Higher Ground is written for anyone who is looking for ways to solve personal problems. Anyone contemplating conversion to the Catholic Church, or anyone who has previously converted, would find help and support - though anyone who is troubled will find help.
Higher Ground uses faith and the Church as effective tools in problem solving and achieving inner peace. It is an example of how to conquer despair and find fulfillment and power to change.
Like Thoreau - I went to the woods to be alone. Always this had been a dream - to stay by myself in our cottage in New Hampshire. Now that time had come. Depression and sadness had been settling in on me for too many months due to personal and family concerns. Each day's existence had become a hardship. My eyes filled with tears at unexpected moments. Though never intended, there were often times when I would sit for a minute to try to get myself together only to find later I had been there immobile for an extended period. Everything mattered intensely yet nothing mattered at all. The smallest chore was too big. Merely trying to begin anything was such an effort that I frequently just gave up completely. To deliberately think about the problems was painful. My feelings of utter helplessness left me questioning over and over again why I was alive and of what use was my life. I felt used and worthless - stupid and ugly. Persons I cared about! and loved shocked me with their indifference and ungratefulness. Their words often stung and their behavior was frequently inexcusable. Because I loved them my pain was acute. Life was so sad and I knew that I needed help. Without morning attendance at daily Mass, which had been my spiritual joy for the past nine years - I would have fallen to pieces. It was through this Sacrament and much prayer that the inner conviction that I must go away grew stronger and could not be ignored. To go "away" meant only one place. I must go to "Higher Ground."
Just the name alone lifted my spirits. Our small green cottage and lakefront property was of such magnificient beauty to us that we lovingly named it after an old Methodist hymn we had known and sung since childhood. The selection of the name held double significiance in that we drove many miles North to reach it - therefore it was "Higher Ground" in the geographical sense. But the deeper meaning of the name indicated that spiritually we experienced a closeness with God once our feet touched the earth there - and woods and water surrounded us. The chosen name carved in a piece of wood was above the side door and a large brown wooden cross was mounted on the front of the cottage above sliding doors. The cross was made by my husband - after deciding together it would be one of our "thank yous" to God who had made it possible for us to obtain this property. It was His home and the cross bore tertimony to the fact and could be seen by all at great distance as they passed by in boats. It was to this little cottage I would go. Even after the decision was made it took much encouragement from close friends to make me adhere to it. Guilt feelings about leaving family would rush through me - yet frequently I had remained at home with our family while my husband went to New Hampshire alone to make repairs in the cottage or do winterizing. Guilt it was at those times also that made me not leave when I wanted so much to go with him and have a brief respite by our lake. With all of this repeatedly pointed out to me by him and those special friends - I had finally arrived - both in confidence and later in actually setting foot in the cottage.
But I could not simply take off as a man can. For a mother it is difficult. Courage to drive the ten hour - 400 mile trip alone was also a consideration - for that courage was missing. Then unexpected apprehension appeared in imagining being by myself in the woods at night. These were the points that came under discussion each day with my friends. Following 8 am Mass and prayers, approximaately eight to ten of us and often more - would come together at a fine little restaurant called Lena's - where it seemed all "Americana" passed through in the mornings before going separate paths into the world. It is a restaurant across the street and down a half block from our magnificient Church of the Immaculate Conception. It was in these little sessions over coffee and bran muffins served by Kathy, our caring waitress and friend, and packed into a booth meant for less persons (with chairs added to the end for late comers) - that we would help each other with individual! problems, exchange books, be listeners, and always pray our Hail Mary for others intentions and our own. Due to our unchanging choice of breakfasts, betty - who kept us light hearted and smiling with her daily witticisms - had dubbed our gradually increasing group "The Muffins."
Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2001
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