Feeding the Light Within

Like many of us, the past few weeks have been difficult in a way that I have never experienced before – a post-political state of broken-heartedness.   There is enough noise out there, enough being written and said that I can’t imagine adding to it right now in a meaningful way. Also, I feel weary. Actually, no – it’s not weariness so much as the clarion call to turn my attention inward and attend what my friend, retreat leader and spiritual guide calls the force of light within.  Like a candle trying to catch against the winds, I’m paused on the path and cupping my hands around a flame, the Spirit within, until the light is strong enough to bear it forward.

I acknowledge that the many of us who are feeling any emotional manifestation of fear or heartbreak on either “side” – whether it looks like anger, rage, withdrawal, denial, depression, or forced cheeriness – are feeling it from a personal place that speaks of our own basic goodness, individual story of loss and pain, and great capacity for love.

And all of that has really nothing to do with your politics. (Though it might have something to do with who you stand up for and extend kindness to now).

I have nothing to add to that – I just want to validate it. To validate you. I want to say that I see you, or am trying to, as best I can with my limited squinty vision and my teeny tiny issues. I see how you are trying too. You are buying Christmas gifts for people who you’ve just realized hold a different view of humanity than you (or maybe for people who you think are overreacting about views of humanity or are judging you); you are showing up at work or school where you feel alone and afraid (or maybe where you feel there is too much being made of feeling alone and afraid and you feel you are unfairly being labeled a bigot); maybe you are toggling the same emotions as me: taking sanctuary where my pummeled heart needs it, trying to stand with those who have been overtly threatened, and reading and listening outside my own worldview as much as I can, and eating EXCESSIVE amounts of dark chocolate and – in my darkest moments – crappy leftover Halloween candy. Maybe high fructose corn syrup consumption is where we find common ground and come together. Can we agree that Mike & Ike is for shit – even when you are desperate? Can we join together around the fact that this Halloween, of ALL freaking years, only Reese’s peanut butter cups should have been given out as a community service?

On top of my own heartbreak these past couple of weeks, there was added weirdness and a heightened sense of vulnerability when my last blog post went viral-ish. I hadn’t expected or intended that and, while I am happy that a message of empathy for those speaking out and protesting resonated, with the tens of thousands of views came some hate mail, negative comments, personal bashing to my credibility, intent and voice. All super normal for people who are public, but as a not-yet-before public person, barely limping along in my private life, not really believing what We The People were capable of… it felt destabilizing.

I’m better now – my shoulders are squared and I’m focused on the positive rather than the haters, which were so few to begin with, anyway. And I’m thinking about where we find common ground – spiritually, emotionally (and non-glucose related, ideally).   So my dear friends, those of you that participated in my call for the Child’s Pose of Power, Wisdom and Self-Actualization so many months back, and those of you who didn’t – I’m here with another interactive request:  tell me where you are finding solace and strength. One ground rule: Solace and strength of the heart and soul – not of the brain. Let’s challenge ourselves to focus, just for now, on where our hearts have felt restored and fortified.

I’ll go first:

