Sr. Iphielya: Patron Saint of Empathy

Sr. Iphielya

I love nuns.  Some of my best friends are nuns.  Well, okay, not really, but two of my aunts are nuns.  One of them is pictured here.  She lives at the “motherhouse” now, and as a mommy blogger, the idea of a motherhouse is something I can relate to.

I think a lot about nuns, about how their way of life is growing extinct, like the dinosaurs that Mary Tyler Son is so enamored with.   I have always been around nuns, was taught by them (even sex ed., 1970s style; thank you, Sr. Morrison!), can identify a nun in or out of her habit, and used to pretend to be one as a girl by placing the green tweed cover of our living room arm chair on my head, just like my aunts.

Nuns bring me comfort.  They are familiar and soothing to me, though I appreciate not to all.  My southside Irish Dad tells more than a few tales about how cruel the nuns who taught him could be.  Then again, he’s never liked authority and my guess is that his nuns sensed that and probably tried to break him like a horse.

A few months ago, chatting with a co-worker, sharing our troubles, I found myself replying to her tale of woe with the phrase, “Oh, sister, I feel ya.”  This is a string of words I use often to convey empathy.  Oh, yeah, I’ve been there.  I get it.  That sucks. 

Sr. Iphielya was born.

We all need more empathy in our lives.  Who better to provide it than someone whose name is Sr. Iphielya?  Who better to understand than someone who lives in a motherhouse?  Who better to confide in than someone who will always tell you she gets it?  No one.

In nun culture, the head nun, the big cheese of the nun world, is known as “Mother Superior.”  She is the boss and is charged to run a tight ship.  That’s not the nun I’m going for as the alter ego to my alter ego.  Nah.  I want something a little less threatening.  We will leave Gwyneth Paltrow to pretend to be Mother Superior.  She seems to need that.  (See — I’m showing empathy right there).  Mary Tyler Dad suggested “Mother Inferior” as a tag line for Sr. Iphielya.  Good.  Funny, certainly, but flirting with disrespect.  Sr. Iphielya is neither superior nor inferior.

My mother-in-law suggested “Mother Interior.”  Nice.  I like it.  Mother Interior.  What is empathy, if not an understanding of another’s interior world, their experience, our own interior world and experiences?  We all need empathy, all that we can get, all that we can give, and a double dose of that for ourselves.

A few days ago, on the Mary Tyler Mom facebook page (the place to be on facebook), I posed what I thought was an innocuous question to my readers, “What types of things are the things about your life that you wish people understood better?”  Seventy-nine raw and heartfelt responses later, it was imminently clear that we all feel misunderstood.  We all wish folks could see the world from our eyes, from our interior.

Sr. Iphielya is going to be busy.

Like any self-respecting alter ego of an alter ego, she has her own gmail account:  Please use it.  Sr. Iphielya will be a regular feature here at Mary Tyler Mom.  She stands at the ready to lend an ear, a cup of empathy when you’ve run out, and a dash of perspective.  Maybe even a rap on the knuckles, but only if necessary.

Think of her as your Mother Interior.  When you want to vent, when you need to be understood, when you just feel like reading about yourself in a thinly veiled disguise, Sr. Iphielya will be here.


4 Replies to “Sr. Iphielya: Patron Saint of Empathy”

  1. You are awesome! I have a co-worker who is an ex-nun. Her “back at the convent” stories are priceless, as in, she learned how to pick locks at the convent. My dad went to catholic school and is terrified of nuns. One nun threatened to “shake him ’til he spit.” LMAO


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