‘You Gotta Join Your Life’

Mary Ruppert and Eileen Schofield walk to work together in Washington, D.C. Photo by Brian A. Taylor Photography

Mary Ruppert and Eileen Schofield. Photo by Brian A. Taylor Photography

by Mary Ruppert

“You gotta join your life. People are going to love you. You gotta join your life ….” I repeated to myself, with tears pouring down my cheeks, nose dripping, and no sign of a tissue this side of airport security.

Poised to wing my way into the space between the safety of family and bedrock community in Washington, D.C., and the exciting unknown of Toronto, I had made it no further than an armchair facing the passport check. For perhaps three minutes I whispered courage to myself, courage that my friend Eileen had poured into my ear when I’d told her I was leaving.

Nine years into my membership with L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C., I had put down deep roots, particularly with Eileen Schofield. We had lived together for two years at the bustling row house on Ontario Road, dancing in the kitchen, and pondering things like which flavor of cupcake best represented us.

An undignified selfie of Mary and Eileen.

An undignified selfie of Mary and Eileen.

Even after I moved out of her house and took a role in the L’Arche GWDC development office, Eileen and I worked together two days a week. Our task was to introduce L’Arche, and help folks stay in touch with the community. She helped me overcome my fear around connecting with strangers, and I supported her in owning her gifts as a leader. We were coworkers, but first we were friends. It gave me a thrill every Thursday morning when Eileen asked, “How’s my Mary doing?”

As beautiful as my work at L’Arche GWDC was, for years something deep in me had been crying out with persistence, “Explore your creativity! Dance! Sing! Draw! Act!”

After much deliberation and hand-wringing on my part, as well as encouragement from friends at L’Arche and beyond, I decided to leave my family, and the support system in D.C. I had so carefully constructed. I was headed to live in L’Arche Toronto and spend time with their arts program, Sol Express. That deep voice of persistence was ready to soak like a tea bag in movement, music, improvisation, and visual art at Sol Express, and make strangers into friends.

It sounded great!

It sounded terrifying.

I delayed telling Eileen about my move as long as I could. My guilt button was getting a major workout, because I knew she’d feel my loss deeply. So when she grabbed my hand and said, “Mary, you gotta join your life!” with all the force of her love and determination, I lost my breath.

"Entrust" by Mary Ruppert

“Entrust” by Mary Ruppert

She went on, “Don’t go there and say, ‘I can’t act. I can’t draw.’ Don’t be scared. People are going to love you. You gotta join your life, honey.”

For fifteen minutes she looked me right in my streaming eyes and firmly stared down my every unspoken insecurity.

So it was that with leaky eyes and nose again, Eileen’s words spilling out under my breath propelled my reluctant legs through security and into the window seat on flight 724.

And they were Eileen’s words that echoed in my mind yesterday as I was washing my dishes, content and tired after a day of improv games and vocal exercises, that one of my new housemates at L’Arche Toronto gently tapped my elbow in passing and said​​, “I love you.”

Mary Ruppert is a former assistant and Director of Philanthropy at L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. She is currently exploring her creative gifts with L’Arche Toronto‘s Sol Express arts program and wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to pay her to be creative all day. Subscribe to her newsletter at tinyletter.com/marytruppert.

Artwork by Mary Ruppert