I tend to prefer the unconventional. I was the only girl willing to outrun the boys during recess in elementary school, I skipped Cancun in favor of Campeche when I took a teaching job in Mexico, and I refused to join Facebook until recently.
For many years I worried that I was pursuing the unexpected for the sake of being different or special. However, I’ve grown to understand that, for better or worse, I simply have a reflexive disdain for trends and traditions. I question all of them. (It’s exhausting!)
What I appreciate about this aspect of my temperament is that I can be very intentional about what I want. When Luke and I decided to get married, for example, I knew I had signed up to oppose the customary in a very public way...but I was ready to fight for what I wanted. Suffice it to say that we had an “offbeat wedding” involving corsages and boutonnieres for all guests, vegan chocolate cake, and a white t-shirt instead of a white dress. The experience was unimaginably lovely for both Luke and me.
The difficult part about my reflexive aversion is that sometimes I can be judgmental (surprise!), dismissing an idea too quickly based on my own unexamined misconceptions. To belabor the wedding example, I convinced Luke that we did not need a honeymoon. Having an extended period of time to laze around together, involving significant expense and fancy pool bars, would be something we didn’t need. We were fine!
Until we weren’t.
A few months into our marriage, I felt discontented, lost, and pissy on a regular basis. (Lucky Luke.) I couldn’t make sense of what I was experiencing. Thankfully, my therapist eventually helped me understand that we had skipped the “liminal phase” - we had denied ourselves a period of unstructured time to settle comfortably into our new identities together. In other words, my calculations around the honeymoon had turned out to be massively, horribly wrong. I deeply needed that space to be with Luke. So, with that new understanding, we booked a two-week vacation in Sea Ranch and called it our “liminal.”
With that giant mistake important lesson firmly in my mind, I knew I would need a different kind of liminal when I officially retired from public education and moved fully into self-employment. I also knew that this experience - whatever it might be - was something I wanted to do alone. No beach cavorting or even hiking with my hubby: I wanted a solitary, inner-directed retreat from my life. My own honeymoon!
And that is how my ten days of silence at the monastery came to be.