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Book club

Week 6, by Kimberly Prendergast

Here we go!

Let me start with: all of this book speaks to me. Therefore, it is really hard to pick only one piece to focus on. I think I will be re reading and digesting this for a long time. This week I am really focused on the section “The Energy of Hope;” in particular, the writing prompt that asked us to reflect on a reading and identify one thing that calls us back to it. 

Of course, I didn’t follow all the rules of the writing prompt, but I have a book that continually calls to me in life. (Tracey here: no rules! Do what you can!) It is my favorite book, A Prayer for Owen Meany. I loved this book when I first read it, despite balling my eyes out for the last 100 pages. I won’t give too much away except to say it calls to me periodically, when I can see and feel the connections in my life from the past to the present. It is like having an AHA moment or what I call an Owen Meany moment. It occurs when I realize why I had to go through something, or change something in my life and all of a sudden it all makes sense. 

One such moment occurred in 2007. That year my youngest daughter was born with a heart defect that required open heart surgery. During those months prior to the surgery some connections that gave me hope were things like support from friends that had lost children. They understood my pain and I felt like understanding their personal stories of overcoming fear and loss helped me to be strong when I otherwise was not. One of those friends gave me a book about the Virgin of Guadalupe. Its a book about miracles. When we went to schedule the surgery it happened to be scheduled for the Virgen de Guadalupe day. It was one of those moments.

In that moment, I think of the character’s eccentricities and the tiny white arms and how he never lost hope. I guess it gives meaning to my experiences to think that the negative ones did not occur for nothing. It goes back to the age old saying that everything happens for a reason and that is comforting to me. It is also comforting to think that other people, at least some other people, also have that belief. This gives me hope. 

Nepo writes “That Principle says that healing takes place in the presence of another.”  I suppose that sometimes that presence is not literal but conveyed and connected through art: writing, music, theatre.  Owen Meany tells my story in a way; and I tell your story and you tell mine. In the song “Killing Me Softly” from Jesus Christ Superstar the artist sings:

Strumming my pain with his fingers

Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words…

On page 101, Nepo asks where we are on our lifelong quest to fit things together. I suppose this is how I fit it together. I make the connections to others, to art, to self and in those connections I make meaning and sense out of the world. 

What struck you about this week’s reading?

zoom meeting

Save the date

What: Mid-way Zoom meeting

When: Sunday, October 24 at 1 pt/3 ct/4 et

Zoom link will be emailed to you ahead of time. Reminder: there will be no reading assignment or post for the week of Oct. 21 so you can spend some time that week thinking about what you’d like to discuss on the Zoom.

The duration of the zoom is dependent on the conversation, but you should feel free to hop off when necessary.

  • Week #7 Living a Making through Drifting in Immensity, Joan Sherwood, Oct. 14
  • Week #8 <<<Break>>> pause to prepare for Zoom discussion, Oct. 21
  • Week #9 Listening through Love Your Window, Eva Tsoureka, Oct. 28

A link will remain here to week 1 in case anyone wants to review the spearheading guidance. Week 1.

7 Comments

  1. Hey everyone. Hope you are all well.

    The prompt I am responding to is also in the chapter “The Energy of Hope.” It says “Discuss a time when the energy of life filtered through an obstacle you were facing.”

    I would like to begin with a poem some of you may know by Rumi, a Persian poet from the 13th century.

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival,
    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    Some momentary awareness comes
    As an unexpected visitor.
    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    Who violently sweep your house
    Empty of its furniture,
    Still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    For some new delight.
    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    Meet them at the door laughing,
    And invite them in.
    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    Because each has been sent,
    As a guide from beyond.

    This poem really speaks to me of hope because it asks us to welcome whatever comes our way. Our darkest days become our greatest teachers.

    One time in my life where it was necessary but difficult to keep hope alive was in my struggle to become a parent. I did not start trying to get pregnant until I was 13 years into my 2nd marriage. I was 38 years old. I had 2 miscarriages, one at 6 weeks and one at 12 weeks. We then decided to adopt but the baby was a stillborn. After that I started having panic and anxiety and decided to take a year off. By this time I was almost 44 years old. We then decided to try a surrogacy. This was successful and my beautiful twin girls were born in 1996. During this whole process I refused to give up hope. I kept pushing forward despite all the obstacles. What kept me going was a supportive husband, wonderful friends, psychotherapy, a variety of spiritual practices and a lot of self care. My daughters recently turned 25 and looking at the wonderful women they have become I am very happy that I was able to keep hope alive. Being a mother has led to the deepest growth of my life and stretched me in ways I could never imagine.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Diane. What a wonderful poem. I know to my core that it is true..and it’s also so hard! To welcome in the tough stuff as readily as we welcome in the “good” stuff. These judgments are artificial, of course. But they feel true. It is a beautiful way to think of it..the energy of life filtering through an obstacle. “Life finds a way.” Lol..movie quote! And it’s true. There is so much pain and difficulty that comes with not accepting the totality of life experience. What an important reminder you share about getting to the other side…which is not the end of course. Just the other side of a particular experience.

