Sometimes I steal into the church for confession. But here’s the thing. I am not Catholic, and I’ve never set foot inside a confessional, and I am low on the belief scale, even if I flirt with it in times of crisis. No atheists on a turbulent plane.
The neighborhood Catholic church is nearby and architecturally lovely and my first look in was just curiosity in trying to learn a new town. But it’s not an open church and confession is the only time aside from service that it’s unlocked. So Wednesday afternoons, I push the door open and slide into a pew and let the light filter through the stained glass and into my thoughts. I’ve found it a spot to meditate if not to pray, or a place to explore the intersection between the two. But I am infinitely outsider, WASP girl who has only crossed a church’s threshold for weddings and funerals some forty years gone now. But I’ll confess to this. I am drawn to the quiet space but really I am drawn to the quiet that might be brought by absolution.
My sins, they are legion. Lying, losing my temper, adultery, greed, coveting – my neighbor’s pug puppy if not his wife. I have had so many gods and the census of the names I have taken in vain is endless. While I have not killed other than mice and ants and once a deer that threw itself upon the hood of my Saab, I’ve slaughtered more than a few dreams and my fair share of hearts. I confess I repress. I don’t want to be telling these stories, not to myself nor my friends and certainly not to some priest of a religion into which I was not baptized. But maybe if I whisper them out onto the page, maybe if I surface those shameful stories, I’ll find my way to penance. Instead of hail Marys and our fathers, I can write about my mother, Mary, and about my long dead father. Confess my sins toward them. Turn their pain into poetry. Rise up, not from my knees, but from my desk, having arrived at absolution.
One of my favorite writers asks if stories can save us. They are a means of preservation, of all the lives we’ve lost, by our own hands or at those of others, but perhaps that they are at heart is a means of self-preservation. Keep me alive. Save me from self