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Sister Joan Chittister, Purveyor of Wisdom

Sister-Joan-Chittister-pf2I am a fan of wisdom from any vessel, and Sister Joan Chittister has been trafficking in wisdom for decades. Whenever I see anything written by her, I slow myself down, and make sure I am as present as possible for whatever she’s penned. It always touches me.

I found this goodie on Donna Henes’ Beliefnet blog, The Queen of My Self.

A Matter of Choice

by Joan Chittister

Most of us know when we’re at a crossroad in life, when old answers have gone dry, when our souls have gone dry here, when nothing but another choice is possible. Then come the struggle and the dickering, the pain and the fear over which of the many directions we could take, over which we ought to take.

Indeed, the big decisions in life are hardly ever clear—except for one. And that one is piercingly clear: life is a series of dilemmas, of options, of conundrums, of possibilities taken and not taken. Negotiating these moments well is the essence of the life well lived.

As a result, we know now that this search for the whole self is no longer resolved through an educational process alone or even the choice of a good career. This search for the whole self is a process of making spiritual choices between the good and the better, the holy and the mundane, the essence of life and the cosmetic. We have built change into our futures, our educational options, our lives. We have come to understand that no life is set in stone anymore. On the contrary, life is a slow-won evolution of the self that taps every level of our lives and touches all its great questions.

Choice is the holy-making stuff of life. There is no such thing as the inconsequential. Everything we do affects something and someone. Choice, therefore, is a spiritual skill of great import.


Dark Feelings

unnamed (5)The wise brilliance of Annie Lamott. Her raw honesty gets me every time.


Dark Feelings

By Anne Lamott posted on Facebook

You know how sometimes you go to church or temple or mosque, or to those little meetings for people like you, who perhaps have tiny control issues, or used to drink until you ended up face down, or married; and you sit there desperately hoping someone will say the exact right thing, to help break the toxic trance you’re in, and help you find your way back home?

Well, what would that exact thing be?

“One day at a time.” Hack! Thank you for sharing; I wish I’d brought my slingshot. I’d shoot you.

“Or, “You can’t feel fear and faith at the same time.” How fabulous! Did God stop by this morning and tell you that?

Well, let’s see–I happen to have a lot of fear, and a lot of faith, at the same time, a lot. I find the world as scary as it is magical, and have from the time I was four or five, when my migraines began. This place has NEVER been a good match for someone like me, who was perhaps just the tiniest bit more vulnerable and sensitive than the average bear.

Or my personal favorite, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” REALLY? So let’s see, your point is, I shouldn’t feel as hopeless or scared or sad as I do, just because the world seems to be caving in on itself, and there seems to be a sniper in the trees, picking off the people I adore? And instead, if I do feel very sad or insane, or not up to the challenge, the problem is with me, Al Franken.

When people say this stupid stuff to someone I love who is really going through it, I just hear rage. If someone says “Let go and let god,” with certainly and cheer, I know that they secretly want to get their kalashnikov and stroll through the neighborhood. What a horrible thing to say when someone is half-mad with grief or fear. I say to the recipient, “That is complete b.s, and you must promise me you will avoid that person like the plague for the foreseeable future, because they are a danger to your spirit.”

The truth is, everyone worth his or her salt–all your very best people– feel broken, stunned, overwhelmed and defection some of the time. When people don’t, when they feel very pleased with their personal upbeat selves and their all encompassing worldview, like say, the nice Duggar family, we want to run screaming for our cute little lives. And we absolutely don’t want to sit near them at dinner.

So what do I want to hear at a gathering, like church, say, or a random group of alkies?

I want to hear, “Me, too. I have that, too. I know what that feels like.” Gandhi and Jesus knew what it feels like, the loneliness, the sadness. The brutality. Jesus often said, “It’s very hard here. Have you eaten? Look–you all stick together, go to the beach and have some fish. Share what you have. We’ll talk later.”

I want to hear, “Wow, thank you for trusting me with that. What a big f-ing drag. I’ve been through that, too. Let’s file a brief with the Complaints department. Come, we’ll sit down with a nice cup of tea and plan our strategy.”

I heard the exact right thing last week, when a preacher on the radio said, “Stop talking about the mountain that’s in your way–that makes it bigger. Talk TO the mountain. Say, I WILL defeat you.’” I had to pull off the side of the road, and I glared and looked as scary as an aging black-belt co-dependent can, and I said to my mountain, “I WILL defeat you, you f-ing dickhead mountain.” And in the following week, I did.

I want someone to say that against all odds, there is a solution. There really absolutely is. And that it’s not out there–it’s not in circumstance. Circumstances do not need to change to feel peace again or even happiness. It’s not in amassing or achieving. I so hate this. As Lily Tomlin said, the problem with winning at the rat race is that you’re still a rat. The solution is in knowing the truth. The solution is always spiritual, and it almost never has anything to do with the problem.

