Dogs are the closest we come to knowing the divine love of God on this side of eternity.
Butterflies and birds are like one perfect teaspoon of creation.
Butterflies were wind energy made visible.
Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.
Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back.
Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You're done.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California).
You want to give me chocolate and flowers? That would be great. I love them both. I just don't want them out of guilt, and I don't want them if you're not going to give them to all the people who helped mother our children.
When humans experience something as powerful as a forest or a rainbow, it is not crazy to assign its existence to a Greater Intelligence.
To be great, art has to point somewhere.
One thing about having a baby is that each step of the way you simply cannot imagine loving him any more than you already do, because you are bursting with love, loving as much as you are humanly capable of- and then you do, you love him even more.
To love yourself as you are is a miracle, and to see yourself is to have found yourself, for now. And now is all we have, and love is who we are.
The world is always going to be dangerous, and people get badly banged up, but how can there be more meaning than helping one another stand up in a wind and stay warm?
Grace in the theological sense is that force that infuses our lives, that keeps letting us off the hook.
I sat down in the sand, breathless with shame and failure. God, I thought, some defender of the weak. Some freedom fighter, Joan of Arc in sunscreen.
A grandchild is like a fine jewel set in an old ring.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including YOU.
If you asked me, parents were supposed to affect the life of their child in such a way that the child grows up to be responsible, able to participate in life and in community.
I hate the summer.
We stuffed scary feelings down, and they made us insane. I think it is pretty universal, all this repression leading to violence and fundamentalism and self-loathing and addiction.
Sixty feels exactly like 50, with aching feet and more forgetfulness.... But your inside person doesn't age. Your inside person is soul, is heart, in the eternal now, the ageless, the old, the young, all the ages you've ever been.
My mind is a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.
The usual things helped: some distance, prayer, chocolate.
My heart was broken and my head was just barely inhabitable.
Our bottled charm is the main roadblock to drinking that clear cool glass of love.
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.
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.
Anything you say from your heart to God is a prayer.
Anything you say from your heart to God is a prayer. But "why" is rarely a useful question. When Job keeps asking God why he has had such loss and suffering, God says, "You wouldn't understand." I always want to know why, and I almost never have a good answer.
My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I'm grateful for it the way I'm grateful for the ocean.
The three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you.
I felt alternately rubbery and empty, like sometimes I was landing on the Swiss cheese, sometimes on the holes.
I tell you, it's a brand-new world, it's as radical as having an infant. And I'm as clueless. And it turns out there are no operating instructions and no owner's manual that come with a teenager either.
What fills us is real, sweet, dopey, funny life.
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.
I'd figured out the gift of failure, which is that it breaks through all that held breath and isometric tension about needing to look good: it's the gift of feeling floppier.
You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town.
Writing takes a combination of sophistication and innocence; it takes conscience, our belief that something is beautiful because it is right.
Help, Thanks, Wow.
Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises.
That thing you had to force yourself to do-the actual act of writing-turns out to be the best part.
Prayer usually means praise, or surrender, acknowledging that you have run out of bullets.
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.
A good marriage is supposed to be one where each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal.
Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong. It is no wonder if we sometimes tend to take ourselves perhaps a bit too seriously.
Just don't pretend you know more about your characters than they do, because you don't. Stay open to them. It's teatime and all the dolls are at the table. Listen. It's that simple.
My therapist said starving and dieting are like putting ice cream on a leg wound. I said that ice cream would feel cool and numbing. She said yes and then it would melt.
There is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder.
Over and over I feel as if my characters know who they are, and what happens to them, and where they have been and where they will go, and what they are capable of doing, but they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.
I naturally prefer the company of people who hold grudges, as long as they are not held against me.
I still think they should write with everything they have, daily if possible, and for the rest of their lives.
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.
There is nothing more touching to me then a family picture where everyone is trying to look his or her best, but you can see what a mess they all really are.
