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.
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.
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.
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
Wisdom consists in doing the next thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.
Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be so shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.
~Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love
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.