Life changing choices

Some choices are bigger and more life changing than others.

Last weekend, I went to Falun – a beautiful world heritage site, hosting the Falu copper mine, the Carl Larsson Residence and many other historic buildings.
Falun was a big part in keeping Sweden afloat hundreds of years ago. Today, they still produce the famous “Falu red”, used for painting the typical Swedish red and white cottages. Of course, by choosing to make Falun a world heritage, and the mine a protected zone, the red signature colour is not allowed to be produced through mining any longer.
Today, they make the colour from rest products still available in the mine and estimated to last another 100 years. After that, the “Falu red” destiny is uncertain.

Another choice, made not far from Falu copper mine, has nothing to do with business. It’s a choice of faith.

For a couple of days I visited the monastery of “the Order of the Most Holy Savior” or “the Brigittine Order” founded by Saint Bridget of Sweden (Heliga Birgitta) in 1344.
The sisters live and work in a beautiful setting just outside of Falun, where they also run a guesthouse for those who would like to take time off to contemplate on their own or with others.

My visit there was because of a life choice my sister-in-law has made. The choice to begin the formation to become a nun within the Birgittine Order. Her choice is not an easy one. It entails giving up all your earthly possessions, learn Italian (yes, she will be educated in Rome) and accept all the rules and regulations of the Order. And they seem to be plenty.

Her choice is of course not only life changing for her, but for her family as well – me included. Suddenly, we are not her primary family – the Birgittine sisters are. She will leave us for several years, and nobody knows if she will end up in a monastery in Sweden or – perhaps in India (the Birgittine Order has lots of monasteries over there).

We also found out that we are now part of the Birgittine family as well. In spirit. It’s a nice thought, but it won’t bring my sister-in-law to our table in the evening, sharing our food, or let her enjoy the birthdays of our children, Christmas or other Holidays. This choice separates her from us.

It’s like the choices I’ve made have also separated me from my own family in the past. Leaving to study abroad, deciding to live in other countries for many years. Well, that didn’t make it easy for my family either. Of course, travelling is easier if you’re not in a monastery having to obey the mother superior, but still…

Choices are always about adding and subtracting. Nobody can have it all. And in the end, what we’ll regret are the choices we wish we’d made but didn’t.

Thus, judging people is of no use, since we all have to take full responsibility for the way we choose to live our lives when we sum it up in the end. Like another, cool ex-nun, visiting the convent told me:

All the time I was in formation to become a nun, I kept thinking about sitting at the Akropolis, smoking a cigarette. The day before I was supposed to pledge my final wows and become a nun, I renounced.  I went to Akropolis straight away, had my smoke and I have never regretted that choice.
I don’t regret having tried to become a nun, and I don’t regret giving it up to work as an artist, smoking and leading a free, spontaneous life.

Life is what it is and we make the choices we make. It’s all good.

Falu copper mine (imagine travelling down 200 metres in that bucket), Falu red (the paint) and bottom right – the Birgittine monastery.

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