Without using the word, everyone started forgiving each other again. Just like that, from the no of all nothingness: you have a big tense mess and out of it comes some joy. It must be magic.
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.
Remember that you own what happened to you.
Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, "We *told* you not to tell." But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.
Nothing can be delicious when you are holding your breath.
We stitch together quilts of meaning to keep us warm and safe, with whatever patches of beauty and utility we have on hand.
Mostly what happens in the novels never happened in real life.
See how the fearful chandelier Trembles above you Each time you open your mouth To sing. Sing. --DONALD JUSTICE.
Charles had once remarked that holding onto a resentment was like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.
Where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We start where we are.
First find a path, and a little light to see by. Then push up your sleeves and start helping.
I became a Christian before I got sober. So I was a drunk, bulimic Christian.
In early sobriety I heard that if you have an idea after ten p.m., it is probably not a good idea--and this was before e-mail.
Being sober delivered almost everything drinking promised.
Get to know your characters as well as you can let there be something at stake, and then let the chips fall where they may.
At our most primitive we are storytellers and dancers.
So Rita and I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.
Rest and laughter are the most spiritual and subversive acts of all. Laugh, rest, slow down.
The solution is always spiritual, and it almost never has anything to do with the problem ... laughter is carbonated holiness.
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.
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.
That's what's so touching about weddings: Two people fall in love, and decide to see if their love might stand up over time, if there might be enough grace and forgiveness and memory lapses to help the whole shebang hang together.
Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting.
The evidence is in, and you are the verdict.
You just have to keep getting out of your own way so that whatever it is that wants to be written can use you to write it.
Your inside person doesn't age. Your inside person is soul, is heart, in the eternal now, the ageless, the old, the young, all the ages you've ever been.
And she is going to dance, dance hungry, dance full, dance each cold astonishing moment, now when she is young and again when she is old.
Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors.
'Help' is a prayer that is always answered.
Quiet, deep breath after any prayer is another form of Amen.
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.
If you have a body, you are entitled to the full range of feelings. It comes with the package.
Life with most teenagers was like having a low-grade bladder infection. It hurts, but you had to tough it out.
Gratitude, not understanding, is the secret to joy and equanimity.
Looking back on the God my friend believed in, he seems a little erratic, not entirely unlike her father -- God as borderline personality.
You are going to love some of your characters because they are you or some facet of you, and you are going to hate some of your characters for the same reason.
Again and again I tell God I need help, and God says, 'Well, isn't that fabulous? Because I need help too. So you go get that old woman over there some water, and I'll figure out what we're going to do about your stuff.
For me, being a writer is not an altered state. It's very ponderous, and very -- it's like being a shoemaker.
For me, being a writer is not an altered state. It's very ponderous, and very -- it's like being a shoemaker. You know, shoemakers stick to your last and you stay there working over your last, and it's pretty drudgy in a lot of ways.
The problem with God -- or at any rate, one of the top five most annoying things about God -- is that he or she rarely answers right away.
I kept asking God for help, and after a while I realized something -- that Josh was not enjoying this either. He was just trying to take care of himself, and I made the radical decision to let him off the hook.
For twenty years I have ached to go back home, when there was nobody there to whom I could return.
You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind.
You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn't nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.
For some of us, good books and beautiful writing are our ultimate solace, even more comforting than exquisite food.
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.
The mix in our rooms is so touching: the clutter and the cracks in the wall belie a bleakness or brokenness in our lives; while photos and a few rare objects show our pride, our rare shining moments ... these rooms are future ruins.
This is one thing they forget to mention in most child-rearing books, that at times you will just lose your mind. Period.
Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together.
Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides.
I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world-present and in awe.
Writing is how I communicate my deepest beliefs, and what I hope are helpful observations about our dual citizenship, as children of God, as regular old mixed-up, worried, flawed, precious human beings.
But easy's like, who cares? Easy's like, how much is easy going to get you?
