Tag Archives: hope

A Tale of Two Lewises


This morning I was trolling C.S. Lewis memes, looking for reassurance in quotes from “Mere Christianity” and “The Problem of Pain.” But as Google is wont to do, it proffered the words of another Lewis, those of the representative of Georgia’s 5th District.

I myself led a quite sheltered life in my youth. While I quietly protested the war in Vietnam in my own way, I was unaware of much of what was going on in America, largely due to media censorship, but also because I was too busy embroidering my jeans and trying to get a boyfriend.

It’s not like in the past 40-50 years I’d forgotten how truly brutally political and human rights activists were treated.  But earlier this week I watched “Steal This Movie,” about the life of Abbie Hoffman.  I’d been unaware that Hoffman was severely beaten for simply wearing a red, white and blue shirt patterned after our flag.

Wearing our flag was something many of us proudly did in the weeks after 9/11 and I’ll bet not one of us thought we’d risk a beating for it.

By his own count, John Lewis was arrested more than 40 times during his days of civil rights activism.  I don’t like to think about how many of those times he was also battered or beaten.  Yet today he stands before crowds and preaches a message of diligence and courage.

I am afraid. I am worried. I am angry and frustrated that America is still a land of great brutality and violence and political corruption. We’ve forgotten that some of us fled England for relief from religious tyranny. We do not remember how precarious it was for the Founding Fathers to write such a thing as a Constitution.

And we still allow those in power to sacrifice lives overseas for economic and political reasons, spinning war as a necessary exercise in defense of freedom, while they, like so many leeches, suck human rights and civil rights from the lives of ordinary citizens.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.”

He also wrote, “We read to know we are not alone.”

So I’m writing this morning as I struggle with understanding. And I will read this morning to find community and comfort, which means taking a break from Facebook and CNN.  And I’ll post this and hope it helps someone else. It surely has helped me.




when Faith is a well-chewed pencil point breaking mid-page,

on the periphery, Hope quietly burps and squints through a frazzled curl.

The skyline returns to its place in the distance
while Love finds a spot not far from the marker,

merrily beaming and resolute as the greening wood.

~ for Rachel



Last night my daughter called. There doesn’t seem to be a flat rock in the middle of our lives where we can just sit in the sun and be still for a while.

“It’s an icky place to be,” I said.

“It’s icky,” she replied.

I woke this morning with a familiar flutter in my chest, about two degrees of stress away from a panic attack. It sort of feels like too much caffeine, only I haven’t had any yet.

Last Sunday afternoon my brother called. Mom was afraid and had called the police. Dad was angry and combative.  About six hours later he was admitted to a hospital room.

On Monday Dad’s nurse called me to come get Mom. About five hours later she was admitted to a room around the corner from Dad.

They both have some form of dementia. It doesn’t matter which kind, they’re impaired. Their bodies have outlived their minds and that just doesn’t seem fair.

On Wednesday I went to their house to remove anything that burglars might want and to bag up what might need laundering. I filled the hatch of my car with boxes of files, anything that looked like an important document. I left the four leaf bags full of laundry on the living room floor. I put two leaf bags full of ruined bedding in the trash.

On Thursday I went back and removed boxes of photos, more documents, stacks of mail, folios of papers: my dad’s military records, my mom’s notebooks.

I went home and began looking for the money. A memory care facility for both of them is going to be expensive.

By Saturday afternoon I had it all sorted. I had discarded enough paper to fill the garbage cart: junk mail, magazines, empty envelopes. Mom’s carefully collected recipes are on the kitchen table. Boxes of cancelled checks and insurance policies and medical records litter the living room floor.

My parents never owned a computer. My dad has an Underwood typewriter that uses a ribbon. Among his stuff I found a box of typewriter erasers and brushes and several packs of carbon paper.

As I type this I am thinking that some of my readers will not know what these things are, and I can feel them Googling now.