      1. Diane thank you for sharing, what a wonderful poem. Wise and profound. I haven’t read the chapters yet(planning during the weekend) but just read your post and just wanted to share that I can relate a lot since I had similar experiences with 2 miscarriages one during the 1st month and the second at the 5th month. After multiple exams and blood tests, science decided that it would impossible for us to have kids. For me I think it wasn’t just the hope that kept me going but the idea of trusting that whatever is there for me, will find it’s way in the best way.
        I remember myself at my lowest, having this epiphany and saying “You know what? Fuck it!” Was the moment that I decided to Trust that I would understand the lesson at some point.. and would be for the best. I don’t know, just thoughts. Can’t wait to dive into Marks ideas.

    2. Thanks for sharing your journey Diane. We all have shared pain of varying sorts underneath the armor. Love that poem by Rumi!!! Our darkest days can definitely be our teachers, if we let them there can be a good message 🙂

  2. Man..this week! If someone wanted the very steps to becoming more human, more authentic, more connected here they are: listen, reflect and express. Like Mark says: “To slow down and reclaim the very steps of perception lets us inhabit our authenticity.” Whoa. And that’s not even what most captured my attention with this week’s reading!

    I was spellbound with The Riddle of a Self, I think, because it so mirrored my journey of discovery through what actually happened in my family and then what I rediscovered/uncovered by writing about it and how Mark talks about our containers needing to be both sturdy and hallow. I discovered..or maybe I should say clarified, through writing my book, that I’d been living behind thick walls whose foundations were laid a very long time ago. As years passed, unwittingly, I was placing another layer and another layer of protection around me. I didn’t know I was doing this..but I was. It’s what Brene would call the armor. The problem with armor is that no one can see through it to the real us. And we’re so busy tending it, building it that we no longer know the real us either! And, who we become during the process of building layer upon layer can be, at times, hmmm. What? I’m not sure, because we’re becoming more something..it’s just not more of the real us. Plus, the view people have of us from the other side of the armor is distorted. It makes for some complex living!

    Mark writes, “we become as we go, unraveling the layers of our self, one mask at a time.” This was the journey that hit me up side the head when my daughter got sick. How exactly those 2 things go together–her illness and how I unraveled myself–even after writing a book about it, I think I’m still figuring out. But there was a series of moments I experienced where it became clear that the “real” work to do was mine. This required me to start dismantling the safety wall (or what we think is safety) I’d built. “Then we are who we are everywhere.” I’m not sure I’ve quite gotten to this point yet..but I’m getting there. To me, this means living in my integrity. Stating who I am, with dignity and respect for all, and keeping those strong yet appropriately malleable boundaries in place that help me be authentic and vulnerable.

    I feel such love and gratitude in my heart to have had the opportunity to start learning these lessons. It was SO PAINFUL, and I wouldn’t trade it. I’m honored and grateful to be continuing this exploration with all of you here.

  3. These comments remind me of how being our most authentic selves, without those walls around us, leads to us finding true friends. I’m sure most (if not all) of us, myself included, have pretended to be something other than who we truly are in order to fit in or seek approval. Years ago, in various ways, I hid my true self at times in order to make friends, keep the peace or gain approval. I knew I wasn’t being my authentic self, but the upside was to smooth things over and/or make certain people easier to deal with. But, I don’t think I ever considered the downside back then. It was just ingrained in me to not make waves.

    Thank goodness I finally began questioning if I cared if so-and-so was my friend, or what my mother-in-law thought of me, etc. I needed to maintain boundaries, and I could be authentic without necessarily hurting other people’s feelings. Being authentic doesn’t mean you have to tell others your truth. You just have to stick to yours. And when you portray the real you to others, you have the best opportunity to attract the people who will become your true friends.

  4. Kimberly,

    I was so excited when I read that you loved A Prayer for Owen Meany! My college roommate and I read Owen Meany many years ago and constantly refer to it. I often think of one of the scenes in the book when they’re talking about faith. It’s dark outside and even though they can’t see the statue on campus, they know it’s there. “Never confuse faith or belief – of any kind – with something even remotely intellectual.” Faith is believing even when you can’t see, you don’t know, it doesn’t make sense, etc. I want to read Owen Meany again now. 😉

    In the Energy of Hope, I love what Nepo says, “In actuality, hope is the energy of life filtering through the honesty of all its impediments.” It is true that our darkest days lead us to hope and to see the connections in our lives. Often and hopefully they also strengthen our faith.

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