spiritual memoirs

6

You cannot say to the sun, ‘More sun,’ or to the rain, 'Less rain.’ To a man, geisha can only be half a wife. We are the wives of nightfall. And yet, to learn kindness after so much unkindness, to understand that a little girl with more courage than she knew, would find her prayers were answered, can that not be called happiness? After all these are not the memoirs of an empress, nor of a queen. These are memoirs of another kind.

If childlike dependence on God is the mark of a great soul, then there are great souls hidden in all sorts of places where the world sees only disability, decay, and despair.
—  Colleen Campbell, My Sisters the Saints: a Spiritual Memoir

“If productivity, efficiency, and rationality are not the ways God gauges a human person’s value, then they are not the ways I should measure it, either. If childlike dependence on God is the mark of a great soul, then there are great souls hidden in all sorts of places where the world sees only disability, decay, and despair.”

- Colleen Carroll Campbell, My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir

One phrase kept coming back to me: God is God, and I am not.  After years of pretending to believe that truth, I finally felt it sinking into my bones.  I cannot control God.  I cannot predict God.  I cannot force God to do what I want or explain why he has not done what I want.  I cannot manipulate Him with my prayers or deeds or feigned resignation to His will.  No one knows the ways of God, not fully.  He is merciful and loving father who works all things for the good of those who love him, yes.  But he does not answer to me, or to any of us, for the mysterious ways he does his redeeming work.  'For my thoughts are not your thoughts’ scripture says, ‘and my ways are not your ways.’  In the face of such mystery, the only appropriate response is gratitude of a child who recognizes her utter dependence on God for every blessing and trusts that he will turn even her sorrows into joys - in a way and at a time of His choosing, not hers.
—  Colleen Campbell, My Sisters the Saints: a Spiritual Memoir
Books.

I’ve read a lot of books and studied a lot of authors. Fiction, Non-Fiction, Spirituality, Self-Help, Autobiography, Memoirs. The list is endless. The categories vary but throughout the thousands of pages my eyes have digested, there is one similarity between them all: They end. No matter what kind of book you pick up, there is always a last page. A final sentence. Closure. I’ve read a lot of stories in my lifetime, but never have I ever seen one like mine. Here, there is no last page I can skip to. I know where it all started but I have no way of peeking ahead to see how it will end. Every day is a new page. People are pens and our problems are the plot twists. Regardless, I get to choose the mood each chapter contains. I find metaphors in the mess and similes in the smiles of strangers. Some of the things my story contains, I am not so proud of, but the goal of any book is to continue reading. Move forward. It’s okay to highlight and make notes of things that catch your attention, but don’t get stuck trying to make sense of one chapter and forget there is still a whole story to complete. If you wanted to, you can pick up any book right now and start from the last page and read backwards. You can’t do that with life. All you have is today. One page. One word at a time. How will your story play out? You choose.

Unashamed Voices: 

True Stories Written by Survivors of Domestic Violence, Rape & Fraud. 

$3 Kindle

This collection of true stories from across the globe written by survivors of toxic and abusive relationships sets out to expose the unchallenged pathological personalities and behaviors of psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. 

These personal accounts will dispel the myths surrounding domestic violence and intimate partner abuse and have you questioning what you thought you knew about crimes being committed behind closed doors. 

You will also understand the impact to victims and survivors and start gaining an understanding of why so many remain silent and that most, if not all survivors, are walking around undiagnosed and/or under diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and other debilitating conditions in the aftermath of physical, emotional and spiritual abuse.

How Starbucks Saved My Life - A Warm and Humble Memoir filled with Wisdom

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How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else by Michael Gates Gill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having just finished Michael Gates Gill’s, How Starbucks Saved my Life, I wish my father were alive to benefit from this humble and insightful memoir of life lost and life regained. I discovered this wonderfully humble and charming book quite by accident browsing the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble. I am grateful that I am alive to benefit from Mr. Gill’s deep and simple wisdom.