Grammy & Grampy are both patients in the hospital. Both have dementia. She doesn’t remember why they are there, and she keeps trying to take him home. Doc says they are trying to keep the #lovebirds together. ❤️

“Have they ever been apart?” my brother asked.

“In the ’60s Dad went on active duty for two weeks,” I replied.

I took my parents some clothing during visiting hours. They were sitting in the hall with another patient, in chairs lined against the wall across from the nurses’ station.

Mom now talks of nothing else but caring for Dad. His welfare is her only need.

She asked me to help her find a place for them to live. When she began to weep, I cradled her. She rested her head on my shoulder like a little girl and quieted. Her body felt like delicate glass that might shatter at any second.

Gently prodding Dad awake, she said, “Look who’s here.”

Dad slowly brought me into focus and smiled. He was too groggy to speak, but he winked at me. To this day it thrills me when he does that.

Mom rose from her chair to wipe his lips with a corner of his blanket. She smoothed his hair and kissed him on the mouth.

“We want to keep the lovebirds together,” their doctor said.

Yes. As long as we can. #lovebirds



heartfull_choose_love_-5587Sometimes you have a day in which you feel everything is falling into place.

You didn’t do anything; you’ve just been putting one foot in front of the other, trying to do a little better with your diet and exercise, maybe taking five minutes to meditate, reaching out to a friend who’s struggling and telling her that she matters.

Maybe it’s because your doctor tweaked your meds a little. Maybe it’s because the rain cleared the air and it’s easier to breathe. And maybe it’s simply grace.

Whatever the reason, those days have been few and far between over the last several years, and I am grateful for this one. And I want to tell you: don’t give up. You can have one, too. It’s my belief that God wants us to have an abundant life and that our struggles ennoble us. And with a little gratitude, I can see that my life is already abundant, that I have more than everything I need.

That’s all. I love you and I know that you love me. We can’t help it. It’s how we’re made.



I was watching an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” last night and I laughed out loud. I really did. All by myself with no one to hear me. It kind of surprised me, not only because that hasn’t happened in a long time but because I hadn’t realized that until just then.

It means I’m healing. My prayers mean something. Faith pays off. And I can trust my process.

Letting go has been so, so hard.  Trying to understand the importance of self-nurture and what that looks like has been a struggle.  And I don’t mean splurging on frozen custard or a spa day, but true self-nurture:  resting when I’m tired, cooking the food that I love in the way that I love it, saving up for and purchasing things that I really need instead of running up my credit card buying things just to satisfy an urge.

Then there were the trickier parts of this: turning off my phone at night so I get the sleep I need. Taking a whole day off to be a goddess of the hearth. Tackling small projects a little at a time instead of planning grandiose outcomes that will exhaust me.

This all seems like really simple stuff, but I know folks in recovery can take a long time to figure it out and some just give up.  So I want to say to those folks:  don’t give up.  Even when it hurts.  Even when you feel stupid.  Even when you act like an ass.  Just keep going.  And someday, all by yourself, you really will laugh out loud.



You sleep on the sofa because you put the sheets in the dryer this morning before work.  Tonight you’re too tired to put them back on the bed.

You go to work with bronchitis because you used all your sick days nursing your kid through his cold.

You went to your kid’s soccer game last night instead of going to the grocery store.

So you’re drinking your coffee black this morning because you gave the rest of the milk to your kid at breakfast.

There’s a 33% chance that you spend more than half of your paycheck on rent.

You pay on average a third of your income on child care. In New York, Minnesota and Massachusetts, if your child is 3 or under, it’s more than half.

This is because you’re paid less than single dads or married men with the same education. If you were paid fairly, your income would increase by 17 percent and your poverty rate would fall by half.

You’re a single mom.

Some folks say, well, you’d be making more money if you’d opted not to have a child.

Some of these same folks want to limit your birth control options.