  • Pantsuit Nation. I can’t link it here because many people need the privacy and safety it provides to share their beautiful AMERICAN stories of diversity and hope. If you would like to witness and share in this hope, PM me and I will add you. It regularly lifts my soul with how extraordinary ordinary people can be. You cannot read these individual stories, and the life-affirming comments that follow, and not be reminded of the goodness and resiliency within each of us.
  • Anne Lamott: God bless her. And I thank her for helping me find a back door to Christianity, where all are welcome. Beyond that, she keeps it real while offering an elevated perspective through the small things, the things that matter, by way of asking where do we start, then answering herself: “we start here, where our butts are.” Anne Lamott is the steak & lobster special for my heart.  Check out her latest here and here.
  • Maria Popova is the writer and editor of BrainPickings. Weekly, Popova concisely curates some of the best thinkers, writers and artists on what ennobles the human spirit – threading the relationships among hope, despair and the stories we tell ourselves.  Just this week, she profiled the beautiful work of Parker Palmer, helping us to see the redemptive light that comes through fissures of democracy, through Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. No more timely than right now, from someone who walked with John Lewis, who witnessed Selma, who knows.
  • Barbara Kingsolver, who not only gave us the Poisonwood Bible and Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, but just recently reminds us that hoping and hunkering alone are NOT enough; that we must better know and connect with our essential selves and beliefs and values, forming a personal agenda and bravely walking it out. How? She’s got some very specific direction on offer in a very recently published piece in The Guardian here and she’s checking me on my own tendency to ebb towards blithe politeness and fuzzy oblique trust in the greater good.
  • Before bed, right now, I’m reading a collection of Mary Oliver‘s essays entitled – appropriately – Upstream. She and I are walking in the pre-dawn light on the dunes outside Provincetown and the forests beyond suburban lights, chasing the copper flash of a fox on the snow and marveling at the spring’s trilliums, bloodroot, ferns curled tightly in on themselves.  She asks me on these walks, “Do you think there is anything not attached by its unbreakable cord to everything else?” and I look up from the page with a start, my heart opening, and opening again.
  • Above all, overall, I’m renewing my vows with books! Books are my greatest Sappho of all. One of my “bonus aunts” (how I love chosen family) sent me this WSJ article today and it’s reminding me that reading isn’t how I escape, it’s how I engage. “Reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person and understand life’s questions, big and small.” I need to be reminded of that now, more than ever.

Tell me of your own list. What are you reading? Who’s feeding your soul? (Your soul, people – BEYOND the furtively consumed, stress-eaten Butterfingers and Nerds and Starburst). Let’s feed each other with the most nourishing stuff, the sort of dishes you’d want to bring to a diverse and eclectic, loving dinner party, to feed the sorts of people who would always give you your Tupperware back (with the matching lids).

What has expanded your heart and fed you during the past two weeks?

I feel that flickering flame behind my cupped palm, that Force of light, stronger now than when I began this writing — and growing stronger still.


14 thoughts on “Feeding the Light Within

  1. Dearest Elizabeth,
    I am not currently reading anything; I am still washing dishes and sheets. But I am being fed by the connectedness of a cobbled together family. My queer daughter is deeply mourning Hillary’s loss. Her best friend and his husband (surrogate sons) are just a bit to the right of Mike Huckaby. My next door neighbor (surrogate daughter) is a proud redneck girl from Mississippi who doesn’t give a rip about being politically correct toward either side. But this week, they came together in thanksgiving because each one of them recognizes forces stronger than government: memory and love. They held tight hands across many divides. I think the rest of us can too.
    Sincerely, Barbara

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always find strength and comfort in reading anything Marianne Williamson. She gave me my first call to action in my favorite book, A Woman’s Worth. While I have been reading your blog/journal/whatever I have had several times where I feel you and MW share alot of the same powerful speech. Youre awesome, and then some.


    1. Oh, what a good recommendation – thank you! I haven’t read much of her – and she’s so prolific, didn’t know where to start. Great to have a rec from a trusted friend. You, too, are a whole lotta awesome.


  3. Elizabeth – your blogs feed my soul!

    I’ve recently become awakened to the unintentional ignorance of my white privilege. (Ignorance is not an excuse). I participated in the YWCA Dialogue on Race and recently read “Antagonists Advocates and Allies” by Catrice M. Jackson. I am now on a journey to educate myself to raise my social consciousness. I’m listening, learning and working to stop being a silent contributor to social injustice.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elizabeth, You mentioned several of my favorite authors. I love Ann Lamott. I am reading Richard Rohr. I highly recommend Immortal Diamond and the book I am reading now The Divine Dance. Thanks again for your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a beautiful post Elizabeth. You are truly a gifted writer. I have just recently rediscovered books after years of saying “I used to read before I had kids.” I forgot how much I love to read and now read an actual book (instead of Facebook) each night before bed. Currently, I am loving The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Thank you for sharing your gift with the rest of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you again for writing. I scan through my emails on Monday mornings looking for your posts. They are like little gifts to start my week. Keep them coming!
    I, too, love Ann Lamott and have just finished a deep dive into Richard Rohr. Walking outside replenishes me, especially areas that are unmanicured. I like the combination of death and rebirth and that one expects asymmetry and surprise.

    Liked by 1 person

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