My father, like so many men of Mr. Hall’s generation, spent their lives toiling away in the cruel, unkind machine of corporate America only to be found that upon reaching middle age, with a salary and benefit package far from cost effective, that they were unceremoniously turned out on to the street. My father spent the final decade of his life trying to climb back remaining in denial that he was no longer wanted. In the end my father succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis and died having not regained even a glimpse of the life satisfaction that we all so desperately want.

My father literally died working. His disease had progressed to the point where he was constantly on oxygen carrying a portable tank with him wherever he went and living in dread fear of getting sick. A simple common cold or a bout of the flu could be fatal and in the end that is most likely what killed him. He had been suffering from a cold the week before he died.

One afternoon my father left the job many grades below his former career and checked himself into University Hospital in Seattle. He never went home. A week later my family watched in agony as my father, who had slipped into a coma, passed from this life. Hour by hour the medical staff attending my father turned the respirator down until, no longer able to breathe, my father died. My suspicion is that dad died because he was ready to. He had gown tired of fighting life and didn’t know what else to do about it.

My father’s last years and final days have been a rather depressing cautionary tale for me. It exemplifies everything that I have come to find wrong about our society and how it operates. I knew for many years before my father got sick that I didn’t want to end up like he did. I just didn’t know what to do about it. Then along came, How Starbucks Saved my Life.”

Unlike my father, Michael Gates Gill, son of Brendan Gill (The New Yorker), was born into high society and a life of privilege. He grew up rubbing elbows with the likes of EB White, who once bent down to tell the young “Gatesy” that is was “a shame to have to grow up.” One summer the young Gatesy and friends even threw apples at Ezra Pound (if anyone deserved such treatment it would be Pound) at an exclusive lake retreat for the wealthy. From the 25+ room mansion he grew up in, to Yale, Skull and Bones, and a post graduate job at an international advertising firm, Gates had what many have come to think of as “it all.”

But, then, one day he was fired, by a young woman he had championed and mentored no less, and turned out onto the streets. Over the next decade he tried to develop a consulting business, got divorced and was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. Naturally, he no longer could afford health insurance. It was quite by chance that he stumbled into a Starbucks that happened to be hosting a hiring event.

How Starbucks Saved my Life is filled with insight and self effacing humor as Mike (as he is referred to these days) went from being a stuffy, pompous, entitled white man to a barista working with largely young African Americans.

This delightful memoir recounts how Mike learns to live like everyone else and actually comes to experience a life satisfaction and purpose he had never known in all his years growing up and as an advertising executive. As the author puts it so well, “My part time job gave me a full time life.”

How Starbucks Saved my Life, offers a remedy for the life malaise so many of us suffer in our work-a-day lives. The only question is whether the reader will take the lessons learned by Gill to heart and apply them to his or her own life before they find themselves where he did.

I also highly recommend the author’s follow-up book, How to Save Your Own Life.



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Coupland: You are the first generation to be raised without religion

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Life After God by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Douglas Coupland cuts through the metaphysical nonsense of the post modern confessional with “Life after God.” This collection of odd short stories read almost like a novel in a way. This is probably due to the first person narration that remains comfortingly steady as he relates the terror and anxiety between dreams and reality. The terror the reader will feel is softened by the humane sadness and deft humor that soothes throughout the pages.

Coupland writes very well. His words are strong evocations of emotion. I felt sad, lonely, despair, humor, utter disgust and hope as his words crashed around my subconscious dislodging my own memories that I’ve repressed for fear of learning. With each page I nodded my head knowingly in agreement as I was swept farther out in an ocean of poignancy. Coupland is such an artist that his thoughts will seem like your thoughts; you will believe you’ve thought the very same things yourself.

Take this sentence for example:

As suburban children we floated at night in swimming pools the temperature of blood; pools the color of Earth as seen from outer space (1,000 Years – Life after God, P271).

The only shortcoming is on my part. This book was published in 1994 and I’m just now reading it. This is the first work by Douglas Coupland I’ve read. At the time this book was published he was already receiving critical praise of his earlier work. Life After God should be read by anyone who is fed up with the all is filled with sunshine and happiness garbage that is being shoved down the intelligent reader’s throats.


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