disturbing the peace

at the ultrasound, the sonographer told us, “yes, you are pregnant.”

we rejoiced.

then, he said, “wait a minute, there’s something…”

we froze. 

oh no, something’s wrong.

then, he said, “there’s another one, you’re going to have twins.”

we were shocked, floored–on the floor (literally)…we called family and friends and shared the news…a few days later, the aftershocks of what we were told started to hit us…it was an amazing, unexpected thing…and full of unknowns…

and, of course, “the unknowns” bothered me the most…

i had been dealing with some moderate levels of anxiety and panic before we got this news (details of which are best saved for another post or venue)…but, this news–the thought of having twins, two babies at once, ratcheted up the anxiety to new heights (as you could expect)…

i thought about going away for a night, to get my mind right…before the epic life change of “fatherhood” arrived…so, my wife, in her wisdom, mentioned a retreat center called pacem in terris–peace on earth–it was a place she had been to years before…a place where you can experience peace and quiet and solitude…

my wife, when telling me about this place, said that she had been there once (a while back) for a similar reason…for quiet solitude…she also told me that while the time away was good, she left back home before the full day was up… she told me that “the quiet” was too much for her…

i didn’t know what she meant, i didn’t know how powerful “the quiet” could be–until i went there myself…

so, i packed an overnight bag and a few snacks and headed up to pacem in terris…my wife had told me that all they provide is fruit, cheese, and bread–she knew better than most about my freakish metabolism–importantly, she knew that if i didn’t have a little extra sustenance i would first, shake…then tremble…and ultimately–implode…not good…

anyways, after a short drive (just north of the twin cities), i arrived and went to the welcome center…here, i was greeted by a sister (the place is faith-based and of the catholic variety–franciscan)…she welcomed me and visited with me for a short time about why i was there, some of the “rules of the hermitage*”–and she gave me a chapter from the bible to contemplate, if i wanted…it was psalm 139 (she told me that reading it over and over and over, like a meditation, was often a good thing to do)…

[*the little cabins on the property of the retreat center are called ‘hermitages’; and while you stay in an individual hermitage, you’re referred to as a ‘hermit’–there is no cost to stay there, though donations are appreciated]

she also told me (rather forcefully) that…one of the most important things about the hermitage was that it was a holy, peaceful, quiet space…and that, while i might see other hermits around (as i walked the footpaths of the property), i was not to speak to them, nor they to me–silence was the rule of the day, for every day..

so, i gathered my things and headed out to my hermitage…it was a tiny cabin, with a sink, bathroom, bed, and desk…on the desk table sat a basket that contained fruit, bread, cheese, and a welcome card…next to the desk, was a small burner, tea-pot and cup…after getting settled, i went about my day…i spent it sitting and journaling, reading a little henri nouwen, thinking about my wife (our life and twins), reading psalm 139, and walking on the footpaths…i only saw one other hermit on the trail…and we passed in silence like we were instructed to do…

day went on into night and i slept a quiet, restful sleep…before falling asleep, i thought to myself, my wife was right, it was difficult to stay quiet for that long (though i had only been there about 10 hours before ‘hitting the hay’)…but, i had made it to bedtime, with determination–all i had to do was sleep, wake up, and spend a few more hours at the retreat and i would accomplish what i set out to do…

waking up the next morning, i felt rested and alive and refreshed…this has been good, i thought…

so, i gathered my toiletries, towel, and a change of clothes and headed to the main building of the retreat center…it was the only place on the property that had showers for the hermits to use…i took a shower, washed my face, brushed my teeth, changed clothes, gathered my stuff and headed towards the bathroom door (it was a large single bathroom with a shower, sink, mirror, and toilet)…i was feeling good…

until…

i unlocked the latch, twisted the door knob and tried to open the bathroom door…

it wouldn’t budge…i jiggled the knob–no dice…i tinkered with the lock–nothing…i pushed/pulled on the door while jiggling the door knob–still nothing…

i looked at the door–stared it down, in fact…as if that would help…then, i looked around the bathroom…for anything, anything that i could use to ‘pop the hinges’ with…it wasn’t ideal, i didn’t want to ‘jack up’ the door, or worse, have to drop $200-$300 on a new door for the sisters…but, at that moment, it was better than the alternative…it was better than the unthinkable…

so, i scoured the bathroom…top to bottom, side to side…and found absolutely nothing to use…i also double-checked my shaving kit–nothing good in there, either…so, i put the lid on the toilet seat down, sat down, and chuckled to myself for a moment, thinking, i can’t believe this is happening?! then, i thought, my phone?! 

like a sweaty-toothed madman (shout out to ‘dead poets’, yo!), i searched my belongings…and found…my phone…i powered it on and found the number to the retreat center, i called it and got–the answering machine…the nuns were out…i cursed them under my breath…then immediately “crossed myself” and begged for forgiveness–sorry, sisters

i called again and again…finally leaving a message…

uh, yeah, hello, i’m one of your hermits and i’m locked in the bathroom in the lower level of the main building…if you get this, can you please come and let me out… 

i sat back down again and thought to myself…

maybe God is trying to tell me something…like i need more time alone?!  or maybe, my wife needs more time alone back home?! 🙂 …subtle, real subtle, big guy…

time went by…

then, i knew what i was going to have to do…the unthinkable…

make some noise…

let me say that again, if i wanted to get out of there i was going to have to break the unbreakable rule for pacem in terris and “break the silence”-

so, i got up and walked towards the door…i tried to open it once more–no luck…i pressed my ear to the door, listening, hoping that another hermit might be passing by…i didn’t hear anything or anyone…so, i called out…

is anyone there? i’m locked in here.

[i used a medium level tone/volume–i wasn’t fully committed to ‘sounding off’ in the silent world of pacem in terris]

all i heard in return was absolute silence…

i cursed under my breath again…and pumped myself up for the next round…thinking…

i’m gonna have to ‘get loud’.

so, this time…i took a deep breath…and then shouted and banged on the door…

no more peace.

no more quiet.

i went on for about 10 minutes, until he showed up…

he said: hello, in there.

i said: are you a hermit?!

he said: no, i’m the maintenance man.

i thought: praise Jesus!

i said: great, i’m locked in here can you help me out?

he said: yep.

he tinkered with the lock…for exactly one minute…then, it popped open!

i thanked him (enthusiastically).

not too long after that, i packed up my belongings and headed home…on the drive back i thought a lot about my time there…especially, the last little bit…

and one of the things i was reminded of is that God has a sense of humor…and that sometimes, we are so very serious about our lives, too serious…especially us religious folks–and especially, us christians…on that day, i was reminded of the importance of not taking ourselves too seriously…and that, while some things are indeed sacred–it’s important to laugh at ourselves once in a while…

regardless of what new, “unknowns” await us on the horizon…

civil war

in honor of national mental health month, i’d like to dedicate the following poem to all those who suffer or who have suffered mental illness…as well as the friends and families of those individuals–peace be with you.

civil war

the most savage war i ever fought

was the one i waged

against myself.
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