Spiritual beauty

I have been reading Anne Lamott this week.*  I love her writing: it is so smart, and so funny, and so self-deprecating.  I know I’m up against a lot of Twilight fans here, but I stand firm in my belief that our own lives and our own stories are so much more interesting, valuable, and romantic than any fiction.

For those who are unfamiliar with her, Lamott is a liberal-yet-religious, dreadlocked hippie woman, a recovered addict/alcoholic, and a single mom.  After having some abortions in her 20s, she got pregnant at 34, and, finally sober, decided to go forward with that pregnancy.  She actually has a whole book about her son, Sam’s, first year (and, I think, her pregnancy), which I read while in college and have since forgotten almost entirely.

Currently, I am reading Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, a collection of personal essays wherein Lamott describes her day-to-day experiences with religion and connections with spirituality on all levels.  It is not some scary Bible-thumping propoganda book – far from it.  Reading this book, as when I read its successor, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith a few years ago (yes, I did it backwards), I feel like I am reading about “religious” experiences I could have had, explained in words I could have written.  It’s nothing short of refreshing.

Anyway, my point is not to give a glowing review of Lamott or her books, but to share with you a passage from one of the essays in Grace (Eventually), entitled “Chirren,” in which she talks about her decision to carry, give birth to, and raise her son – a teenager at the time of this reflection, and, in beautiful, general terms, describes how she has experienced the consequences and rewards of that decision:

Let me say that not one part of me thinks you need to have children to be complete, to know parts of yourself that cannot be known any other way.  People with children like to think this, although if you are not a parent, they hide it – their belief that having a child legitimizes them somehow, validates their psychic parking tickets.  They tell pregnant women and couples and one another that those who have chosen not to breed can never know what real love is, what selflessness really means.  They like to say that having a child taught them about authenticity.

This is a toal crock.  Many of the most shut-down, narcissistic, selfish people on earth have children.  Many of the most evolved – the richest in spirit, the most giving – choose not to.  The exact same chances for awakening, for personal restoration and connection, exist for breeders and nonbreeders alike.

Isn’t that so reassuring

Right now, this corner of the world needs that counter to the effects of this infuriating article (for an infuriated response, click here). 

We nonbreeders/can’tbreeders/won’tbreeders need some fucking validation, because we too understand how the world works, and what a miracle a life is: after all, we each have one.

And yeah, okay.  I know that one day I’m going to trade in my nonbreeder status for breeder status, but it’s nice to know that, in the meantime, I’m still worth something – I’m still capable of love and beauty and human connection and all that other good stuff.  (I always suspected I was, anyway.) 

Now for something completely different: Marie’s Lenten Poetry Challenge.  Here’s what I’ve come up with: each day, for the next 40 days,** I’m going to post a poem here.  Ideally, they will be new poems, but in a pinch, I’m going to the archives and posting from those old college poems that were so embarrassing to me last night.  The poems will appear at the end of each post, even after the footnotes to the post itself, so if you aren’t into poetry, you can stop reading before you get there. 

But I need more spiritual beauty in my life, and something is telling me that the combination of wearing a cross and indulging my forgotten poet is the best way for me to find it.***

*Yes, this week, because that’s how quickly I will go through books if they’re in English.  It’s an expensive habit, but libraries give me the creeps.

**But there are less than 40 days left in Bakery Closed, you say?  I’ll figure something out.  Also, I think the 40 days don’t include Sundays – that there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, and on Sundays we get to give ourselves a break – but I’ll have to check my theology on that.

***I’m also giving up soda, in solidarity with Doug.  Or at least, I’m giving up drinking soda in front of Doug.

Today, the Beginning

Awakening in silence, I am aware
that my bed is too big for me.
I’m not good at being alone in it,
not used to being alone at all anymore.
The sound of this loneliness,
is as heavy as blankets.

Then, the soft jingling of your spoon in your Frosted Flakes –
you haven’t left yet, and so the sun rises.

This entry was posted in other people's stories, words to live by, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Spiritual beauty

  1. Elphaba says:

    Holy crap–that is the most reassuring thing I’ve read in a really long time. I am in love with Anne Lamont.

    And a girl can appreciate the merits of a dashing vampire AND the musings of a “liberal-yet-religious, dreadlocked hippie woman” at the same time. 😉

  2. Saundra says:

    Those two articles were interesting, because lately, in article- and podcast-form, I’ve come across the idea of being “child-free” (versus “child-less”). I only know a couple people who have steadfastly decided not to have children, but I didn’t realize the kind of flack you get — the even-handed podcast I listened to talked about coming across the argument that the child-free are “selfish,” when in reality, I think self-awareness and not having children because you don’t want children is, well, evolved. (One older couple reported that certain friends had disassociated with them, due to feeling that a child-free couple couldn’t understand them anymore, and that no one would be able to relate to each other. Hm…I thought crowning a child was supposed to bring epiphanies about the interconnectedness of life?)

    The point was also made that people fall into having children without ever being subjected to psychological examinations, while many women who sought tubal ligation in their twenties and thirties have been sent for evaluation.

    Interestingly, I don’t have to field these questions about my spawning plans. I think that only once in the past three years have I even been asked if I had children. (I was scandalized. I don’t feel old enough to have children.) My parents don’t hassle me about it at all, and I don’t see/talk with extended family that often, but most of them seem pretty satiated by the reproducing my cousins have done.

    Because I do have a desire for children but am not in the trying phase yet and haven’t suffered any pregnancy-related trauma, I’m not terribly on guard about it. And I think that living in Portland makes a big difference — people my age, from my demographic, do have babies. But it’s not a given. Probably because, I dunno, CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE A GIVEN. You should have to approach the “Should I or shouldn’t I?” question philosophically — it isn’t paying taxes, and I’m a bit disgusted that it’s thought of as a landmark in adulthood.

    I do love Anne Lamott.

    • I agree! Even before I was TTC, it irritated me how people casually people would ask us if (when!) we were going to have kids. If people would take children (and the decision of whether to have them) more seriously, I think we’d all be better off.

  3. Josey says:

    Ann Lamott sounds amazing – I’ll have to check her out. That passage is inspiring!

  4. Beautiful poem!

    And, you’re right. You don’t need to have children to have value. Funny how I need to be reminded of that.

  5. Kira says:

    That is an amazing passage.
    And I too am a book addict. My I suggest my latest the latest “fix”? One word: Nook. All the books. With a significantly smaller price tag (some are even free!)


    • Marie says:

      I know, but I’m holding out on the Nook because I like my books to have pages. My dad has a Kobo and loves it, but there’s just something for me about a real book…

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