…..”life is an adventure not a package tour”….
On the spur of the moment, I asked for a 6 weeks no pay leave ….yes then I took off almost rashly without much planning on a self adventurous trip to Israel, the Holyland, Egypt and Jordan in the beginning of 1998.
I couldn’t take the stress of working in the emergency room any longer, I felt like a chicken running around with its head cut off.I could not concentrate with my mind running erratically out of control.I felt unsafe for myself and others working under immense stress within myself!
So why did I choose the Middle-east….a time of political unrest and dangers of bombings for tourists especially so in Egypt.I knew and had read about all the chaotic happenings in those countries and was even warned by collegues, friends and family of the upheavels in those regions….but did I care?
I wanted to or rather needed an adventure so I chose the Middle-east because I was always fascinated to know who this Jesus was and wanted to walk the path where he lived and taught and walked and hoping to be touched and be healed of these ‘malignant’inner afflictions tormenting me!
Besides, I always like visiting sacred sites of any sort,Lourdes in France,Fatima in Portugal and the various many places where Christian saints had visionary experiences or places where so called miracles happened.I could consider myself a sort of pilgrim looking for spiritual encounters…….
I suppose I was known to be stubborn, volatile and if I had wanted to do something…..I would do it anyway and somehow I would take responsibilities for my actions to the dismay of those who cared for me.I guess I had a reckless nature! Was this a good or bad thing? As I see it from where I am at this stage of my life……I call it the courage to live and experience life, most importantly the courage of trying to search for answers,for the unknown for anything that might open the door for ‘salvation’for my turbulent and ‘messed up’life.
Despite being strong-willed,and having a temperamental,fiery past disposition, I also had a tender side of kindness and generosity and goodness towards others and on a deeper level,I knew there was something more sacred that was waiting to be revealed.Whatever harsh negative traits I used to display outwardly, there was always an inner call that paid attention to find my way to sit in church, light a candle and pray for help for others as well as for myself……
However messy and tumultous my life was, I never failed to sit with ‘God’to ask for strength and guidance for a way out……..matter of fact the church was always the first place I would go to seek help in any crisis either for myself or for others.Nobody knew much of me in this simple way,I was known to almost everyone for being hot-tempered,self centred, wanting things my way.Although it was hurtful to know that people were not liking me, somehow I never disliked or resented anyone for thinking of me in this ‘distateful’ way, as I knew myself I was like that and hated it and didn’t like myself for being so,I wanted very much to change but I didn’t know how to then!
As I remember of my first day in Israel,from Tel Aviv airport, I took a bus to Jersusalem and stayed in a hostel very close to the church of The Holy Selpuchre(the holiest of sites in Jerusalem).That same evening, I walked to the place where Jesus was supposedly crucified and buried.On arriving at the church,I bent to kiss a slab of stone where it is said Jesus was was laid after being taken down from the cross…..I remember crying my eyes out and all I could say was “help me,help me”over and over with a sincere and distraught heart..As I walked and travelled like a pilgrim but feeling like a ‘sinner’ over most of Israel and to the many many holy sites seeking for something which I had no idea what, my heart and mind were only asking one thing…’help me’of which I dont know what of..I must say it was not a smooth easy travel but one of dangers, real-life harrowing adventures and uneasiness and fears as I self journeyed in the Middle-east witnessing warfare as I crossed the Gaza strip in a mini-van,stranded in a civil war zone in Bethlehem,stopped in the middle of a desert alone with the taxi driver on the way to Jordan ,floated in the dead sea,climbed,hiked up mount Masada in the Judean valley,crawled up inside the pyramid of Giza in Egypt etc,etc.It was as though I had to learn to toughten up and brace myself to learn courage and strength for the intense spiritual inward journey which was to begin at the end of the same year.
1998 was a very turbulent year, even after coming back from my so called ‘pilgrimage’ to the Holyland and Middle-east, I was still caught up in a frenzy and madness of emotional/mental/spiritual disturbances of all sorts, facing dillemas after dillemas,there were so much anguish churning within me, I felt so knotted up and imprisoned….so here I go again,only after 2 months back from the pilgrimage, I took off again on a month long journey to Greece…..island hopping, sight-seeings,travelled to mid Greece to visit the monasteries built right atop the mountains and so on.For a while it was good, a diversion, I was distracted I was enjoying looking at this new exciting venture….then time to go back home.As I got back to work….I went thru the same torments,the pains and inner aggravations drove me to run away again for the third time in the same year,this time to work in Saudi Arabia.So in September 1998, I was accepted to work on a one year contract as a registered nurse in the emergency department of a military hospital smacked in the middle of the desert of Saudi Arabia.I thought by completely going away from familiar homeground and work environment, I could escape my pains and inner disturbances.
Instead it was to prove me wrong as I landed at Jeddah airport of Saudi Arabia, I was so petrified and remember feeling breathless and choked,I wanted to catch the next flight back to Canada……fear was now building up within my being……..I didn’t know what was happening in me anymore,all ‘balled’up, I braced myself to work in the emergency department and I heard potential news that the head of department wanted me to take over as clinical nurse instructor for emergency……no,no, I told myself, I could not take this responsibility as mounting fear brewing coupled with anxieties, anger and unknown sense of hatred waiting to explode…………
With the scorching Saudi desert heat against me, I managed to struggle working unhappily at the hospital witnessing horrific and traumatic events and dramas I had never seen before!
I needed to get out of there but kept pushing on……..until after about 3 months on, I went thru a crisis whereby I could not sleep(didn’t have a wink at all)for a week and still had to work all the while….imagine my deepening anxiety and fear as I tried taking all kinds of sedatives and herbal teas with the support of my room-mate(Maggie) to help me sleep but to no avail…..it felt like I was going to lose my mind, my body was wrecked in burning pains,I couldn’t think or focus anymore.Maggie suggested I go see the emergency room doctor to get an injection….so I went,before I could see the doctor, the head of ER saw and invited me to her office for a chat, there I told her I wanted to resign,she was dissappointed and said if I wanted to go then give a 24hours notice which I happily did.
That very hour after tending in my resignation, I went back to the apartment dead tired from sleep deprivation and immediately fell into a deep deep sleep to be awoken by a deep manly voice calling out my name “celeste,celeste,celeste”……………that voice felt so near,almost like someone in the room trying to wake me up,in a frenzy I got up and walked all around the huge apartment looking for that ‘someone’ who had woken me up from that much needed sleep.No one was there,Maggie was working, in that very instant, I saw visions(premonitions) of all that had to be done when I got back to Vancouver Canada……..namely getting psychological help,meeting up with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd,changing my life,doing works of charity,etc,etc, etc,…it seemed amazing and baffling at the same time.I could not comprehend or understand, I had never experienced anything like this before!!
Short few days later, I was on the airplane on my way back to Canada……..crying all the way,feeling like a failure,regretful, angry and hating myself,feeling worthless and tremendously down!Yet on the other hand there was a yearning,a longing and a feeling of hope and light waiting for me to open up to,to surrender to……..which I did faithfully,devotedly and immmersed into with all my heart, strength and might to walk into this journey of self inquiry,meditation,purification,forgiveness and self realisations,experiences and insights of the who I was into the Who I Am……………..thus the true spiritual journey began for me in November 1998…………from turbulence to calm abiding……………