend on Facebook wrote a post in which the subject matter stirred old feelings – yearnings that used to fret away at me stealing peace. I wrote a comment tugging and picking at the issue: ‘How can I . . . ? What should I . . . ? What would happen if . . . ? I hesitated about posting it on my friend’s page, as it was long! One shouldn’t elbow into another person’s space. I contemplated posting it on my own page, tagged to my friend. I contemplated sending it as a private message. While mulling these things over, I began to wonder, what outcome am I actually hoping for? What do I want to come of this? And I realized – nothing; I don’t want anything out of this. It’s just going one more time around a well-trodden rutted muddy track. I know where it goes, I’ve been there before. And now my journey lies in a different direction. I don’t want to get mixed up in this any more.

It surprised me and made me happy that this response had no hurt or rancour, no sharpness or soreness – I didn’t feel alienated or bereaved by the loss of old landscapes and territories of the soul. Just that those days were over now; once it was me, now it’s not.

Navel-gazing apart, I want to say this to you just because it takes so long. In 1998 the troubles began in my life that now, in 2015, I can honestly feel have lost all power and interest. Seventeen years of my life have been given to the struggle and pain of working through the trauma and woundedness set in train back then.

So I want to say to you, please do not despair. I know some of you who read here are walking stony roads, coping with hard, knotty difficulties you can see no way out of. Life circumstances that go on and on, only getting compounded by the trauma and chronic pain – sometimes physical as well as soul-pain – that gets added to the original problems, escalating and consolidating it all. Please do not despair. There have been times when I thought I would never work through the original hurts and the ongoing legacy, like compound interest, that accumulated as a result. But I have.

I am, in all sorts of ways, not the same person as I was back then. Never capable of evaluating myself very accurately, I can’t tell if I’m nicer now, or less nice, or just more boring. But this I know: it feels quiet inside the temple of my soul. Peaceful and full of sunlight. Empty and calm. All the rubble and trash, the tracked-in filth and muck, the smoke and soot and flood-damage, have been rinsed away. The people who brought them are no longer part of my life. They no longer interest me – though I do still keep them in my prayers.

 And there have been occasions between 1998 and now, when I was consumed by terror and hopelessness, when I could see no way forward. There have also been times toward the end of the process when I kind of missed all the trauma – when the blankness left by its absence felt eerie and flat. As though I had died inside. A winter of sorts. But I love my life now.

This is my prayer for you, who read here:
Whatever life is offering you or asking of you, may you have the courage and patience to go on working through. May you have the perseverance and persistence, the hope and faith, to complete what is necessary for peace and light to flood your inner domain. May grace guide you and watch over you. May you learn the lessons that are yours and leave behind what belongs to others. May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free. May you become so spacious and generous that kindness is the hallmark of your life; and may the love that will make your days sweet surely find you. May you be at home in your own soul. May the truth of who you are flourish and prosper. May you be provided for. May you arrive home in peace.

If you want to, you could appropriate that prayer by saying it through like this:
May I have the courage and patience to go on working through what life is offering me and asking of me. May I have the perseverance and persistence, the hope and faith, to complete what is necessary for peace and light to flood my inner domain. May grace guide me and watch over me. May I learn the lessons that are mine and leave behind what belongs to others. May I be happy. May I be well. May I be free. May I become so spacious and generous that kindness is the hallmark of my life; and may the love that will make my days sweet surely find me. May I be at home in my own soul. May the truth of who I am flourish and prosper. May I be provided for. May I arrive home in peace.    Amen.




29 comments:

Gerry Snape said...

I have a word to describe where I want to arrive....
Homeness....we too were shaken out of our comfort in the late 90s and all dreams had to be put on hold. For time to regular time I felt so bitter...yet no one except God to blame...this last 12 months I've taken this word on board....homeness ..I'm a very different person now from that rather complacent woman in 1998.... Thankyou again .

Anonymous said...

Oh Pen

Thank you so much for this post. I'm sure that all our lovely friends who meet up at this blog, will feel the same as me and want to use your prayer at the start of each and every day.

God bless
Stella x

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

gretchen said...

thank you, pen, for this lovely post. blessed and holy lent to you!

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Thank you for this!
Wishing you a blessed and profitable Lenten season.

Sandrajay said...

Dear pen, Thank you so much for this post and thank you for giving me word to speak what is in my heart. Lately I have struggled with prayer...I reach for the words that used to come easily and they are not there no matter how intently I reach for them. Again, thank you and bless you.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

Today I have prayed for you, friends. xx

Rebecca said...

I chuckled when you said, "can’t tell if I’m nicer now, or less nice, or just more boring"...

Mostly, I rejoice with you in your current peace and delight in your unique expression of it.

I receive your prayer thankfully and make it my own. ♥

San said...

I always look forward to your posts and the prayer at the end is so precious, thank you for writing it and being a witness to working through the struggles of life. I am currently reading a book entitled, "Scarred by struggle, transformed by hope" by Joan D Chittister it is very encouraging.

San xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Rebecca, hi San - you are both, always, in my prayers. xx

DaisyAnon said...

Thank you so much for this Pen. I love this 'I am, in all sorts of ways, not the same person as I was back then. Never capable of evaluating myself very accurately, I can’t tell if I’m nicer now, or less nice, or just more boring. But this I know: it feels quiet inside the temple of my soul.

