On Being A Perfectionist

Some of you know that the last few weeks of my life have been quite, quite, full. A week and a half ago I made my perpetual monastic profession, the last step in becoming a fully committed member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. It was a six-year formal journey, but one that began many years prior with spiritual mentors, teachers, and other graceful influencers asking the right questions and accompanying me while living into them.

Now, the days and weeks leading up to October 9 were full of details and planning and logistics and preparations. While it was easy to get caught up in it all, I had one sister whose main mission was to remind me throughout each step, “Savor this moment.” It helped to slow me down and remind me to breathe.

And since my profession, many have asked me how I am feeling. The first few days after October 9 the answer was always the same, “Joyful…but exhausted.” Now, the answer has changed into another consistent response, “Everything is pretty normal again.”

I am back into my regular routine. I have mostly caught my breath after a night or two of good sleep. I just finished a week of being “on dishes”…the number one sign of “normal life” at the monastery.

But, let me tell you…
The day was most magical. It was far from regular, routine, ordinary. And I think I did savor it. I know for a fact that the grace of the day has the potential to carry me through so much, if I let it. Because while the monastic life, lived in community, can be utterly challenging and demanding, it is so authentic to my heart. Because while the promises of stability, conversion, and obedience can feel so counterintuitive, they have already proven powerful for me. I want to be consumed by my commitment to these vows, and I want to let the commitment consume me as I continue to look into the white fire of great mystery.

Being a perfectionist is quite, quite hard living the monastic life, a life that calls me to be totally human. But one moment that I totally savored during the ceremony was a reading of Mary Oliver. (How could the ceremony not feature the beloved poet?!)

May this poem be my thesis for a life of stability, conversion, and obedience. As the sister who told me to savor each moment also said to me, “Welcome to the rest of your life!”

Enjoy some photos below.
Let us walk in the holy presence.

The Ponds
Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided
and that one wears an orange blight
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing
that the light is everythingthat it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.
Profession cookies—a community tradition!

A part of the dessert table—so many contributed delicious treats, and other dishes, to the meal!

…including an empanada-making/cupcake frosting gathering the night before!

Singing of the Suscipe—Uphold me, O God.

perfect sky—perfect day

lilies in chapel