Dead Babies, Childhood Images that I had no words for, memories that I dared not talk about have lain in my unconscious for 40 years providing a root of fear every time I dare step outside the mould.
Buried Memories in the Convent on the Hill
Christopher read out loud to me his post "Memories of Stone". I reacted and went into process. For a long time I have done battle with the "Catholic" mentality of "Poverty and Chastity". It has affected my whole life, my relationships and, most recently my job outside of the Catholic System which I have sabotaged .. without
understanding why .. until now.
Every time my integrity has moved me forward, I have broken my right foot to stop me .. now I understand. What follows is the unfolding of memories as I processed Chris' words in "Memories of Stone"
Images that have no words
The convent stands at the top of the hill. An awesome example of Georgian architecture. Windows dark, large imposing doorways, dark corridors filled with memories, the stench of decay. Cemetery underneath? Lots of secrets. Aboriginal burial ground?
No .. just small unprotected bodies .. aborted fetuses and new born babies .. disposed of with hearts still beating.
Poverty pervaded the air. "Bless me Father for I have sinned .." And what was the crime .. just being born. There were those other children, my class mates who dared to question why they were a prisoner in such a hostile place. But they, the rebels, never stayed.
The child, me, stands in the doorway, sent to get scones for morning tea for the staff. Sent, because she was the brightest, most articulate in the class .. sent every week to the mausoleum on the hill.
The small child stands tentatively in the doorway, smelling the fetid air, feeling the oppression - but had no words for the pictures that formed in her mind .. or for her feelings and impressions ..
Only a lasting imprint in the child's psyche .. a lasting impression in her mind, reproductive system and aura. The heart of a small child was unable to voice the words, but was overwhelmed in all senses and left with a lasting open wound.
A deep bottomless gash.
A wound that sabotaged so much of life after, relationships, friendships, bodily and mental health, the monumental battle to move beyond the catholic mentality in any job outside the system .. with no seeming reason .. just the child's unanswered, silent, persistent scream .. WHY?
The adult me finds words for the images coming to consciousness. The now crippled child remember the frustration of going from being the most intelligent in the class to having difficulty with the simplest problems .. dyslexia created by the open wounds .. the environment of blind obedience to self sacrifice and martyrdom .. and then being beaten for her seeming stupidity.
The oppressive poverty consciousness of the inhabitants of the convent crushed the life and spirit of a child so small and became the mantra for adult life ... 'I'm not worthy..'
and then, the code of silence practiced by those who dared not speak their truth for fear of the reverberating judgments is entrapped in stone walls and beautiful carved wooden portals and crushed in polished linoleum .. suffocating all who entered ..
And who was that child?
It was me .. a small 8 year old, unknowingly (until now) imprinting generations of grief of the nuns who had betrayed their life force, their own faith in themselves. Their memories and their dead babies, interred in the walls and floors of the convent which overlooked the playground of small children.
As I look back in consciousness, this was a betrayal of their charter of helping the poor, the helpless. Slaughter of the innocent was more like it ..
Images and smells forever embedded and inscribed in the sandstone walls which became their living tombs were my legacy of a Catholic Primary School. Nobody got out with their inner-child alive.
The Jesuits have a saying " Give me a Child until the age of 7 and I'll show you the man" ..
The cloistered life of any child in the Catholic System imprints the future man or the woman with hidden patterns of unconscious responses to any possibility to move outside the vows. In my present position as a Librarian outside the "System" I have continually tried to sabotage every promotional opportunity that was presented to me.
Over the last 18 months, I have looked at every possible reason as to why .. until I was confronted with Chris's "Memories of Stone".
Now I understand what was done to me .. not by words or deeds .. but through the simple act of being an 8 year old child who was sensitive to the memories in the stones of my first school and saw the images of dead babies buried under the floors and in the walls.
I also know now that, as a child whose mother wanted her to become a nun, I sabotaged my ovaries and womb so that I could never possibly have a child to be buried anonymously under some cold stone in a convent garden somewhere .. and never pass on that grief to any child.
ps. Over the years that Chris and I have been together, we have worked through a lot of stuff. Sometimes there has been a resolution. Sometimes, there has been something "lurking" that I have not been able to quite "get". I have always been as honest as I could be in my process .. but with this one, I found that what I had to get through was that all of the memories of the stones were hidden under the
nun's vows of "we can never talk about that" .. and so, until that code of silence was broken today, I could never even acknowledge the images locked in my own body - even to my self.
Footnote: There were recently Police Investigations of infant skeletons found during renovations to this convent and a number of others. It would seem that the images that came to me as a child in that building did have a factual base to them