I played with titles and couldn’t come up with any that made me happy! At first I placed “extraordinary” as a means of describing my good friend, but although I think it describes her life very well, Dee would NOT be comfortable. She is a very humble person and I don’t think truly understands the value she carries forward to others.
So to have READY as your last name, and then to be a writer? I am many things, but not particularly clever. It just flows…and Dee Ready is indeed someone I highly value as a friend yet I’ve only met through e-mail correspondence and one phone call.
I first discovered Dee’s blog, “Coming Home to Myself,” by noting her thoughtful, deeply personal responses left in the comments on several blogs I was following. Dee wrote about many aspects of her life, including the years she spent as a nun in a Benedictine Order. I found each of her stories incredibly interesting.
Dee has an ability to share her life with honesty about the deep, deep lows, while also living in the joy of each day. She inspires me with her indomitable spirit and her care for others. If I had to choose one word for Dee, I think my word would be “gracious.” With her lifelong commitment to social justice, she encourages grace to others. And in writing this book, she exhibits an ability to write very honestly about her relationship with a very demanding religious community, yet looks back with wisdom and grace.
I had the privilege of being one of Dee’s first readers, and in reading the first manuscript of “Prayer Wasn’t Enough: A Convent Memoir” about two years ago, I championed her to complete her edits and publish!
It is an excellent book that both entertains and educates, offering an honest peek behind the scenes of young women living communally in a religious order, bound together in the strict rigors of struggling with conformity while reaching toward an expected promise of joy in serving God.
By the time I closed the book I was deeply moved to see how Dee’s very personal struggles are relatable to anyone–no convent experience required–challenged by an abrupt change in life and perhaps wondering about the “road not taken.”
She has a gift of bringing experiences forward that remind us that despite the perception of differences, we are yet a part of the same human family.
I have asked Dee to share a little about herself, and it’s my privilege to introduce her to you here on breathelighter.
Dee, I believe I first met you through your book,”A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story.” What was it about Dulcy that inspired you to write about her?
Debra, first let me thank you for this interview. I so appreciate your generosity.
Now to Dulcy, whose full name was Dulcinea. She was as sweet as her name, but when she died, I didn’t plan to write anything. I didn’t think of myself as a writer. Then two days later, I felt compelled to go to the computer. I put my hands on the keys and words began to flow. The truth is that Dulcy gave me the story of our life together. In fact, she gave me enough for two gift books: A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story and A Cat’s Legacy.
Some of your experiences as Sister Innocence were emotionally very depleting and difficult. I’m certainly curious about how writing this book has felt to you as you revisit aspects of your life that have held such challenge. Have your friends and family encouraged you to write this memoir?
Friends said my life was interesting and suggested writing a memoir. I chose the convent memoir because for years I’d grappled with why I left when so many of my friends stayed. Deep down I felt a failure. Writing the memoir proved to be wonderfully therapeutic. I cried several times for that young Dee Ready who was so naive and so innocent.
What has been the most challenging to you in writing this book?
The most challenging part I think has been to be true to that twenty-two-year-old who entered the convent. To be true to how she thought and felt. I no longer have those same feelings or thoughts or conflicts. But because they were so surrounded by emotion at the time, I’ve never forgotten them, and I wanted to be true to that young woman.
Your memoir covers the span of years between entering and leaving the Order. What have you learned from readers of your memoir that surprises you?
That’s a good question, because readers seem to be more perceptive about the memoir than I’ve been. I think, perhaps that the essence of the story eluded me! I’ve just been too close to it to really see the true arc of the memoir.
Another thing that has surprised me is that several readers have mentioned my being “brave” in writing this. I’m not sure I understand what they mean with regard to what I wrote.
Finally, I’ve never really felt like a true writer. Mostly I’ve thought of myself as a hack, despite the success of A Cat’s Life. I’ve always felt that Dulcy wrote that. I was just the scribe—the editor!
If you could have included one more episode from your life in this memoir, what would you share?
I would share the fact that for much I my life I felt myself to be physically unattractive. During my teens and throughout my twenties and even my thirties I had a bad case of acne that affected me adversely. I became quite shy around boys, positive that they were thinking how ugly I was.
So donning a nun’s habit in which there is a white coif surrounding your face, covering your hair, and thus making that face, with all its acne, prominent was hard. That, in my mind, was brave.
I didn’t write about that because I wasn’t sure I could do justice to the young Dee Ready’s feelings at the time. I can remember once when teaching in high school that I was scolding a senior, and I suddenly realized that he was looking at my face. I think I flushed and started stuttering because I couldn’t get beyond what he must have been looking at. I truly was emotionally very immature with some deep-seated problems.
If you could share one thing with your younger self to better prepare her for the future, what would that be?
I would tell her to seek the thoughts of others and discover what their reality is. Also, ask them their view of myself. I was so enmeshed in my naive reality that I became a taskmaster to myself. I surely wasn’t gracious to myself during those eight-and-a-half years of convent living.
Are you working on any other books or writing projects? Can you tell us about them?
I’ve completed book #1 of a cat fantasy trilogy. I hope to publish the gift book for the holidays this year.
Also, I am polishing a novel that I’ve worked on—off and on—for twenty years. The characters in this book are dear to me. I’m so hoping that when the book is published this year, these characters will appeal to readers.
I mentioned that I find you to be a very gracious person. What is it you’d like your readers to know or remember after reading your book. Do you have a particular hope for this book?
I hope that readers look to their own youthful selves and forgive themselves for whatever misconceptions they had which entangled them for a time. The reality for me is that trying to be perfect—and so many of us fall into this trap— leads us away from embracing who we really are with all our foibles and faults and fissures as well as all our joy and creative juices! It’s really true that there is only one of us and we need to delight in that. Just as we delight in the Holy Oneness of All Creation in which we all have our being.
I hope the book is successful enough that I will be able to have the funds to continue self-publishing my future writing. Writers want their thoughts to be read; they want their characters to delight others; they want their plots to intrigue readers. I want to publish many more books because stories fill my mind and my heart.
Dear breathelighter readers, I hope that you’ll be inspired to order a copy of “Prayer Wasn’t Enough: A Convent Memoir,” and maybe also read one of Dee’s books about her beloved Dulcy. She is an insightful writer you’ll be so happy to discover!
Please make a point of meeting her on “Coming Home to Myself.” and be sure to introduce yourself as one of my friends!