Whenever memories of that day threatened to enter my mind, I would desperately try to block them out. I would imagine myself alone back in the garden in England, being queen of the buttercups and daisies, watching the daffodils. I would think of picking and eating the strawberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants and chestnuts. They were the only somewhat-happy memories I had of my childhood. They helped, but I would often wake in the middle of the night, screaming, because a big hairy spider was coming down over my face.
Every day I was faced with the jibes from Frank. Was I REALLY so evil? Would no one ever want me? Did I have a right to live? It was soon after that day that I started to have a particular daydream. I would imagine that my mother had come home and found me dead. She would cry and then I would know that maybe she really did care for me after all.
I needed someone to at least LIKE me and my desire led me to religion. It was impossible for anyone to love me, but surely, if there was such a person as God, maybe HE could love me? But even that hope caused a conflict. If there WAS a God, wouldn’t He have to be perfect? If He was perfect, how could He possibly love someone who was evil? But God was supposed to love everyone, wasn’t He? He was my only hope.
I went to nearly every Church and Sunday School but I never found what I was looking for. Sooner or later, someone would laugh at me or reject me (or I thought they did). Churches were never locked in those days, and I spent a lot of time just sitting and wishing. The Roman Catholic Church frightened me a little, but all the statues, pictures and candles made me feel that maybe this was a special place. If God was real, wouldn’t He be in a place like this?
I never found what I was looking for, but I did spend many, many hours sitting in front of one particular picture. I discovered later it was called the “Sacred Heart of Jesus”. I couldn’t understand why His heart was on the outside, but the picture spoke to me of love – love radiating out to me. Although I now find such things repugnant, at the time it gave me reason to hope that He had so much love that just maybe He could love me. Nothing happened; nothing changed, but I clung to the hope. I had nothing else.
I continued to excel at school and topped the class for the end of Intermediate School exams. I badly wanted to continue with my education. The teachers begged my mother to allow me to continue, but we “couldn’t afford it” even though it was only a few months later that my mother and Frank made the first of many trips back to England. I didn’t really mind because I needed to earn some money so that I could afford some decent clothes.
My only real interest was medicine but studying to be a doctor was out of the question. I was too young to start nursing so I accepted a job as an office worker. I gained promotions very quickly and was soon in charge of the accounts department and receiving well above the award wages. By the time I was old enough to start nursing I wasn’t willing to give up my freedom and high salary.
When I started work the behaviour of the men reinforced my belief that all men were bad news. I still knew almost nothing about sex or even about my own body, but I knew enough to know that the younger ones had one thing on their mind and boasted of “conquests” and some of the married men were having affairs. I know I believed that all men were bad and there wasn’t a decent man in the whole world.
I was a man-hater but I had no qualms about using men to get what I wanted, without giving anything in return. I had a few “boyfriends” but none lasted long. I pretended but my heart was never involved. People who don’t touch the emotions can’t really hurt you. I was no good, but at least I knew that all men were even worse! I would NEVER tie myself to a man.
My interest in religion continued. All the bosses and most of the staff at work were Roman Catholics. After being promoted I spent my morning and afternoon tea and lunch times with the two other senior girls. The talk often turned to religion but they could never answer my questions. Eventually Jean offered to introduce me to a priest who, she assured me, would be able to explain everything to me. That was the beginning of eighteen months of learning about Catholicism. Of course, the Bible was never mentioned, let alone consulted, but at the end of that time I was absolutely convinced (through mere human logic and mental assent) that it was the only true Church and that if there was the slightest hope of being accepted by God, it could only be through that Church.
So I became a Catholic. I was a very good Catholic, obeying all the rules. Maybe if I was good enough there was a hope? I did double or triple penance. I performed the stations of the cross. I made novenas. I denied myself, especially during Lent. Did it help? Not in the slightest! It didn’t make me feel any better about myself. It didn’t make me feel wanted.
I still had no satisfaction in life. I followed many pursuits, spending as little time at home as possible. I obtained my drivers licence as soon as I was old enough and I bought a car. I also had the loan of a 500cc Speed Twin Triumph motorcycle. I spent a lot of time driving, often travelling all weekend and sleeping in a rest area. I loved driving because I felt safe. No one could touch me while I was on the road. It was so peaceful!
I was always conscious of an emptiness. There was an unfillable yearning inside me and I tried many things to fill that void. I never knew what I was searching for but I constantly tried something new, gaining satisfaction for a short time, before the pleasure dulled and the emptiness returned. Nothing ever satisfied. Nothing brought happiness. Nothing made me feel better about myself.
I knew I would never marry. I didn’t want a marriage like my mother had – or like that of anyone else I knew – and there was no way I’d stay with one man for a lifetime. The trouble is that I loved children. I spent quite a bit of time with children. I wanted to have children of my own – but not at the expense of marrying someone.
The alternative presented itself. Maybe if I made religion my whole life I would feel different? Maybe if I gave myself completely I would become acceptable to God? It remained my only hope. I spoke to the priest and told him I wanted to enter the Grail – a convent which was an orphanage. Maybe that was partly selfish but at least I would be working with children.
The paper work was completed and I was to enter the Grail, with the goal of becoming a nun, at the first intake in 1959.