Monthly Archives: July 2010

Pray

For the “Pray” portion of this series, I was going to write about my own spirituality and religious beliefs. I’ve decided instead to take a different approach because that is such a personal subject and often can be something that divides rather than connects. I’m open about my beliefs with those I love and am close to, but I don’t think the Internet is where I want to express them.

Instead, here is one of my favorite poems about prayer. I love that it takes prayer out of its polarizing religious contexts and instead looks at it as an attitude of thankfulness. Enjoy!

“Thanks” by W.S. Merwin

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go one saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Eat

Food. Oh, the depth of the love-hate relationship I have with food. Like countless other American women, I think I could write a book about my relationship with eating. At this point in my life, I’m at a much healthier place in regards to my attitudes toward food than I’ve ever had before. I look at food as something to be enjoyed, something to nourish my body, and something to share with others.

This is definitely a new thing though! Before this time last year, going all the way back to when I was about 16, I had a really strange and unhealthy relationship with food. I didn’t have an eating disorder, but my attitudes toward eating were pretty messed up. To me, foods were either “good” or “bad.” If I ate “good” foods, there was a possibility that I could lose weight, so I was good. If I ate “bad” foods, I would likely gain weight, so I was bad. I never really paid any attention to the portions of what I ate, and if I wanted to be bad, I was really bad, eating a giant ice cream sundae instead of just a scoop. I rarely felt like being good, and in turn talked down to myself in my head all the time about how awful and fat I was.

I finally got past all that when I worked at a camp last summer. I wanted to lose weight before I got to camp and had been trying for years, so to say it wasn’t a concern of mine at camp would be lying. But the busier I was with friends, campers, and having fun, the less I thought about my weight. The more I ran around because it was fun and ate cereal instead of cinnamon rolls in the morning because that choice made my body feel good. The “good/bad” food dichotomy and the judgment I put on myself in response to it melted away. As did a few pounds!

Not that I always have 100% healthy attitudes or eating habits now. There are days when I still view food as the enemy. BUT I have come A LONG way from the obsession and self-judgment I used to have in regards to food. Now, I listen to my body. For the most part, my body asks for healthy food, and a lot of water. When I eat sweets or junk food, my body asks that the portions are reasonable and not gluttonous. And when it’s someone’s birthday, my body always asks for cake.

I ran across this video this week, and encourage anyone who has either had unhealthy attitudes toward food or knows someone who has to watch it and take its message to heart.

Upcoming: Eat, Pray, Love series

Buzz for the upcoming movie version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best seller Eat, Pray, Love is starting to build, and I am beyond excited. I LOVE the book so much that I’ve read it three times (a record for me, the most I’ve read any other book is twice), and the movie version looks fantastic. You can check out the trailer below:

In anticipation of the movie coming out, I’ve decided to do a series of Eat, Pray, Love themed posts. Each will reflect on either eating/food/body image, prayer/spirituality, or love/romance/for all mankind/as a verb.

I am SWAMPED with schoolwork right now (who said grad school would be easy?), but as soon as I can bite off a little piece of time I will start this series. I’m really looking forward to it and hope you stop back by to check it out, or subscribe via email (there’s a link to do this on your right!) to see when I’ve published something new.

Why poetry?

I was given an assignment for my Curriculum & Methods class to write a 150-300 word piece to convince my reader that poetry can express things that no other creative medium can. Here’s what I came up with.

I could have painted you a bleary watercolor,
given you a amateur-dubbed tape,
written you a novel of a letter

about how I miss you—
now that you’re dead
and will never hear the last things I had to say
now that you’ve left me
and don’t care to hear.

I could have sang off-key from a screeching mic,
danced too fast as my arms jiggled,
screamed, a madwoman, from the rooftop

about how I love you—
now that we’re finally together
you’re probably embarrassed and wondering why
now that you’ve been born
I’ve become my rowdy mother.

I could have home-run-swung at your windows,
Jack-the-Rippered your tires,
carved my name in your hood

about how I hate you—
now that I found your car in an interstate-diner parking lot
after you left us 5 years ago
now that I have seen you with her
through your steamy windows.

I could have written you a well-ordered paragraph,
included a clip-art graphic with a heart-felt plea,
or maybe some misattributed quote from Shakespeare

about how poetry moves us—
but now that you have felt
loneliness
desertion
infatuation
joy
confusion
betrayal
it’s clear that poetry is most necessary way to say
exactly what it is we all need to say

Review of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott was published in 1999. In the book, Lamott divides vignettes from her life into different sections. More of a memoir than autobiography, she reflects on the significance of events big and small in her life. Some of the vignettes, especially those in the “Overture: Lily Pads” section that deals with her journey toward becoming a believer are explicitly profound and spiritual, while others are about everyday life and family. Lamott is intensely spiritual, and each of the stories she tells reveals a particular spiritual insight. It is refreshing to read someone who believes that we develop spiritually through both the big and little things in life, and that our interactions of all kinds with all different types of people are what mold our spirits.

While Lamott does identify herself as a Christian, I caution the extremely reverent before diving into this book to not be shocked by her unconventionality. She often refers to God as “She” and curses throughout the book. She also talks explicitly about the drug and alcohol abuse that ruled her life before she became a Christian. A quote on the cover of my copy of Traveling Mercies from the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle says that “Anne Lamott is walking proof that a person can be both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime. Sometimes even in the same breath.” If you passionately disagree with that statement, be warned that it pretty effectively captures the narrative voice of the book.

I, however, whole-heartedly agree with the idea that we all are both irreverent and reverent at our core and in our behavior. I am a Christian, and I feel that oftentimes when I say that people assume that my spiritual life is flat and uncomplicated. While I am not the most devout Christian, in my adolescence I was extremely religious and even then my spiritual life and beliefs were much more complex than people often chalk the spiritual capacity of Christians up to be. At various points in my life, or even moment-to-moment, my spirituality is ever-changing. I enjoyed that Lamott was honest about the complicatedness of her walk with God, especially from a Christian perspective because often Christian writers are not willing to be as forthcoming as she is.

This text is extremely personal and individual to Lamott’s experiences and what she does in it is FAR from preaching. So even if you are not a Christian, I recommend this book to you if you are interested in the complexities of human spirituality. I also recommend this book to anyone who likes memoirs.