It’s tough for you. But your love, unlike money, can buy happiness, and it comes to you through hugs and butterfly kisses and nite-nite prayers.

I’m proud of you.



Rarely if ever have I remembered my time before recovery with wistfulness. Today was an exception.

Spotify may be the best investment I’ve made in many moons. A few keystrokes and “Layla” is streaming through my headphones.

Something about the late sun striping the bedspread in the tender angst of Friday afternoon takes me back some decades ago, when I knelt before my cheap little speakers, strained to cracking with Derek and the Dominoes.

The ache of all my hearts, the one in my mind and the one in my soul, the ones past and present, poured out as I howled away some murky loss, too deep for my own understanding. Today I marvel at how I was able to release the deep cold keening from my guts to the accompaniment of Duane Allman’s wobbly blues guitar.

I loved being that drunk. I loved the ability the wine gave me to smash through the restraints of society and discipline and shame and just wallow in my pain. I never felt more alive than when I was intimately in touch with the thing that hurt me, that walked every step with me, that never seemed to abate without the blessedness of alcohol roaring in my ears, drowning out my thoughts.

This is how I know that I am an alcoholic and that I will always be one. This is how people who are like me immediately identify with what I’ve written. Booze gives us a religious experience like no other. It puts us in touch with the God within us in no other way because it provides a visceral awareness of our own blood and the mayhem of our lives.

As a recovering alcoholic, I am mindful of the power of these thoughts. I try to refrain from glamorizing that time when I am in AA meetings, because I well remember sitting on a hard metal chair, teeth chattering from anxiety, wishing I could do it any other way.

But nothing else worked, and until I could touch the God within me through grace and mercy, I would recite the words and say the prayers and hope like hell no one talked about how glorious it was to be potted like a plant by means of some chemical.

I go tonight to be with those like me. Many of us are artists, writers, chefs, creators of lovely things, and we are giving of our loveliness to raise money for people who are also trying to do it our way, finding God within themselves. There will be alcohol there. That’s a big puzzle for some.

The truth is, we find that the harder we try to obliterate the fact of alcohol, the more likely we are to drink. I personally have found that shaking hands with my demons and calling them by name is more likely to keep us in a civilized partnership.

And interestingly, in spite of my nostalgia for the past, I have no desire to drink today. The price is simply too high, and the extremes of emotion as consequence of it are exhausting. Most of that deep cold keening has faded and crumbled, and in its place is the quiet knowledge that I know where I’m going, even when I don’t.



Sometimes the time just seems magic.

It has been a time of reconnection for me, of quiet conversation over food with this friend and that one, some spent alone in the quiet, clearing away the clutter in my environment and in my head.

I recognized some years ago that my recovery requires three things: prayer, writing and sharing thoughts with another person. This trinity makes itself evident most when I am seeking or providing help in our most practical and pervasive challenge: that of understanding the people around us.

My daughter is on a beautiful beach somewhere in the southern U.S., navigating a romance. One friend is walking her Path with family passed and present. Another friend is sifting through the lingering messages of addiction recovery.

Mulling over the conversations of three days in a row, what stands out is that life is a lovely wilderness with exciting obstacle courses that test our acquired skills and teach us new ones.

For those new to the Path, it is like Marine boot camp. The instructor is harsh and the tasks required of us are strenuous and unfamiliar. What I have learned is that the instructor has one goal in mind: teach us how to survive. The insults and bullying are not personal; they are edifying. The pain sustained will pass if we do not resent it.

For those of us who are challenging the negative inner voice, it is like boarding school. The voices strike at our soft underbelly, the tenderest parts of us. Here we learn to thicken our skin, to run the gantlet that sometimes brutally attempts to distract us from our goal, that of freedom.

For those who are trying to live outside ourselves and our comfort zones, it is marshaling our allies and agreeing to a battle plan: we must march in the same direction. We cannot always be on the front line, and it is important to have comrades who will allow us to fall back and even retreat when we are weary.

