post du jour – the crab bucket ~elizabeth gilbert

pathwriter’s note: Liz Gilbert hits the nail on the head again and again, whether she’s sharing her own thoughts or the thoughts of others. This is her Facebook post from yesterday (12/1/14).


Dear Ones –

A few months ago, I was on stage with Rob Bell — minister, teacher, family man, great guy — and a woman in the audience asked him this question:

“I’m making all these important changes in my life, and I’m growing in so many new and exciting ways, but my family is resisting me, and I feel like their resistance is holding me back. They seem threatened by my evolution as a person, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

Rob said, “Well, of course they’re threatened by your evolution as a person. You’re disrupting their entire world view. Remember that a family is basically just a big crab bucket — whenever one of the crabs climbs out and tries to escape, the other crabs will grab hold of him and pull him back down.”

Which I thought was a VERY unexpected comment to come from a minister and a family man!

Rob surprised me even more, though, as he went on to say, “Families are institutions — just like a church, just like the army, just like a government. Their sense of their own stability depends upon keeping people in their correct place. Even if that stability is based on dysfunction or oppression. When you move out of your ‘correct place’ you threaten their sense of order, and they may very likely try to pull you back down.” Continue reading

the art of loving

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, and he designed and almost single-handedly built the addition to our house. 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 written a wonderful children’s book (which somebody out there needs to publish!). She also has “art nights” with her friends, during which they jointly create a work of art. My brother is an award-winning 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. (I have seen her set someone straight when they needed it, but I have never seen her be unkind.) 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 weekly 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—she 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 passing on her legacy of love.

mom's 83rd

Mom, on her 83rd birthday


post du jour ~elizabeth lesser

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and social activist once said that as he grew older he came to understand that it was not ideas that changed the world, but simple gestures of love given to the people around you, and sometimes to those you feel most at odds with. He wrote that in order to save the world, you must serve the people in your life. “You gradually struggle less and less for an idea,” Merton wrote, “and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”

Over the past few months my activity has revolved around my sister’s illness and her treatment and family. I had thought maybe my world would feel smaller as I stopped traveling and speaking as much as I usually do, as I scaled back at work, as I said “no” to invitations and events. But the opposite is true. My world is bigger than ever, if love is the measuring stick. When ego is the measuring the stick, the world never feels big enough. But love makes big from small.

I am not saying we should abandon all efforts to save the world, Continue reading

thanks giving

Tomorrow I head a couple of hours east to spend Thanksgiving with my family. We will eat too much, and though there have been sad and somber transitions in our family in the past year, we are sure to laugh a lot, and we will be glad to have this time with each other.

It has been an emotional year for me, with lots of changes, lots of soul-searching, lots of digging deep to find faith in the face of scary stuff, and then going back to dig even deeper when more was needed. Yet in the midst of all this, there has been a sweetness, a warmth. I have made new friendships and renewed and deepened old ones, and I have extended my roots into and felt myself surrounded and nurtured by my community, both “real” and virtual. I have felt embraced, even in my most difficult moments, knowing on some level that I am somehow being held by this web of people near and far.

Thank you, dear readers, for being a part of my web. You have honored me by choosing to “follow” me as I make my way, sometimes haltingly, through this maze that is my life. I am glad for your companionship, and I am grateful for your time and attention, your insights and your encouragement. I look forward to sharing the next part of the journey with you. Namaste.



excerpt du jour ~anne lamott

pathwriter’s note: The following is an excerpt from Anne Lamott’s new book, Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers.  I lifted the text from so that you could read it without the distraction of all the ads.

My Secret Little Prayer

It is all hopeless. Even for a crabby optimist like me, things couldn’t be worse. Everywhere you turn, our lives and marriages and morale and government are falling to pieces. So many friends have broken children. The planet does not seem long for this world. Repent! Oh, wait, never mind. I meant: Help.

What I wanted my whole life was relief—from pressure, isolation, people’s suffering (including my own, which was mainly mental), and entire political administrations. That is really all I want now. Besides dealing with standard-issue family crisis, heartbreak, and mishegas, I feel that I can’t stand one single more death in my life. That’s too bad, because as we speak, I have a cherished thirteen-year-old cat who is near death from lymphoma. I know I won’t be able to live without her.

This must sound relatively petty to those of you facing the impending loss of people, careers, or retirement savings. But if you are madly in love with your pets, as any rational person is, you know what a loss it will be for both me and my three-year-old grandson, Jax. My cat Jeanie has helped raise him, and it will be his first death. I told him that she was sick, and that the angels were going to take her from us. I tried to make it sound like rather happy news—after all, vultures aren’t coming for her, or snakes—but he wasn’t having any of it.

“Angels are taking Jeanie away?” Continue reading

boundaries ~kelly diels

…boundaries don’t have to be about putting or keeping people out, they can be about inviting people in.

~Kelly Diels, Cleavage

To read the entire post (the best take on boundaries I’ve come across):

Kelly Diels – towards non-shrieky boundaries

my father, my self

My father, in college days

I was visited by the spirit of my father this afternoon as I raked my yard.  Turning the rake over and dragging it along the ground to release the leaves that had been skewered by the tines, I was pulled back in time to the day my dad showed me this little trick of unclogging my rake.

A simple thing, of course, but, at the time, to the child that I was, it was amazing. It was one of those “how cool is that!” moments. I’ve never lost the feeling of childlike wonder and delight at learning what seemed at the time to be a mysterious grownup secret that my dad was letting me in on. I still think it’s a pretty neat trick, and his presence is with me every time I do it.

I have these sorts of moments from time to time. I recall my father showing me how to sweep dust out of a corner; every time I jab a broom into a tight spot—just so—he is there. I remember ballroom dancing with him to Lawrence Welk’s music on television, telling me as he led me around our tiny living room that the proper way to dance was on the balls of my feet—my very first dancing lesson, by the first of what would eventually be many dance teachers.

Continue reading