My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as to those who simply love to read. You will find snippets of things I am working on and special announcements here.
Sometimes I ask a question, and the answer comes wrapped in astonishment.
Over several weeks, a layer of melancholy seemed to cling to me that I couldn't strip off my mind, like transparent strands of spider webbing. I wrote in my journal. Prayed. "God, peel back this film of misery. Give me a key to open the door." At the bottom of the page I'd drawn a key.
A few nights later I dreamed. In the dream, I discovered a locked door with a large keyhole. When I peered through the opening, I observed a glimmering sea, the sun spangling and dancing over the water. I wanted to unlock the door, but I didn't have the key. I heard in my mind, "Turn toward grace." A key materialized in my hand. I placed it in the keyhole, and the door swung open. I awakened.
There was my answer. "Turn toward grace." But what did that really mean?
When you have something like reading--or drawing or music or nature--it surrounds you with a sense of connection to somethng great.~Anne Lamott (from Stitches, A Handbook On Meaning, Hope and Repair)
I opened the door of the library, the bottom of my jeans soaked through after walking across the parking lot in a downpour. My red umbrella dripped mercilessly, creating a puddle in the foyer. I hadn't cared that I was more wet than dry, because I had tried something new--even as small a thing as going to a different library branch--off my beaten path.
The librarian raised one eyebrow as I disrupted the peace, my shoes making lurid sounds as I crossed the faux-wood flooring over to the movie section. A toddler screamed at the same moment my shoes created a louder, more disgusting noise, distracting the librarian from his watchful eye on me. I found no movies that fit my mood. Gooseflesh appeared on my arms as the raindrops evaporated. I ran my ring fingers under my eyes, black eyeliner left smudges on my damp palms. I spied the new book section where my reward for trying something different awaited: The Art Of Vanishing, A Memoir Of Wanderlust by Laura Smith. I made my way to the checkout desk, my shoes now silenced. The librarian gave me a wry smile as I slipped the book into my bag.
Over the last weeks I'd been feeling overwhelmed--awful things happening at work--patients overdosing, a patient with gangrene from medical neglect, afraid to go to the hospital because he didn't have medical insurance. People frightened and traumatized. People coming apart. Somehow I was supposed to help them. Much of the time I didn't know where to begin. Most days I'd say, "You made it here today. That's a good start. Let's pull the session into the present. What's the next safest action for you to take today?" (I'm a firm believer in the beauty of small, incremental change). Just as I ask my patients to risk doing something different, I needed to keeping choosing to try new things too--even though I'm such a creature of habit--appreciating sameness, made delirious by familiarity. Going to a new library was a start. What was next?
A single star suspended in the morning sky attracted me in its silent glory. I leaned back against my car and observed the star's glinting presence until the sky grew pale with the day's first light. "A sky to remember," I thought, as I headed off to work.
The memory stayed with me all week, that dose of blue sky and silver star like protein powder causing me to brim with grace and energy.
Then later in the week I read an excerpt from Dr. Henry Cloud's book, Necessary Losses. He provided a metaphor that resonated. He spoke of the rose bush. He described how rose bushes produce many more buds than they can sustain. The person growing roses must trim many of the buds to allow the plant to route its resources to nourish the healthiest blooms. If the plant is not pruned, the roses will not flourish. Dr. Cloud stated that often our lives can be like the rose bush. We perceive loss as negative, rather than embrace the concept of letting go as a means to increase health and wholeness. Perhaps I was magnetized to the morning sky, because it bore the symbolism of simplification. Paring down. One star, glowing aloft in its blue estate.
The root of the word "integration" is the smaller word "integer," which means "whole." Too often, racing through life, we become the "hole," not the "whole." We become an unexamined maw into which our encounters and experiences rush unassimilated, leaving us both full and unsatisfied because nothing has been digested and taken in. In order to "integrate" our experiences, we must take them into account against the broader canvas of our life. We must slow down and recognize when currents of change, like movements in a symphony, are moving through us.~Julia Cameron (from The Right to Write, An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life)
Sometimes answers surface on the page before they rise to the top in my thinking process. At times, I look back over journal entries searching for ideas, themes and actions that remain unassimilated in my life. As I wrestle with integrating the desire for more freedom with the need for careful consideration regarding retirement, what I discovered anew on the page provided determination to keep walking toward increased liberty. Writing can be that friend who listens...
I wrote: Coming up out of the blue. A dream surfaces. I am riding a bike. It's blue, the ocean near. I want to remember. I need to remember, but by noon it's gone. Life layers over me.
I remember the day, a hot, sweltering, Carolina afternoon, not unlike the scorching summer days we are experiencing now. Maybe that's why I'm recalling that time a few years ago. I walked over to our mailbox. I could feel the heat soak into my hands when I opened the box. I didn't even look through the collection of envelopes--probably only junk mail and bills. I spied a neon-yellow card in the middle of the stack. I wasn't curious--coupons, most likely, for fast food. Later that night, I sat eating dinner alone, my husband out of town. I absentmindedly picked up the envelopes and began to shuffle through them. Buried inside the quotidian array, I found a postcard from my husband. He has a lovely, vintage practice of buying postcards, writing a few lines and mailing them to me when he's away visiting his family in Europe. The photo on the card captured a scene of people sitting on benches around a fountain, a faultless blue sky overhead. My husband wrote on the back of the postcard, "We should be here together." I ran my fingertips over the ink he used to pen the words, the handwriting as familiar to me as my own breath. How could a postcard, something so small, so elemental bring such comfort?
I think because we crave to be known. In the sometimes harrowing pace that life foists upon us, we long to know that someone wants to share our company, that we have been singled out by someone else.