I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.
Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.
It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.
The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.
…most of the time, all you have is the moment, and the imperfect love of the people around you.
You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
When God is going to do something wonderful, He or She always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing, He or She starts with an impossibility.
Mine was a patchwork God, sewn together from bits of rag and ribbon, Eastern and Western, pagan and Hebrew, everything but the kitchen sink and Jesus.
Teenagers who do not go to church are adored by God, but they don’t get to meet some of the people who love God back.
You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?
Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper.
If your wife locks you out of the house, you don’t have a problem with your door.
Rituals are a good signal to your unconscious that it is time to kick in.
I want people who write to crash or dive below the surface, where life is so cold and confusing and hard to see.Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth.
Perfectionism means that you try not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.
Writing takes a combination of sophistication and innocence; it takes conscience, our belief that something is beautiful because it is right.
Writing like this is a little like milking a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, and the cow is so glad you did it.
When people shine a little light on their monster, we find out how similar most of our monsters are.
…It really IS easier to experience spiritual connection when your life is in the process of coming apart.
Nothing can be delicious when you are holding your breath.
She slept deeply, but as usual, she did not dream. It had been months; none of them was dreaming anymore. [p. 227]
For too long, and despite what people told me, I had fallen for what the culture said about beauty, youth, features, heights, weights, hair textures, upper arms.
When we did art with the kids, the demons would lie down.
You want to avoid at all costs drawing your characters on those that already exist in other works of fiction. You must learn about people from people, not from what you read. Your reading should confirm what you’ve observed in the world.
It is hard to remember that you are a cherished spiritual being when you’re burping up apple fritters and Cheetos.
Resentments make even the best of us feel superior.
A good marriage is where both people feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal.
A good marriage is supposed to be one where each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal.
Then the singing enveloped me. It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone’s very heart. There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food.
Usually if you pray from the heart, you get an answer—the phone rings or the mail comes, and light gets in through the cracks, so you can see the next right thing to do. That’s all you need.
Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your hearts, and then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside.
And I guess when you take away the resentment and disappointment, it’s that simple. It is what we do in families: we help, because we were helped.
I tell you, families are definitely the training ground for forgiveness.
Mattie sat at the table, obsessing, orbiting around herself. She was sick of her worried, hostile mind. It would have killed her long before, she felt, if it hadn’t needed the transportation.
I’ve given guys blow jobs just because I’ve run out of things to talk about.’Oh, Rae. Who hasn’t
Kids are hard -they drive you crazy and break your heart- whereas grandchildren make you feel great about life, and yourself, and your ability to love someone unconditionally, finally, after all these years.
There are really places in your heart that you don’t know exist until you love a child.
I hate how long it takes to feel radical, militantly maternal self-acceptance.
I’ll live as well, as deeply, as madly as I can–until I die.
I watched him carefully. He was making art because he has to, and because he’s brave enough to try and make contact, right there on the edge of madness, where he dreams.
His art springs out of bubbling underground necessity, as if he’s somehow dipping himself into the river that gave him life; he’s making dream material visible.
[S]he believed that the Buddhists were right–that if you want, you will suffer; if you love, you will grieve. (68)
You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander.
Prayer usually means praise, or surrender, acknowledging that you have run out of bullets.
Or you might shout at the top of your lungs or whisper into your sleeve, “I hate you, God.” That is a prayer too, because it is real, it is truth, and maybe it is the first sincere thought you’ve had in months.
…the three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you.
A nun I know once told me she kept begging God to take her character defects away from her. After years of this prayer, God finally got back to her: I’m not going to take anything away from you, you have to give it to Me.
If we stay where we are, where we’re stuck, where we’re comfortable and safe, we die there… When nothing new can get in, that’s death.
Human lives are hard, even those of health and privilege, and don’t make much sense. This is the message of the Book of Job: Any snappy explanation of suffering you come up with will be horseshit.
Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.
What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65… and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life?
First find a path, and a little light to see by. Then push up your sleeves and start helping.
Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.
Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare…
Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back.
The clipping said forgiveness meant that God is for giving, and that we are here for giving too, and that to withold love or blessings is to be completely delusional.
The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it…I would discover that it hadn’t washed me away.
Grief ends up giving you the two best things: softness and illumination.
A sober friend from Texas said once that the three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you. I hate this insight so much.
…[T]here should be a real sense of your imagination and your memories walking and woolgathering, tramping the hills, romping all over the place. Trust them. Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.
It gets darker and darker, and then Jesus is born.” That line came back to me, from out of nowhere, and I decided to practice radical hope, hope in the face of not having a clue.
[Jesus is] saying that we could be aware of, filled with, and saved by the presence of holy beauty, rather than worship golden calves.
We can see Spirit made visible when people are kind to one another, especially when it’s a really busy person, like you, taking care of a needy, annoying, neurotic person, like you.
You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.
You celebrate what works and you take tender care of what doesn’t, with lotion, polish, and kindness.
There was going to be a spot for me in this joint, the earth, after all. It was never going to be a great match for someone as bright and strange as me, but books were going to make it survivable.
I naively believe that self-love is 80 percent of the solution, that it helps beyond words to take yourself through the day as you would with your most beloved mental-patient relative, with great humor and lots of small treats.
But you don’t always get what you want;,you get what you get
When I asked Father Tom where we find God in this present darkness, he said that God is in creation, and to get outdoors as much as you can.
He is a writer. He makes the rest of them nervous.
I like to think that Henry James said his classic line, “A writer is someone on whom nothing is lost,” while looking for his glasses, and that they were on top of his head.
