Maybe this is what grace is, the unseen sounds that make you look up. I think it’s why we are here, to see as many chips of blue sky as we can bear. To find the diamond hearts within one another’s meatballs. To notice flickers of the divine, like dust motes on sunbeams in your dusty kitchen. Without all the shade and shadows, you’d miss the beauty of the veil. The shadow is always there, and if you don’t remember it, when it falls on you and your life again, you’re plunged into darkness. Shadows make the light show.
-Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
As I googled in my own archives last week looking for an Anne Lamott quote, I found this passage above, which brought me to tears yet again on an early January morning. And my own words about the piece, about where I was that day (late 2009), spoke to me yet again. I’m spiraling through the same thoughts and emotions that have marked my my writing – and my life – for many years. In the worst interpretation of this pattern, I’m a broken record. In the best, I’m revisiting important topics, pushing on a bruise, trying to understand themes that are integral to who I am in the world. Broken record of bruise-pusher (or both), a few (edited) thoughts from late 2009, which still make tremendous sense to me now, on the cusp of a new year, 2017.
It’s okay to admit there there is only so much brilliance we can take. This is an adjunct admission to that of owning that we are not capable of living fully engaged in the moment, heart open and receiving, all the time. I try but I cannot stare into the sun all the time.
I am thankful today for the acknowledgment, by others and myself, that it’s okay to live this way. I am thankful for Anne’s gracious, lyrical reminder of the fact that shadows make the light show. There is self-acceptance, for me, in saying this out loud. It is simply the way I am, inclined towards melancholy, but that does not have to mean I have a sad life. Absolutely not.
Isn’t it, after all, the interplay of light and shadow that provides the texture of our lives? The darkness creates contrast, but it also scoops out some emotional part of me, allowing me to bear – experience, recognize, feel – more joy. I am grateful, I realize anew, for way my lens on the world is striated with both light and dark.
I am thankful today for evening light on bare trees, for the deep, glowing blue of the afternoon sky, for the words of a friend that make me feel less alone, for the tousled hair of sleepy children, for the lyrics of a song that bring tears to my eyes, for the moments when I am really and truly present, when I feel my spirit beating like wings in my chest.
So, this is happysad day for me, in a reflective season. My heart swells with awareness of my tremendous blessings, of the extravagant beauty that is my world. My thoughts are quiet and shadowy, but lit by incandescent beams of light. Like a night sky whose darkness is obliterated over and over by the flare of roman candles exploding, their colors made more beautiful by the surprise of them against the darkness. Like my life.
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