My main problem is that over and over again, I try to get all my characters to say stuff that I think is so witty or erudite you know, so that everybody will go.
Some people wanted to get rich or famous, but my friends and I wanted to get real. We wanted to get deep. (Also, I suppose, we wanted to get laid.).
These are the words I want on my gravestone: that I was a helper, and that I danced.
You know, we're often ashamed of asking for so much help because it seems selfish or petty or narcissistic, but I think, if there's a God -- and I believe there is -- that God is there to help. That's what God's job is.
Slowly, after dozens of rejection slips and failures and false starts and postponed dreams -- what Langston Hughes called dreams deferred -- I stepped onto the hallowed ground of being a published novelist, and then 15 years later, I even started to make real money.
To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass.
What an incredible drug fear is.
Toddlers can make you feel as if you have violated some archaic law in their personal Koran and you should die, infidel.
After a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat.
Learning to love back is the hardest part of being alive.
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.
Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning. All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions.
Sam said to me the other day, I love you like 20 tyrannosauruses on 20 mountaintops, and this is the exact same way in which I love him.
After a while the middle-aged person who lives in her head begins to talk to her soul, the kid.
Good writing is about telling the truth.
I don't write about the intimate details of my cousins and aunts and uncles, and my mother and my father because it's not right to, for me.
When I was young, I used to be so jealous of other girls that it crippled me.
I could become like that dyslexic agnostic in the old joke -- the one who lies in bed and tries to figure out if his dog exists.
In fact, not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.
Only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it.
Grief, as I read somewhere once, is a lazy Susan. One day it is heavy and underwater, and the next day it spins and stops at loud and rageful, and the next day at wounded keening, and the next day numbness, silence.
This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of -- please forgive me -- wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds.
I've seen prayers answered. But often, in my experiences, if you get what you pray for, you've really shortchanged yourself.
And as it turns out, if one person is praying for you, buckle up. Things can happen.
If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.
Her purse was a weight, ballast; it tethered her to the earth as her mind floated away.
There are a lot of us, some published, some not, who think the literary life is the loveliest one possible, this life of reading and writing and corresponding. We think this life is nearly ideal.
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.
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. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won't really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we'll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won't wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.
You know how I always say that laughter is carbonated holiness? Well, Robin was the ultimate proof of that, and bubbles are spirit made visible.
The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work. Even if you never publish a word, you have something important to pour yourself into.
Sometimes grace is a ribbon of mountain air that gets in through the cracks.
Trying to reason with an addict was like trying to blow out a lightbulb.
I do know the sorrow of being ordinary, and that much of our life is spent doing the crazy mental arithmetic of how, at any given moment, we might improve, or at least disguise or present our defects and screw-ups in either more charming or more intimidating ways.
A priest friend of mine has cautioned me away from the standard God of our childhoods, who loves you and guides you and then, if you are bad, roasts you: God as a high school principal in a gray suit who never remembered your name but is always leafing unhappily through your files.
I love silence. I seek and create it at every opportunity. I need it to work.
The movement of grace toward gratitude brings us from the package of self-obsessed madness to a spiritual awakening.
It really IS easier to experience spiritual connection when your life is in the process of coming apart.
Grace arrived, like the big, loopy stitches with which a grandmotherly stranger might baste your hem temporarily.
The reason 'help' is such a great prayer is that God is the gift of desperation. When you're in despair, you're teachable.
Music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. We're walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn't get to any other way.
He got me a cup of tea with honey, toast with honey, yogurt with honey, like I was John the Baptist with the flu.
When faced with a crisis, do three things: breathe, pray and be kind.
Creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.
I did not raise my son, Sam, to celebrate Mother's Day. I didn't want him to feel some obligation to buy me pricey lunches or flowers, some annual display of gratitude that you have to grit your teeth and endure.
If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.