This requires trust, a gift from God, I am certain, because mine is in short supply at times. Yet it refills itself from some divine Source that I cannot comprehend.

The lesson I have learned is that I must not punish myself for my mistakes.

In “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz says, “…it is important for you to master your own dream.”

This is the basis for my role as sponsor, medium, channel, friend and partner. Easy to say, hard to do. As always, I depend on grace as my ultimate rescue when I am stuck. But I find I can access grace more abundantly if I pray, write and share.

the freedom to be outlandish


outlandishI am up early; the house is quiet. My editors don’t need me yet so I can sip my coffee without a file waiting in my queue. It’s a nice feeling, unpacking a brand new day at my leisure.

I cruised by Julia Cameron’s blog for a bit. She’s bookmarked in my ARTS folder. It’s the place where I park important sites related to creativity. There’s lots in there about knitting but also about spirituality.

My rationale goes something like this: if God is the Great Creator and we are made in His image, then we must be creative as well. Julia says that in all her years of teaching she has never met a totally not-creative person.

Personally, my creativity is not limited to what I do with my hands. When I was an art director I learned how to think creatively, to find interesting solutions to common problems, to turn a thing on its head, to view life through a prism. Even at the time, I knew I was living in a gift, being paid to have the freedom to be outlandish.

We’ve had a break in the weather. The sun sets sooner and comes up later. I quit knitting a tank top and started knitting a shrug. The neighborhood yard sale is this weekend: it’s a good time to take inventory and divest myself of stuff.

I’m still married to the notion that I have to hang onto things because I might have a need for them someday. There’s also the pile of objects I keep because I just like the way they look. But occasionally I play a mental game in which I am packing to move into a new space. It sort of helps me determine just how much crap I really need to take with me.

This is true of my inner residence as well. Stubborn myths and contracts remain attached to my heart even though I have chipped away at them over the years. But others have become mushy and friable and I am relieved to realize that I am no longer bound by the peculiar catechism of my childhood.

Being outlandish can be lonely. But I find it attracts people of like-minded pursuits, those who find joy in service, those who are tired of their rut, those who are pioneers. These are the ones I depend on to lend me an arm when I am limping.

So down the path I go, probably the one less traveled. Surely treasure awaits.

cashing my reality check


Some days it hardly seems worthwhile, recording my thoughts.  But I feel bereft of good sense lately; my ego voice is loud and strong and my spirit whimpers under the lash.

So I slept with the Devil.  And he is all that was foretold:  seductive, winning, glorious, COMFORTABLE.  And with little hesitation, he moved on.

But somehow I feel different.  I feel that a loop was closed, a knot was tied.  And now I set about the long, long, long sojourn into my deepest self, to manufacture means of hushing the screams of outrage against the unfairness of what was once a beautiful dance.

I have substituted physical pain for psychic pain, a computer for a life.  I am pathetic.  But I am acquiring discipline in the only way I know, one day at a time.  I’ve not issued a booty call in over a week.  I am trying to ignore the taunting judgment, “He’s just not that into you.”

Perhaps the next step is to gorge on reality.  But reality is boring.  It stares me down at the end of a straight line, a box with rigid sides.  I march toward reality along the gangplank of dying dreams, to step off into an oblivion of wasted time.

Fantasy provides me a chaotic space in which to nurture my obsessions, to strive again and again toward the past, a reckless moment of abandon, a tarantella of lost reason.

Somewhere between the two extremes must lie grace.  It is always there, the quiet sweet spot, the underlayer of promise that waits and knows no limit.  I depend on grace, for I am too confused to find my horizon.

I will say this:  I do live my life.  I don’t hold back.  I know that somewhere a sunny beach with warm sand is waiting for my body.  Mother Ocean pipes her sweet lullabye and the stars will gather to listen.

So I will try to use my time as best I can, do my job, pay my bills, nurture my soul and allow God to show me The Path.