January 18, 2009

Monasteries and convents are advertising weekend retreats as a way of enticing people into religious orders. I've been thinking I should try it and see how it goes. I need a retreat.

There are several things about life in a convent or monastery that would suit me. To begin with, the wardrobe. A baggy mumu with bell sleeves and a hood. What's not to like? It wouldn't be that much of an adjustment either; it's similar to the bathrobe I live in now. If I were a nun, the bonnet would be even better - I'd never have to worry about how my hair looked again.

In my life now, thinking about what to wear every day fills me with panic and my wardrobe is essentially monochromatic. I'm not good at making decisions, and I don't even go out. All that time I'd save I could devote to more productive endeavours. Like sitting.

The activities of monastic life are perfect for me. Monks tend to do a lot of things I enjoy - ruminating for instance. I do that all the time. And all the uncomfortable feelings I have in the outside world would be appropriate in a monastic setting. When I sit in a therapist's office anxious about feeling detached it's a bad thing. But in a monastery, it would be Zen.

In a convent, none of us wear make-up or drink and I'd love that no one, other than God, would ever have to see me naked. Never again would I have to stress about finding time for a waxing appointment.

Everyone tells me I have commitment issues but maybe that would change by committing myself to the Lord. I haven't gotten the call from Christ yet, but I don't mind waiting. I've waited for a lot less interesting men to call and they only thought they were God.

Another thing: monks and nuns go to bed early. At 9:30pm everyone would be wiped out. I'd be in my element. Also I wouldn't have to do anything too strenuous or panic about social gatherings. What are the chances a monk is going to say: "Today we're going horseback riding". I'd never feel left out.

But then, after a week, it could become a problem. In a convent the nuns would ask me how I was doing and I'd say I was craving sushi. They wouldn't like that answer. They'd invite me to sit in on more prayers and I'd wonder if they were really accepting me - or just saying it. And I'd miss talking on the phone.

If I were in a monastery I'd start to get fidgety during the meditation and the monks would ask me to sit still. The chanting would get on my nerves. And when I told them the robe was itchy they'd get annoyed. We'd sit around at dinner and what would the conversation be like? "How's the rice?" Sticky.

Then, I'd ask one question too many and that would be it.

Is it possible to be expelled from a monastery? I bet it is. That can't be good Karma.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure life in a religious order would suit me as well as I thought. Mediaeval buildings are cold. If I need three water bottles in my flat with central hearing, I'd have no circulation at all in an abbey. There's also the fact that I'm Jewish. Nobody wants a neurotic nun.

I can see the value of a monastic existence - but I'm not sure that I'm bypassing it. Having no social life, feeling disconnected, and wearing a robe all day sounds a lot like my life now. And I don't have to wake up at 5am.