My spiritual programme for life tells me that in time I will 'not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it'. I sort of understand that intellectually but am far from realising it as a reality.

This is dependent on our freeing ourselves from anger and resentment, or at least not allowing them to take hold of us, and, most importantly, recognising our part in things. I am as much a sinner as sinned against.

Just recently I have begun to have some glimmers of this peace that passeth all understanding.

The past is the past but it does not disturb me quite so much.

I am at a very happy, contented, peaceful stage in my life. But I think I will always have to avoid certain people and situations because they are not for me if I wish to remain happy, contented, peaceful.

I have always had recurring dreams and I have learnt to recognise these as warning signs. If a certain dream happens I know that I am off balance in some area of my life.

Pen Wilcock said...

Daisy, that's so interesting.
What you say there - "I will always have to avoid certain people and situations because they are not for me if I wish to remain happy, contented, peaceful", yes, I find this, too. The path of peace remains so provided it's not invaded by quarrelsome hoodlums! And sometimes it's hard to know where to go to avoid those people and situations, especially when they are part of the same web of connections.
xx

DaisyAnon said...

I forgot to say that it was a help knowing how long it took you to arrive at your place of peace.

Sometimes I have thought I will never get there, but your experience has given me hope.

I was wondering - do you think your physical cleansing regimes, the diets, coffee enemas and so on helped the process?

Pen Wilcock said...

I think, really it's more than helped - I think it's been crucial. Once before in my life, when everything fell apart or me, back at the millennium, I felt as though I had actually personally died but incomprehensibly my body had lived on, requiring maintenance for no obvious purpose. I did not think such an experience would/could ever repeat, but it has. This last eighteen months I have undergone so profound a change that I feel like a different person - as though what I was has died, and here is this body but I don't now know what will ensoul it - on what basis it will proceed.
There's a reason the liver is called the 'liver'. What's happened, I suspect/imagine/believe, is that I've rebuilt my liver. I'm now different, operating on a new basis.
The only difficulty with it is I do have some commitments in terms of relationship that sit so ill with my new reality that I am finding them unsustainable; yet they must be honoured.
Happily my marriage and my relationship with my children have survived the emotional cull! Those people - my husband, my children - they are clear like water, firm like rock. The force of truth flourishes within them like a hardy native plant in mountain air.

Nearly Martha said...

Thank you. In current circumstances, that was like a cool drink of water in a desert. One of the problems for me comes with the fact that some of these people you speak about are in my place of work and another one is family and there is no walking away. It is encouraging to be reminded that God can change anything

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) May peace fill you and surround you, breathe out of you. xx

Anonymous said...

Hi Penelope - I really enjoy your blog - your thoughts have been very thought provoking and helpful! I'm putting together some material for a prayer day and I would love to use the prayers from Thursday. Is that ok? There will only be bout ten of us and it would be one copy of the prayers as a "something to think about " prayer station. I will credit it to you. Blessings - Dorothy

Pen Wilcock said...

For sure, Dorothy - yes, that's fine. God's blessing on your day of prayer xx

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Pen,
Just to let you know I have published my review of "The Hawk & The Dove" on my blog:
http://thegardenwindow.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/the-hawk-and-dove.html

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh - thank you so much! :0D xx

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful post which I shared with a couple of friends.

The new editions, with those lovely covers, of the first three Hawk & Dove books have arrived and I am thoroughly enjoying my current re-read. Twenty years on, the books are as fresh and powerful as ever. I agree that the framing device of Melissa's modern family, in the first two books, works very well.

I love all the books but 'The Long Fall' is one of my favourites of all time - it's so heartbreakingly beautiful. Peregrine is such a real character (and I won't deny that I am quite in love with him). But John and William, in the later books, are awesome too. (And Tom! And Francis! And Theo! And dear cake-loving Conradus ...)

- Philippa

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Yes, the new covers are being very well received. So glad you are enjoying the stories! xx

Mairin said...

Those disturbing people of your past who no longer interest you ... you keep them in your prayers. Thanks! I stopped my reading right there and offered up 3 Hail Mary's for two of my past sad entanglements with quarrelsome (and dangerous) hoodlums!

Pen Wilcock said...

Well, the thing is we are all doing the best we know with the information we have; people make mistakes. Prayer optimises the final outcomes. xx

Merlejoy said...

I read "the hawk and the dove" several years ago, and loved it. I just a couple of days ago, discovered that more books had been written, and that you, Penelope, had this wonderful blog. I feel like I have come across an unwrapped gift that was undiscovered until now. What a treat! This post has so spoken to my heart and your prayer is such a blessing. For various reasons, I have been struggling enormously this past year and the post and the prayer were such a blessing . Thank you

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, friend. So good to hear from you. Thank you for stopping by. The first three Hawk & Dove stories are out in the new edition, and books four through seven will be out later on this year - you may be able to pick up secondhand copies on Amazon meanwhile. I do hope you enjoy the new ones and pottering about in this blog. Good to meet you! xx

Merlejoy said...

I shall definitely look for those books. I so look forward to the new ones. Thank you. And your blog is a joy and encouragement. A welcome gift.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you! xx