All these people keep waxing sentimental about how fabulously well I am doing as a mother, how competent I am, but I feel inside like when you're first learning to put nail polish on your right hand with your left. You can do it, but it doesn't look all that great around the cuticles.
It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life.
Expectations are resentments under construction.
But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.
I was reminded of the Four Immutable Laws of the Spirit: Whoever is present are the right people. Whenever it begins is the right time. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened. And when it's over, it's over.
What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.
Writing is about hypnotizing yourself into believing in yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly.
Life is not a submarine.
My father was a writer, so I grew up writing and reading and I was really encouraged by him.
My father was a writer, so I grew up writing and reading and I was really encouraged by him. I had some sort of gift and when it came time to try to find a publisher I had a little bit of an "in" because I had his agent I could turn to, to at least read my initial offerings when I was about 20. But the only problem was that they were just awful, they were just terrible stories and my agent, who ended up being my agent, was very, very sweet about it, but it took about four years until I actually had something worth trying to sell.
Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something--anything--down on paper. What I've learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.
Raising a child, whether or not it is yours, is like Nautilus of the heart and soul.
This is the most profound spiritual truth I know: that even when we're most sure that love can't conquer all, it seems to anyway. It goes down into the rat hole with us, in the guise of our friends, and there it swells and comforts. It gives us second winds, third winds, hundredth winds.
Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.
You should not bring more items and hurdles to the obstacle course.
We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.
You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you. You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist.
My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.
You keep working on your piece over and over, trying to get the sections and paragraphs and sentences and the whole just right, but there's a point at which you can tell you've begun hurting the work with your perfectionism. Then you have to release the work to new eyes.
Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.
If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching.
I get to tell my truth. I get to seek meaning and realization. I get to live fully, wildly, imperfectly. That's why I'm alive. And all I actually have to offer as a writer is my version of life. Every single thing that has happened to me is mine.
Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.
Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived...Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation... Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist's true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.
Grief is just so scary.... If we finally begin to cry all those suppressed tears, they will surely wash us away like the Mississippi River. That's what our parents told us. We got sent to our rooms for having huge feelings. In my family, if you cried or got angry, you didn't get dinner.
To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care. You do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy. But a writer always tries, I think, to be a part of a solution, to understand a little about life and to pass this on.
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.
I am learning slowly to bring my crazy pinball-machine mind back to this place.
You are not your bank account, or your ambitiousness. You're not the cold clay lump with a big belly you leave behind when you die. You're not your collection of walking personality disorders. You are spirit, you are love.
I love memoirs. They are probably my favorite literary form, along with biographies. The more confessional, the better. There is so, so, so little truth in the popular culture, and I am starved and grateful for any I can find.
I find most famous Christians to be full of themselves and of prejudice and self-loathing, masquerading as devout religious belief. I find all fundamentalism to be terrifying and very destructive.
Whenever the world throws rose petals at you, which thrill and seduce the ego, beware.
Whenever the world throws rose petals at you, which thrill and seduce the ego, beware. The cosmic banana peel is suddenly going to appear underfoot to make sure you don't take it all too seriously, that you don't fill up on junk food.
If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you'll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you've already been in.
These are pictures of the people in my family where we look like the most awkward and desperate folk you ever saw, poster children for the human condition.
Publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is.
I can never tell what I'm doing when I'm in the middle of publication because I have no confidence. I have terrible self-esteem, along with boundless narcissism.
I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is.
I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do -- -the actual act of writing -- -turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.
I have actually come to believe that a person being herself is beautiful -- that contentment and acceptance and freedom are beautiful.
Peace is joy at rest. Joy is peace on its feet. quoting her pastor in Salon, April 25, 2003.
We all often feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid. The right words and sentences just do not come pouring out like ticker tape most of the time.
Grace is having a commitment to- or at least an acceptance of- being ineffective and foolish. That our bottled charm is the main roadblock to drinking that clear cool glass of love.