I want to hear someone remind me that if I want to have loving feelings, I need to do loving things. I want someone to make me laugh about our shared humanity and cuckooness; I want someone to remind me that laughter is carbonated holiness. I want someone to make me promise them that I’ll get outside; that as someone else has probably said, praise is an attitude; I can-in advance-thank you-know-who, aka the Cosmic Muffic, aka Howard, as in Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name.

I want someone to remind me of what Ram Dass said, that we’re all just walking each other home. I want to hear that big fat cherries are on sale for $4.99 at most stores; and that peach season has officially begun.

I just want to hear that I’m loved and chosen and welcome, no matter what a mess I’ve made of things, or how defective I still feel sometimes. I just want to hear that it will get better, although maybe not tomorrow right after lunch. I want to hear that you and God will never leave me alone. That I’m not nuts for finding life a totally mixed grille, unlike the nice bumper stickers-that it can be hard, magical, brutal, gorgeous, unfair, hilarious, sweet, wild and mysterious, all at once. Or that if I am nuts, you’re nuts too; and we are so lucky to be together in this jar; and so delicious.

That is what I need to hear today, and that is what I am going to say today, in spite of it all. So there; and thank you thank you thank you.

The Revelation of Alicia Keys—and a Whole Lotta Women I Know!

headshotI saw this in The Huffington Post on August 12, 2015, and outright wept when I read it. For all the smart girls out there … you go, girl! And congratulations, Alicia. It took me more than 50 years to realize this.


A Revelation

by Alicia Keys

10th Annual Keep A Child Alive Black Ball

For as long as I can remember, I’ve hidden myself. It might have started in school when I realized that I caught on to things a little quicker, and teachers started to show slight favor to me, or use me as an example. I remember feeling like my friends would make fun of me or look at me as if I was different from them and so… I started hiding. Not intentionally, I didn’t mean to, but I did. Little pieces at a time.

I definitely started hiding when I got old enough to walk down my NY streets alone. I started to notice a drastic difference in how men would relate to me if I had on jeans, or if I had on a skirt, or if my hair was done pretty. I could tell the difference, I could feel the animal instinct in them and it scared me. I didn’t want to be talked to in that way, looked at in that way, whistled after, followed.

And so I started hiding. I chose the baggy jeans and Timbs. I chose the ponytail and hat. I chose no makeup, no bright color lipstick or pretty dresses. I chose to hide. Pieces at a time. Less trouble that way.

I remember feeling that same way when I first started to get recognized as an artist. I had the baggy/braided/tough NY tomboy thing mastered, that was who I was (or who I chose to be), and I felt good there.

Then, because of the way I spoke or carried myself, people started calling me gay and hard, and I wasn’t gay, but I was hard. And although I felt comfortable there, it made me uncomfortable that people were judging me and so slowly I hid that side of myself. I put on dresses and didn’t braid my whole head up, so people could see more of the “real” me, even though at that point, I’m sure I was more confused then ever of what the real me was.

I remember one interview I gave had strong social thoughts from a book I just read. The writer misunderstood me and wrote something that I didn’t say. I felt judged by those reading it. Out came the shell again and me under it. Hiding, piece by piece. Little by little. More and more.

I became comfortable hiding my intelligence, my physical appearance, my truths, my thoughts, myself.

To this day, every time I get out of the shower to get dressed, I swear the first thought that comes into my head is, what can I wear that won’t cause too much attention when I go pick up Egy, or head to the store, or go shopping, or visit a friend, etc.

And just the other day it hit me! OMG! Alicia! Why are you choosing to be that person? That is so old and outdated! STOP!

You are allowed to be smart.

You are allowed to be beautiful.

You are allowed to be radical and have strong thoughts that others might not agree with.

You are allowed to be tough.

You are allowed to be sexy.

You are allowed to be bold.

You are allowed to be shapely.

You are allowed to be kind.

You are allowed to be yourself!

And guess what? I can be all these things all at the same time.

I don’t have to give up one to be the other. I don’t have to hide anymore, I don’t have to pretend and hold back, I don’t have to think that my intelligence, beauty and sensuality are intimidating to others.

Who cares? I don’t have to think my silliness, clumsiness or hallmark card optimism, as something I can’t be proud of! Who cares?!

I don’t have to try to go unnoticed.

I don’t have to fit in.

I don’t have to close up my thoughts and only speak my truth through songs!

I can speak it every day.

Live it every day.

Be it every day.

Dress it every day.

Show it every day.

Grow it every day!

I only got 28,000 of those days. So what the fuck am I waiting for??

And dammit, that’s what I’m doing!

Alicia Keys is a singer, songwriter, AIDS activist, and philanthropist.

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