My life changed significantly when I learned to work with my spirit over 25 years ago, and I could then view my existence in a whole new perspective. Perhaps my story will inspire you to work with your spirit as you search for meaning in your life.
Ever since I was a young child I pondered the reason for my existence. How did we come to be on this planet and for what purpose are we here? Burdened with a childhood steeped in deep religious doctrine, I began to break away at the age of 8, at least in my thoughts, from the notion that God was the most important factor in my life. It was at that time that I remember lying in bed and saying to myself: “I’m not worthy to be married to God.” I had just decided that I didn’t want to be a nun, as my mother had been nurturing me to be up to that point.
It wasn’t the first time that I had questioned catholic doctrine as a child, like in the first grade. My teacher was telling my class all about how our religion doesn’t worship pagan gods, statues or idols. I put up my hand and asked the legitimate question: “But what about all the statues in our church?” That question met with firm facial disapproval by the teacher, as she quickly changed the subject.
Later on in 1966, at the age of 10, I was still trying to meet the standards that every “good” catholic girl is supposed to strive for. I had excelled in my catholic studies and was already “confirmed” by the bishop. In the spring I volunteered to teach religious doctrine by introducing the catechism to 1st grade catholic children who were attending the local protestant school. Two other students had also volunteered and we met in the church basement on Wednesdays after school. After our class on the third week, I decided to show my fellow instructors how to make prank calls on the phone in the basement kitchen, like one of my sisters had done a few days earlier. We were laughing away at one of the calls, when a voice came on the phone, obviously the priest who had picked up the receiver upstairs, telling us to stay right were we were.
An endless minute later, Father LeFaive came charging down an interior stairway (that I never knew existed) and broke open the door. He was livid with anger, asking who was responsible for talking on his phone. Being the ultimate honest child, I admitted my guilt and the priest told the other children to go home. He pointed to a tray of plastic glasses on the counter of the kitchen, and ordered me to bring it upstairs for him. I climbed the stairs with the tray of plastic glasses with such fear of punishment that I could barely breathe. I knew that I was in deep trouble when the priest told my mother what I had done.
To my surprise, when we entered the upstairs doorway, we entered into the priest’s kitchen, not into the church itself. My heart was pounding with fear by then, as the good father told me to put the tray down on the counter. Then he told me to go through the archway leading into the hallway but, instead of turning right and going into the vestry, he pointed over my shoulder to go through the doorway straight ahead. As I entered the room I saw that it was the priest’s bedroom. The bed was immediately to my left, while I remember looking at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I wondered what he was going to do, as I watched him in the mirror.
Well, it didn’t take but a few seconds upon entering the room, when Father LeFaive told me to lie down on the bed. Of course, I did so immediately. He was, after all, my priest. I saw him undoing his belt, and so I thought that he was going to beat me. However, as I was entering a state of panic, he told me to close my eyes and go to sleep. I remember peaking through my almost-closed eyelids as I watched the priest and I went into some sort of altered state as I left my body to the sexual punishment meted out by that sick man of god (I omitted the capitalization on purpose). When I returned to consciousness, my clothes were back on and we were in the vestry. Father LeFaive looked me square in the eyes and said to me, in no uncertain terms: “Run home now, or you’ll be late. You can’t tell anyone what happened. If you ever tell your mother or anyone, the devil will punish your entire family!”
Wow! That kind of ended my belief in any kind of benevolent deity. So my search for a real meaning to my life began in earnest. When I was a disgruntled teenager (no wonder!) I asked my mother on a few occasions why the priest would have taken me into his bedroom. My mother would be so indignant when I brought up that subject that it took a lot of courage for me to break into such conversations. Her response was always to shrug and say that I must have seen the inside of the priest’s house from the vestry or gone in when my younger brothers were altar boys. Then, as I would try to relate the exact details to explain what had happened, she never listened, and always insisted that I was mistaken. Her religious beliefs blinded her to my plight, and our relationship became intolerable.
Something similar had happened when I was 6 years old, on my first sleepover at one of my classmate’s. Our moms were best friends; my mother was the choir leader at our little church in the village, and her mother sang alongside her. My friend’s father was one of the two village policemen, and he used to sit in his easy chair in the livingroom and shout out orders. During the night, as my friend and I lay asleep in her bed together, I woke up to find that her father was pulling me down to the foot of the bed. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me to go back to sleep. I watched as he pulled my girlfriend down, then I went back to sleep. In the morning, when my friend’s mother asked me how I slept, I told her that her husband had “come in and woke us up”. She dismissed my statement stating that he had just gone to use the bathroom. When my mother arrived to pick me up, I immediately told her about being awakened in the middle of the night, and the other woman looked at her and explained that he had just gone to use the bathroom.
As I grew into adulthood I always remembered these events vividly, but I never dealt with the emotional impact that they had on me. What kind of a world was I living in, when the people that I was supposed to trust and idealize as protectors were raping me in the middle of the night or in a church, as they pleased? My mother, who was supposed to be my most trusted guardian, could only dismiss my allegations as some sort of imaginary concoction or misinterpretation of the events. As a result of my fear of reprisal from the church and my mother’s non-action, I learned to keep things to myself after that. Since these two very notable experiences had happened during my primary development years, I was hardly able to deal with them on my own. At home I was nicknamed “Gluck”, short for “Gloria the Suck”, because I was always crying for my mother.
As a result of my early childhood experiences, I was extremely shy. Although I was able to articulate my viewpoints with my close friends, I was unable to master any form of communication with groups. Instead, I would utter some silly phrase or out-of-context comment that would make others look at me strangely. As a teenager I decided that I wasn’t going to follow the path that everyone else was heading for. I couldn’t, because I had these terrible secrets, and felt I would never fit in. So I abandoned the ideals that had been presented to me as a child, and began to search for more meaning in my life. I felt there was something terribly hypocritical about the trappings of a so-called normal life, so I decided that I would seek that which was real. At least what was real to me.
I wanted to know about my purpose here. I didn’t want a fairy tale. Then at age fifteen, I had some of the most profound five minutes of my life, when I was presented with the seeds to my quest for substance in my existence.