Tag Archives: courage

Keeping the Faith

“Recovery” is such a deceptively comforting word.

It is: “the regaining of or possibility of regaining something lost or taken away.

It is also: “the restoration or return to any former or better state or condition.

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Recovery is where you go after the trauma has occurred.

But it’s not always clear what happens when you get there.

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Someone once said that we are all in recovery from something.

The poet Wendell Berry wrote that we turn towards our addictions, whatever they may be, because we have lost one another.

But we also turn towards addictions because we have lost ourselves. And the only way to recover is in the company of others.

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To recover in the company of others requires tremendous compassion for brokenness because the secret no one tells you, the paradox you have to learn on your own is this: no one is coming to rescue you, everyone is broken, no one has the answers, no one really ever gets it right, and it is only by sharing your deepest vulnerabilities and accepting those of others will you ever become stronger. Your brokenness joined with theirs; that’s what gets you both closer to home.

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Recovery is not about returning to a former state of grace or wholeness. It is the possibility of growing into something completely new, which is equal parts terror and exhilaration. Recovery is not about going back to get something you lost. It is going forward to find that which has thus far eluded you–the ability to live as a human being among other human beings.

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glassheartThe wreckage of your life may never become whole. But when you pick up one of your broken pieces and offer it to someone else who is missing just that piece, it will become beautiful. And it will move both of you forward towards healing.

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You will recover if you tell people who love you about your most regrettable acts, and they tell you about theirs. You will recover when you let the love in their eyes, their hands, or simply their presence, their breath, penetrate the deepest part of you so you know, really know, that you are not alone, that you are good enough. And good enough is good enough.

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From Rumi:

I’ve broken through to longing
Now, filled with a grief I have
Felt before, but never like this.
The center leads to love.
Soul opens the creation core.
Hold on to your particular pain.
That too can take you to God.

nest

Growth can happen anywhere

 

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Never Again and Forever After

Twelve days ago, on Good Friday, my life fell spectacularly, publicly, heartbreakingly apart. After all of these past months of struggle, fighting and turmoil, everything in me gave up. I caused a terrible car accident in which, by the grace of God no one was hurt. But the aftermath, the wreckage has been incalculable.

brokenI ended up in the ER tonight because I have not been able to eat or drink anything for twelve days, despite the significant steps I’ve taken to start to rebuild whatever my new life will look like. My body just told me that it was simply not going to continue this way and it didn’t.

At the hospital, they were perfunctorily kind, suggesting that I perhaps try relaxation exercises, and brought in a very nice young man who asked me if I was considering harming myself. Since I believe that my life, and more importantly, my reactions to my life, to years of  deep misery had already done enough harm, I said “No.”

So they gave me some fluids, checked my blood work, watched as I shook, vomited up the water I couldn’t keep down, and then eventually sent me home. Lying there waiting to leave, I alternated between being terrified that this was actually what it looked and felt like when someone was truly cracking up, and then offering exactly what I was in those moments to God.

I thought that I had surrendered to God, but then I remembered that last night, my prayer was not to surrender but to want to want to surrender. I believed I had done this, but I hadn’t, until tonight. I surrendered because I had no choice, and a deep sense of giving in and giving up came over me.

Not of giving up my life, but giving up, entirely and completely, the struggle.  In that moment, in repeating to myself, over and over, “I’m done. I’m done,” I knew that I wasn’t done with my life. I was done with the misery of a life I’ve been living for such a long, long time. A river began to flow through me.

On the way home, I made a fierce commitment and that is this: “I will fight as hard as it takes for as long as it takes to recover.” Recovery of body, mind and spirit. That I never again want to live a life of relentless, undignified, useless suffering. And that no one and nothing was going to take anything else away from me. Or rather, that I was not going to let myself give any part of myself away. That I would fight for the life that God means for me to live, no matter what.

If you are struggling, remember this: Blessed be the warriors who are given the privilege of following this path, blessed be the suffering that leads us somewhere, especially somewhere bigger, greater and more meaningful. Blessed be.

See below, from Anne Frank, “As long as this exists…”


As long as this exists…

Anne Frank

“‘As long as this exists,’ I thought, ‘and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy.’ The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.”

