a few inches of light

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

a time for thanks

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.

~pathwriter

the truth about morning ~mark nepo

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

poem du jour ~rilke

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

quote du jour ~pema chodron – this is an idea…

This is an idea that seems difficult for Westerners to accept: when someone harms us, they create the cause of their own suffering. They do this by strengthening habits that imprison them in a cycle of pain and confusion. It’s not that we are responsible for what someone else does, and certainly not that we should feel guilty. But when they harm us, we unintentionally become the means of their undoing. Had they looked on us with loving-kindness, however, we’d be the cause of their gathering virtue.

What I find helpful in this teaching is that what’s true for them is also true for me. The way I regard those who hurt me today will affect how I experience the world in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it.

~Pema Chodron, No Time To Lose

quote du jour ~merton – if you want…

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.

~Thomas Merton

lying in the mud

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.

Continue reading

quote du jour ~cameron

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