Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Soft scoop and the sisterhood

I saw a lot of nuns on holiday. A lot. Assisi resounds with their comfortably shod footsteps (in a calm, restful kind of way, of course). Grey habits, black habits, white habits. Habits, habits, habits.

Everyone knows that when you're on holiday, you're vulnerable to the kind of impulses you would stoutly deflect were you at home. In Italy, I had a little flirtation with nunhood. For several reasons, we could not have gone any further. But still, I was temporarily seduced by the beatific smile of harmony and well-being worn by every nun who crossed my path, and their apparently invincible air of spiritual contentment. Nuns live in a kind of working community, I supposed, a workplace of sorts, but I found it impossible to imagine any of them having to conduct an awkward conversation with their nun line managers, becoming so incensed with a piece of delinquent electronic office equipment that they genuinely believed they could kill, having their whole working day ruined by a disappointing lunchtime sandwich, or, indeed, ever feeling in any way fraught, irritable and angsty. Similarly, when the bell rings for morning prayers, I couldn't imagine any of the beaming nuns I saw thinking, 'Urgh, not today. I'll call in sick with a stomach upset, but I'll leave a message on the Mother Superior's work phone before she gets to the office, and a message on the her mobile while she's on the tube so I won't have to have an actual conversation using my Fake Illness Voice.' Maybe when you walk through the door of the convent, God lifts those trials off your shoulders, just at the same time as some heavenly wardrobe mistress drops a habit on over them.

Perhaps, then, I had found the Thing I Am Looking For In My Life. So as I was contemplating my suitability for a life in holy orders, I made a list of relevent strengths and weaknesses.

*Boundless enthusiasm for undemanding footwear.
*Prodigious appetite for ice cream – it seems that finding sensual pleasure in a gelateria, as I witnessed many times on holiday [see left], is not a cause for renunciation. It's possible that, in Assisi, being a nun gets you free ice cream for life.
*I quite like a night in.
*I know most of the words to The Sound Of Music.

*Really struggling to find a regular and significant role for God in my life.

While the strengths have the numbers, the weaknesses have the might. I am currently unable to make a commitment to Coronation Street – and I really, really like that – let alone make a brave and dignified commitment to a life of usefulness and doing good.

But the ice cream, the ice cream… I hear it calling still.

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