Maria von Trapp. The Flying Nun. Sister Mary Clarence (Sister Act). Me.
Yes, yours truly was a nun for a year before I was booted out. Even though I wrote a book about it, I really don’t talk much about my time in the convent.
But the longer I blog about life as a curvy single woman, the more I realize that my time in the convent was excellent preparation for living as a single woman in my 30s.
I was 27 when I entered the convent. I came fresh out of grad school and I had never lived really, truly on my own before. The lessons learned during that short year stay with me to this day:
- I learned how to do things for myself. I had to learn how to change a tire, cook for six hungry people in 30 minutes, basic household repairs, and how to make $100 (our monthly allowance) last for an entire month for entertainment, clothes, and toiletries.
- You will not get along with everyone you meet. Contrary to what movies or TV might show, some nuns are actually notoriously difficult to get along with. They can be crabby, long-winded, or just plain unpleasant to be around. But in the spirit of community, you do your best to put on a cheerful face, act like an adult, and tolerate their company as best you can.
- Treasure your own company. I hated the retreats where we to be silent for 48 hours. But in the everyday hustle and bustle, I came to appreciate the hour of quiet I had in daily prayer. That was me time, and that allowed me to recharge my batteries after taking care of others for so many hours.
- Everything changes, yet everything stays the same. It seemed the nuns were moving all the time, changing jobs, or starting new ventures. But the older nuns were calm, serene, a little sassy, and were always just there. They had seen and lived through so much, that nothing ever seemed to faze them. I envy their serenity, and I hope as the years pass, less will bother me and change will not weird me out as much.
- Giving up control is not a bad thing. I can be a control freak. I hate getting lost, not having an itinerary, or being at a social event where I don’t know anyone. But I had to live in the convent without Google maps and I was often at events where I didn’t know a soul. But I learned to rely on my sense of direction and I actually started trusting myself things would be OK if I got helplessly lost or if I had to make awkward small talk. And I was actually fine!
- The deepest joys do not require a lot of money. I didn’t care if I didn’t have the latest fashions or gadgets. I was happier playing cards at home or going for walks out in the neighborhood.
- An open spirit can lead to unimaginable blessings. I got thrown into so many situations I did not sign up for (volunteering at a women’s shelter, rebuilding blighted houses, renovating the motherhouse), but those were some of the biggest joys I experienced in my time with the sisters.
- I am stronger than I think I am. I am braver than I give myself credit for. I thought my life was over after I left was kicked out of the convent. I really thought that was what God wanted me to do, but it wasn’t. Contrary to what I thought, my life wasn’t over. I had a broken heart for a while, but I learned to heal and get on with my life. I really did have everything I needed in me, and while I may have bent, I didn’t break.
I sometimes still get asked if I would ever consider entering the convent again. The answer is a resounding N-O. I tried that life, and it is not a good fit for me.
But the passing of years has brought wisdom and grace. I have grown a lot since I was 27, and the lessons I learned with the nuns were wonderful training for the woman I am today. I followed my heart, and even though my convent experience blew up in my face, I am stronger and wiser for the time I spent with the nuns. I am that much more able to handle life as a strong, single woman.
What life experience has had the biggest effect on you? Comment below!