A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way. It’s a lie if you make something up. But you make it up in the name of the truth, and then you give your heart to expressing it clearly.
I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kind of things. Also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace’s arrival. But no, it’s clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in the silence, in the dark.
Grace means suddenly you’re in a different universe from the one where you were stuck, and there was absolutely no way for you to get there on your own.
grace is a small white butterfly, and life is a semi trailer careening up 101.
We stitch together quilts of meaning to keep us warm and safe, with whatever patches of beauty and utility we have on hand.
I know nothing, except what everyone knows–if there when grace dances, I should dance.
God can’t clean the house of you when you’re still in it.
Lies cannot nourish or protect you. Only freedom from fear, freedom from lies, can make us beautiful, and keep us safe.
It’s so awful, attacking your child. It’s the worse thing I know, to shout loudly at this 50 lb. being with his huge trusting brown eyes. It’s like bitch-slapping E.T.
It is a violation of trust to use your kids as caulking for the cracks in you.
He lost the great big outward thing, the good- looking package, and the real parts endured. They shine through like crazy, the brillian mind and humor, the depth of generosity, the intense blue yes, those beautiful hands.
If you don’t know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours and you get to tell it.
Now she and I sit together in her room and eat chocolate, and I tell her that in a very long time when we both to go heaven, we should try to get chairs next to each other, close to the dessert table.
There are few experiences as depressing as that anxious barren state known as writer’s block, where you sit staring at your blank page like a cadaver, feeling your mind congeal, feeling you talent run down your leg and into your sock.
Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them.
For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.
Almost every single thing you hope publication will do for you is a fantasy, a hologram–it’s the eagle on your credit card that only seems to soar.
A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way.
One of the immutable laws of being human is that the people who show up are the right people.
You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.
I’ve spent my whole life trying to get over having had Nikki for a mother, and I have to say that from day one after she died, I liked having a dead mother much more than having an impossible one. [p. 47]
I am positive of only a few things in life, and one is that if you want to have a decent middle and old age, you have to get exercise almost every day.
Her purse was a weight, ballast; it tethered her to the earth as her mind floated away.
So how on earth can I bring a child into the world, knowing that such sorrow lies ahead, that it is such a large part of what it means to be human?I’m not sure. That’s my answer: I’m not sure.
Some people have a thick skin and you don’t. Your heart is really open and that is going to cause pain, but that is an appropriate response to this world.
One secret of life is that the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day. Another secret is that laughter is carbonated holiness
In biblical times, they used to stone a few thirteen-year-olds with some regularity, which helped keep the others quiet and at home. The mothers were usually in the first row of stone throwers, and had to be restrained.
My theory is that, as with our children, as with every surface of that geodesic dome inside the 8-Ball, every age we’ve ever been is who we are.
Look back on your life and find something small that made a big difference.
When you’re kind to people, and you pay attention, you make a field of comfort around them, and you get it back—the Golden Rule meets the Law of Karma meets Murphy’s Law.
You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind.
One secret of life is that the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day. Another secret is that laughter is carbonated holiness.
Jealousy has always been my cross, the weakness and woundedness in me that has most often caused me to feel ugly and unlovable, like the Bad Seed.
And because she did not shove this down my throat, this dawned on me.
You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town
… the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day. [pp. 65-66]
…I learned that God was an equal opportunity employer—that it was possible to experience the divine anywhere you were, anywhere you could see the sun and moon rise or set, or burn through the fog.
Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue
She felt as if the mosaic she had been assembling out of life’s little shards got dumped to the ground, and there was no way to put it back together.
I kept my expectations low, which is one of the secrets of life.
I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.
Rule 1: When all else fails, follow instructions. And Rule 2: Don’t be an asshole.
Hope begins in the dark the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.
My gratitude for good writing is unbounded I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.
One thing I know for sure about raising children is that every single day a kid needs discipline…. But also every single day a kid needs a break.
Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.
The reason I never give up hope is because everything is so basically hopeless.
Most of me was glad when my mother died. She was a handful, but not in a cute, festive way. More in a life-threatening way, that had caused me a long time ago to give up all hope of ever feeling good about having had her as a mother.
Everyone is flailing through this life without an owner’s manual, with whatever modicum of grace and good humor we can manage.
I have a very dark sense of humor. I swear. I have a very playful relationship with Jesus.
My mother was a not-too-devoted atheist. She went to Episcopal church on Christmas Eve every year, and that was mostly it.
My idea of absolute happiness is to be in bed on a rainy day, with my blankie, my cat, and my dog.
I wish I had thrown out the bathroom scale at age 16. Weighing yourself every morning is like waking up and asking Dick Cheney to validate your sense of inner worth.
Seeing yourself in print is such an amazing concept: you can get so much attention without having to actually show up somewhere… You don’t have to dress up, for instance, and you can’t hear them boo you right away.
Your experiences will be yours alone. But truth and best friendship will rarely if ever disappoint you.
Some people won’t go the extra mile, and then on their birthday, when no one makes a fuss, they feel neglected and bitter.
The worst part about celebrating another birthday is the shock that you’re only as well as you are.
The opposite of faith is not doubt: It is certainty. It is madness. You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do.
The first holy truth in God 101 is that men and women of true faith have always had to accept the mystery of God’s identity and love and ways. I hate that, but it’s the truth.
Mothers are supposed to listen and, afterward, to respond with some wisdom and perspective, but these things were not my mother’s strong suit.
I was raised with no religious training or influence. Except the influence was to be a moral and ethical person at the secular level. And to be a peace marcher, an activist for civil rights, peace and justice.
We must not inflict life on children who will be resented we must not inflict unwanted children on society.