Love always,

Leslie

stripped

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Stuck in a Moment

“I never thought you were a fool
But darling, look at you.
You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight
‘Cause tears are going nowhere baby.”

my shoes on my desk

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Dining with David Whyte, Part 2

It’s taken me a long time to get up the courage to write about this experience because I was afraid I would sound like a braggy name-dropper.  But maybe it’s that enough time has gone by, maybe I’ve eased up on myself, or maybe it’s reading about artists like Summer Pierre, who set 6 and 12-month creative goals for themselves, and have the self-permission to pursue them without getting in their own way.  I love this kind of humble confidence–the simple, fierce belief that you, and everyone else, have the right to do something other than what David Whyte calls waking up every day into the “great To Do list” of your life.  (Summer Pierre is AMAZING, BTW.  Must-reads on her web site: “100 Things,” and the story of how she gave birth to her son on the side of the highway in NYC).

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Dining with David Whyte, Part 1

Someone recently asked Barbara Walters who she thought would/could “replace” Oprah as the queen of talk TV.  Barbara put her own astute spin on her answer and said, “Lady Gaga.”  She wasn’t referring to Lady Gaga as a talk show personality, but rather as a charismatic figure who speaks directly to her fans (her “little monsters”) with a message of empowerment and courage:  “It is a different time but the same message: ‘I had to struggle, I couldn’t get there, look at me, I made it, and YOU CAN TOO.’  And both of these women, Lady Gaga at 25 and Oprah in her 50’s, both of them mean it.”

Oprah has always authentically aspired to motivate her viewers, listeners and readers to live their “best lives,” and Gaga does the same.  Whether you like her (or even care about her) or not, Lady Gaga is a cultural phenomenon to pay attention to, if for no other reason than the extraordinary popularity she experiences.  She is bizarre, real, savvy, and culturally attuned to the complex issue of 21st century identity.  She has said: “I am the excuse to explore your identity.  To be exactly who you are and to feel unafraid.  To not judge yourself, to not hate yourself.” 

If this message seems worn out or far removed for you, (e.g. if you had had enough of Oprah’s empowerment talk, or are thrown off by the image of Gaga wearing a raw steak on her head or clumping through an airport in 24″ Viktor & Rolf platforms), take a moment to reflect on how many negative thoughts you had about yourself since you woke up today: 3, 5, 10, 50?  Not hating yourself is not about being a TV talk show mega-star, or a theatrical, otherworldly musician; it’s about waking up in the morning and being your own best friend.  It’s about talking to yourself as you would to someone you loved.  Or, at the very least, being someone who, as Anne Lamott writes, is militantly on your own side.  We all need more practice at that.

This post is a story about the terror and the triumph of following your passion.

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For I Know the Plans I Have for You

Just in case a prestigious institution (or any institution, really), came knocking on my door looking for a commencement speaker, I’d prepared a few notes for the graduates of 2011.  But graduation has come and gone, just like those “Congratulations!” cards at Walgreens which graduates hope contain money.  (When my brother “graduated” from 8th grade, we caught him in a corner at his party, opening the envelopes and then shaking the cards without reading them to see if there was cash inside).   I could never give a good graduation speech, though, because Maya Angelou already gave the best one ever here in Illinois in 2002.  She sang; it was magical.

In my job working with students, however, it is helpful (for my sanity) to remember how amazing people who are mostly fully formed are, how much potential they have, how much we can learn from them.  It helpful because on a lot of days, I want to smash their hands in my office door.  Just this month alone I’ve been lied to, yelled at, insulted, sat too close to, sneezed on, and told about 785 stories of dead grandparents, usually in far-off lands to which the students must flee immediately, thereby missing all of their final exams.

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Antilamentations. Or Why You Should Make Lots of Mistakes.

My apologies for not beginning this year’s Lenten blog on the first of Lent, but I have a good reason.  I was the victim of the ferocious digestive virus that has been circling our city like a plague of locusts.  First Gabe got it.  He puked all over himself while sitting in his car seat on the way to daycare.  Oh, the crying.  The stench.  The longing for a new car seat.  And he had been totally okay ten minutes before.  Then last Monday, I was at work, fine one minute, and doubled over in pain the next.  And seriously, the only thing I could think of to do was to call my mother who lives 800 miles away.  I didn’t, but still. 

So, I spent Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras cursing every morsel of food I had eaten in the last week, and Ash Wednesday piously fasting, but only because if I ate anything I’d see it again in some form in about 30 minutes.  Anyway.  Welcome to Lent 2011.  For some background on both Lent and why I am writing this Lenten blog, please click here.   At least if you read that, it will lift the tone of this post out of the toilet.  Literally.

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