grieving and living and grateful

I have a little stack of books that can never be loaned to any one. These books live on my nightstand, wherever my nightstand happens to be.  They go in my carry-on luggage, because the airlines are welcome to lose my undies, but they can never be trusted with my preciouses.

I have Brennan Manning's book, Abba's Child.  I have something by Henri Nouwen, usually The Inner Voice of Love, but sometimes Turn My Mourning Into Dancing.  And I have Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies.

Last night, I went over to a church in Fort Worth to hear Anne Lamott speak, and it was a night of splendiferous awesomeness.

Because Anne is hilarious and human and she makes me want to trust Jesus more, and be bravely myself.

And because Andy and my friend Christie went too, and you can't have splendierous awesomeness without fellow appreciators.

And mostly because Traveling Mercies helped save my life back in 2003.  She taught me how to grieve.  And through grieving, I am learning how to be more alive, and less fearful, in the world.

From her essay, Ladders in Traveling Mercies:

All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately.  But what I've discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it.

Don't get me wrong:  grief sucks; it really does.  Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit.  Mostly I have tried to avoid it by staying very busy, working too hard, trying to achieve as much as possible.  You can often avoid the pain by trying to fix other people; shopping helps in a pinch, as does romantic obsession.  Martyrdom can't be beat.  While too much exercise works for some people, it doesn't for me, but I have found that a stack of magazines can be numbing and even mood altering.  But the bad news is that whatever you use to keep the pain at bay robs you of the flecks and nuggets of gold that feeling grief will give you.  A fixation can keep you nicely defined and give you the illusion that your life has not fallen apart.  But since your life may indeed have fallen apart, the illusion won't hold up forever, and if you are lucky and brave, you will be willing to bear disillusion.  You begin to cry and writhe and yell and then to keep on crying; and then, finally, grief ends up giving you the two best things:  softness and illumination.

Yup.  That's the truth.  The kind that sets you free.

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