And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.
~Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
I’ve been in this place before, and I know exactly what Anne Lamott means when she says “I just had to lie in the mud…grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.” There were people who wanted me to “get help”—which was code for drugs to dull the pain—and I stood and listened while people tried to tell me that I shouldn’t still be feeling what I was feeling. But I believed then, and I believe now, something that I once heard Oprah express beautifully on one of her shows, “When someone says something to you about how long you’re taking to get over a loss, just remember, it’s different for everybody—tell them it takes as long as it takes.”
I don’t discount the benefits of antidepressants in certain situations, and yes, there are people who wallow in their grief to the point that it takes over their lives and becomes who they are. However, I think we as a society have become increasingly uncomfortable with uncomfortable feelings. We want to “fix” them and make them go away, in spite of the fact that those feelings are often the very means by which we grow and deepen as human beings and by which we become more truly ourselves.
Most of us are not raised to actively encounter our destiny. We may not know that we have one. As children, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others, that we will (or should) find our satisfactions as they have found theirs. Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are schooled to ask others. We are, in effect, trained to listen to others’ versions of ourselves. We are brought up in our life as told to us by someone else! When we survey our lives, seeking to fulfill our creativity, we often see we had a dream that went glimmering because we believed, and those around us believed, that the dream was beyond our reach. Many of us would have been, or at least might have been, done, tried something, if…
If we had known who we really were.
~Julia Cameron, The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart
I’m a latecomer to the Eat, Pray, Love party. I bought the book five or six years ago, but didn’t connect with it at the time, so it sat on my shelf (or, more recently, in a box in a storage facility), unread. This is not unusual for me; I’ve often bought books and not read them until later—sometime years later. I’ve come to believe that I read books when it’s the right time for me to read them, and this was certainly the case with Eat, Pray, Love.
Anyway, I began following Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook a few months ago, while I was in my limbo period at my mom’s, waiting for the house in NC to become available. I think someone re-posted a quote/status update of hers that I liked one day, and when I realized she had a page, I thought, “Why not?”
As I read more of her posts, I decided that I rather liked Liz, and suddenly I very much wanted to read her book, so I resolved to do so when I finally got to the new house. Once I’d unearthed it from the mountain of book boxes, I read a bit at a time, which allowed me to mull over things that Liz or ‘Richard from Texas’ or some other person in the book said that struck me. Several times, I found myself wanting to post whole passages from the book here on pathwriter, but kept thinking, maybe later.
Then I read Chapter 69. The tears welled, and a lump rose in my throat, and I knew this was the passage I had to post.
The unconscious wants truth. It ceases to speak to those who want something else more than truth.
I’m sitting down to write without really knowing what’s going to come out. I’m doing this because I tend to obsess over what I should write about, and whether I can carry through the thought to the end, and whether anyone will get what I’m trying to say, and whether what I write will sound like just so much metaphysical/spiritual drivel. Who wants to read this stuff, anyway? And, of course, all this fretting keeps me from writing. (I’m sure plenty of you out there are nodding your heads, being well acquainted with this state.)
On the other hand, I’ve always done well with assignments and deadlines. When I was the dance writer for a weekly publication here in NC, I was invited to participate in the American Dance Festival’s Dance Critics Conference. The format for the conference was that we would attend performances by modern dance companies from all over the world, then immediately return to a room full of computers and write our reviews in the space of an hour and a half or so.
When I learned this, I panicked. After all, I’d only been doing this for a year and a half, and I’d pretty much lucked into the job, and I was used to writing for a weekly. I was used to having a LOT of time to edit and rework what I wrote. What the hell would my reviews be like with only an hour and a half to complete them? Continue reading
The path to God doesn’t require scaling mountains, slaying dragons, or living in caves while dining on meager rations of locusts and wild honey. It only requires the eyes of the mind to recognize what the heart has always known. The Ground of our Being is love.
~Joan Borysenko, A Woman’s Path to God
I trust the mystery. I trust what comes in silence and what comes in nature where there’s no diversion. I think the lack of stimulation allows us to hear and experience a deeper river that’s constant, still, vibrant, and real. And the process of deep listening with attention and intention catalyzes and mobilizes exactly what’s needed at that time.
You are at my side, dear friends, and God is everywhere. Yet ultimately we are alone, making our way home by the candle of the heart. The light is steady and sure but extends only far enough to see the next step. That there are steps beyond is a matter of faith. That we have the faith to endure and walk our own journey—even when we think that we are lost—is a gift of grace, and of friendship. Many times our light seems to go out. But another light, one held by a stranger or a friend, a book or a song, a blackbird or a wildflower, comes close enough so that we can see our path by its light. And in time, we realize that the light we have borrowed was always our own.
~Joan Borysenko, A Woman’s Journey to God
What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.
Just as you tend your garden with care and attention—turning and enriching the soil, pulling the weeds, pruning back deadwood—so, too, must you tend your inner garden, turning and enriching the soil of your soul, pulling the weeds of doubt and fear, pruning back the deadwood of old habits and beliefs that no longer serve you.
Soil that is depleted and lacking in nutrients cannot support the growth of the plants that are placed in it; your soul is the same. You must feed it, give it the elements that will make it a fertile place to grow a life and fulfill your purpose.
Do you know that you are blessed? Of course you do. You see it clearly when you are able to quiet the fear and anxiety. Make the time to go within…and receive guidance. Check in with your body. Return to awareness.
You have been given the gift of time. Receive it. Appreciate it. Let it fill you and bear fruit. It will, if you allow it.
Doing as others told me, I was Blind.
Coming when others called me, I was Lost.
then I left everyone, myself as well.
then I found Everyone, Myself as well.
There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?
~Dalai Lama XIV