Oh boy... do I NOT like stress!!...
... but I DO like trusting in God that he will give me all I need to be able to cope
with that stress. At times it's a close run thing, but being where he wants me to be, I know he will give me all I need.
Stress... hmmm... a couple of my friends laugh when I mention this topic. The word "stress" is neither in their vocabulary, nor in their experience of life. Whereas I happen to be one of life's natural worriers. Put it down to my "artistic temperament"! My Novice Master, Frère Michel, said as much to me at the end of my Noviciate (first year of training to be a Brother) in 1991. He said that my personality/psychological make up would be a double-edged sword for me as the years go by: on the one hand a creative sensibility, sensitivity and vulnerability that would allow me to express my deepest feelings through music and would lead me into many strong and lasting friendships... and on the other hand an emotional fragility and a tendency to get very easily hurt psychologically, stemming from the aforementioned vulnerability. I would also add to that a naturally low self-confidence and need for affirmation.
I think he was spot on.
It has certainly been borne out by subsequent events in my life.
I do feel, however, that my experiences have toughened me up to a degree and that I have become a little more "battle-hardened". I have also, with God's grace, developed strategies to cope with the low moments/periods, the times when I have felt a word or a look or an action cut through me like a burning sword through butter: cycling (a grace of my Noviciate), singing + playing guitar along to Christian rock songs and other favourite songs, sport in general...
I've needed those defence mechanisms these past 2 months with my move back to my home town of Southampton and my old school of St. Mary's College. This is nothing to do with the school, it's pupils, the staff, my Brothers' community, etc... More to do with the ghosts of family pain that still echo around the part of the city that I grew up in. I feel in so many ways that I was meant to come back here at this time, that it is God's will - for me to serve this school community and the Brothers community in a time of need, for me to help my family in its process of healing and dealing with the past.
In some ways it's as if the past 22 years since I left school and left Southampton to start my journey towards becoming a De La Mennais Brother and then living out that apostolate have been a preparation for me to be able to come back here: a time during which I would, again through God's boundless grace, develop the spiritual and psychological strength that I would need to be able to deal with what I face when coming back here, both in my inner world and in the local environment.
But the challenges these past 2 months have been great. On top of the ghosts of childhood past, there's been the fact that the teacher I was due to take over from towards the end of October when she was due to have her baby actually gave birth 2 days before the start of term, nearly 2 months early... so, 2 days to prepare for being Head of R.E.... Nice. 10 days later an Ofsted school inspection ("Where's my bike?")...
It's been great to now find myself working with 4 teaching colleagues who once taught me over 22 years ago. It's been great getting to know the pupils at St. Mary's, and it's been great to find myself in community once again with Bro. Francis and Bro. Gus after gaps of 5 and 19 years respectively.
Bro. Francis, the Head and Deputy Head Boy and visiting speaker (an Old Simmarian)
at our annual prize-giving evening that took place last week: Speech Day.
But to say I'm looking forward to half-term would be an understatement.
This weekend came at just the right time. I've been helping our Assistant Provincial show a young Irish man around some of our French communities. He actually found out about our congregation through this blog and has been in correspondence with me for well over a year. He's considering a vocation as a teaching Brother and wants to get to know us better (and vice versa). I first met him in person in Cork Airport on the way to see my parents (he lives in Youghal near Cork) and he then came to visit us in Liverpool last term before I left there.
This is one of the main reasons I actually continue with this blog: to give my congregation a presence on the web and get ourselves better known in case anyone out there is considering a vocation to a teaching order. Yes I'm talking to YOU!!
I needed to chill and coming to France has helped me do so. Batteries recharged, ready for the challenges ahead! :-)