I can hardly believe that in less than a month, I will be strolling the grounds of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota, staring at this glassy pond, inhaling and exhaling deeply. Even in merely looking at this photo in anticipation, a growing calm is beginning to take hold.
Last summer was my first to take part in the scholars-in-residence program, Studium, offered by the lovely religious sisters at St. Ben’s. According to their website, three major realities are intertwined in monastic life: the love of learning, the desire for God and the commitment to beauty. I definitely found all three present in my visit last year, and I grieved when it ended, though I was eager to return to my family.
My visit there reminded me that we all need time away from whatever it is that captures our energy on a regular basis — and busy mothers are no exception. A friend recently told me, “I like how you preserve a certain part of yourself for yourself, if that makes sense.” It does make sense, and though it might seem selfish on the outside, I really believe it’s just the opposite of that. When we take time to redirect the energy that has been depleted in serving others, we replenish the supply so there is more to give away again later.
Last summer, the haven for which I was thirsting at the end of a long summer came to me in the form of St. Ben’s. I discovered so much about myself in that all-too-short week, including that I deeply crave introspection. Though I fall more readily into the “extrovert” category when it comes to where I draw the bulk of my energy, I found there that time alone is a precious need of mine as well. While at St. Ben’s, I found myself greatly enjoying the life of solitude, which was regularly broken up with midday and evening prayer. Given my Night Owl tendencies, I excluded myself from morning prayer and ate breakfast by myself back in my “apartment.” I welcomed midday prayer and lunch with the sisters, retreated back to my space to work, and then merged again with the others for evening prayer and dinner. It was a wonderful and welcomed routine.
Learning I was being given another opportunity at St. Ben’s was more than a cause for celebration. As before, I chose summer’s end for my reprieve. It is then that I seem most in need of the emotional space and calm Studium offers. And so it will be, soon, thanks in large part to my in-laws’ gracious help with the kids. They are gone most of the year now, with a retirement getaway in Arkansas, but they more than make up for their absence by welcoming our children to their home for revolving spans in the summer.
I will share more soon about what it is I’m actually going to be doing when I don my “scholar” hat at St. Ben’s, though I’ll give you an obvious hint: it has something to do with writing. For now, my question for you is this:
How and where do you seek reprieve? Whether you are a parent of lively children, or a writer with a busy life outside of writing, how do you carve out space that allows you to replenish your reserves?