Sometimes people forget their own greatness.
Sometimes people forget their own greatness.
I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.
~Vincent Van Gogh
This quote made me think of something my mom has said many times to people who comment on how talented her children are. In response, she will invariably point out that my brothers and my sister and I got all of our various talents from my father, not from her.
It’s true my dad had many talents—he sang tenor in the church choir, was a wonderful ballroom dancer, designed houses, and was an excellent artist and draftsman; he wrote; he built furniture. It’s also true that all four of us kids seemed to have inherited some combination of those talents. My sister is a writer who has “art nights” with her friends, during which they jointly create a work of art. My brother is a professional photographer who also writes and paints and plays guitar. My other brother is a finish carpenter who writes poetry and draws. I was a professional dancer, and I also write, design clothes, and draw a little. All of these things make up a big part of who we are, and I know we’re all grateful for Dad’s legacy. However, my mom’s legacy, though not often recognized as such, is just as—if not more—important.
My mom’s talents are those of the heart. By her quiet example, my mom showed us how to treat people with respect and kindness. I don’t remember her ever specifically telling me that all people deserved to be treated this way—I learned from watching her. I’ve never seen her be rude to anyone, even when it might have been well deserved. Store cashiers and bank tellers adore her. The nurses during her stay in the hospital last year went on and on about how sweet she is. Her neighbors routinely tell me, “We just love your mother!” In fact, if I had a nickel for every time someone said that to me, I’d have a nice little nest egg set aside.
Mom is 84 now, and she’s got a collection of ailments that have slowed her down and limited her mobility in recent years. In spite of this, she takes the time to call or visit friends who are ill, make regular phone calls to my aunt (my dad’s brother’s wife) in Florida who has dementia, and have “tea” every Sunday afternoon with her 95-year-old shut-in neighbor. She still saves coupons for us “kids” and cuts out newspaper articles she thinks we’d be interested in, setting them aside in a folder until we come for a visit. And she still buys me a bag of candy corn (my favorite when I was a child) every Halloween—and even mails it to me if she knows she’s not going to see me.
As my sister likes to say, we definitely won the mom lottery, and I’m grateful to have been blessed with such a wonderful parent. I don’t know that I’ll ever reach the level of artistry my mother has mastered in loving other people—after all, she’s set the bar pretty high. However, I have an excellent role model, and I can’t think of anything more important than preserving and passing on her legacy of love.
For more about my mom…
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
~Henri J.M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life
I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
I don’t know Who—or what—put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone—or Something—and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, has a goal.
It’s incredibly touching when someone who seems so hopeless finds a few inches of light
to stand in and makes everything work as well as possible. All of us lurch and fall,
sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving, feel like idiots, lose our balance,
gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going.
~Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith
Most of us have been in this place at one time or another, hopeless and searching desperately for a tiny patch of light, trying our damnedest to pull it all together—or at least not let it fall apart. I’ve been there more than once in recent years.
I do believe that, ultimately, getting through such times comes down to faith. I’m not talking about religious faith. I’m talking about the mundane kind of faith that gets you up in the morning and puts your feet on the ground and points you toward the realization that you are, in fact, still here—that whatever-it-was didn’t kill you while you were sleeping last night, and the world actually continued to turn.
This is kind of a good news/bad news thing to realize. Continue reading
This has been a heck of a year. I’ve been through a lot, come close to giving up more than once, and, in the end, managed to pick myself back up and keep going. I can’t say that it was fun to go through a lot of what I’ve gone through, but I can say that there were surprising gifts and blessings and joys that often accompanied the crappy, stressful stuff. Something would fall apart…but then something even better would come along. I would be sure something wasn’t going to work out, and then it did. Having to sit with my engine on idle for a few months led to insights about what I want and need in my life that surprised me and have changed the way I look at things. I’m not the same person I was this time last year, and I think that’s a good thing.
I’m still discombobulated (don’t you love that word?) by the unlikeliness of all that’s happened and where it’s landed me. I’m still trying to get a foothold, still trying to figure out who I am going forward. But somehow, in spite all of the craziness of the past year, I’ve managed to keep this blog going. Or maybe I have that backwards. This blog and its readers have been a constant for me in the midst of a wildly unpredictable year. Your “likes” and comments have encouraged me, and knowing you were out there reading—expecting at the very least a quote du jour—kept me posting even when the last thing I felt like doing was write a post or come up with another inspiring, thought-provoking quote. (My thoughts were provoked quite enough, thank you!)
Along the way, more of you kept following pathwriter, in increasing numbers, even during the times when I felt I was neglecting you. One day I looked at my stats to find that I’d somehow passed the 500-follower mark. When (and how) did that happen?
It doesn’t really matter, of course. The only thing that matters, the only thing I really wanted to say when I sat down to write this is thank you. Thank you for following, for reading, for liking, for commenting, for reblogging or sharing my posts on Twitter and Facebook…for any tiny thing you might have done to keep me posting—and thereby, putting one virtual foot in front of the other. Thank you for being part of the reason I didn’t go off the deep end this year. I am truly and deeply grateful.
There is a vastness that quiets the soul. But sometimes we are so squarely
in the midst of life’s forces that we can’t see what we’re a part of.
The truth about morning is that it is the small light of the beginning breaking through, again and again. It is a wisdom so large and clear, one which carries us through our lives so quietly and completely that we seldom see it.
Day after day, we are covered with the dust and grit of what we go through. It tends to weigh us down, and then we think and scheme and problem solve. Then we worry if it will all really work, and if it is the right thing to do. It all makes us dark and cluttered.
But despite our stubbornness of concern, we tire and must turn what has happened over to the hammock of night. This is a good thing. For no matter how unfinished we seem, the letting go into sleep is nothing short of a quiet miracle.
This letting go into sleep is an innate, reflexive form of meditation, no different than a fly rubbing its face or a doe licking its fawn. Sooner or later, without discipline or devotion, despite our resolutions and mistakes, we each must sleep. We must surrender to the quieting of all intent and regret, so that the small light of the beginning can rise in us, again and again.
There is no escaping this profound simplicity: what happens covers us like dirt. It covers our hearts and minds, till, at the shore we call exhaustion, we slip into the waters of sleep in a daily sort of baptism, so we can begin again.
So whenever you feel urgent or overwhelmed, whenever you feel pressed to figure things out or to rethink the unthinkable…rest…so that the endless beginning—which some call the voice of God—might break through what has happened. And you will wake feeling like dawn.
~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
Ah, not to be cut off
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars
The inner—what is it?
if not intensified sky
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.
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
We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet