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The Jewels of Despair

October 15, 2010
Bob’s Java Hut, Minneapolis, MN

Another juicy autumn day.  Blue, blue October sky.  Wind.  Riding my bike down Lyndale Avenue this morning, Cloud Cult blaring through my ipod, I thought I might levitate right off the asphalt blurring beneath me.  Now I’m eating this nasty, yummy egg/sausage/cheese biscuit thing minus the sausage.  All these different lives, every kind of story swirling around this neighborhood coffee shop, walking in and then out of the squeaky hinged door as I sit writing.

As I do before every class I teach, on the ride here I prayed that I will find the words that whomever reads this needs to hear.  I sat down, wrote in my journal with my blue Sharpie, drank down a cup of green tea, perused the “Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Wisdom,” and sat and stared out at the cars on Lyndale without really seeing them, wondering when the words were going to come to me.  I went to the bathroom in search of some kind of serendipitous graffiti on the wall, some kind of original idea or illumination, went to the bathroom and forgot to look, and sat back down when it hit me–the irony–I’m ending up writing about the very phrase that was blaring through my ears when I was asking the question:

“When it all comes crashing down, try to understand your meaning.  No one said it would be easy, this livin’ it ain’t easy.”
–Cloud Cult

Here are a couple more to drive the point home:

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” -Bernice Johnson Reagon


“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”
Joseph Campbell


Me.  Permed shoulder-length hair.  1992.  Madison, Wisconsin.  Dad in the hospital for depression.  Mom in the hospital for alcoholism.  Me, on a couch in my manager’s second-floor apartment above State Street, just having moved out of my boyfriend’s apartment.  New job.  Lonely as hell.  Broke–financially and emotionally.  Smile on the outside, gutted to the studs on the inside.  Walked into Espresso Royale with a new fabric-covered journal and wrote: “These are the first words I have ever written in a journal.”

That moment I had no idea I was saving my life.


Me.  Straight, highlighted bobbed hair.  2003.  On a couch in my friend Dani’s apartment that she shared with her fiance.  Just broke up with my boyfriend, who had been my best friend for that last decade.  We had a short, tumultuous relationship that ended on Easter morning after stuffing my pockets full of candy to eat during church.  I wasn’t supposed to do that in church.  That’s what he said.  It was the last straw that broke the spell. The next day I would begin teaching Level One ESL at Washburn High School.  That day I stood at the door, feigning confidence, shaking hands with all of my new students as they walked in the door.  More students than desks in that class.  I had no idea what I was doing.  A shell.  Nothing on the inside.  After class I walked up to my friend’s apartment without going inside, sat on her front stoop, and cried under a bright sunny spring sky.

That moment I had no idea I was saving my life.


Me.  Now.  At Bob’s Java Hut.  2010.  Straight long hair that I’ve been pulling out in bouquets of 10-20 strands a day.  My pal Wiltse tells me that’s what happens as we age.  I tell her she said the same thing to me after I told her I had to get a crown on my tooth. I am standing in a beam of grace, sheer luck mixed with courage, serendipity, and visions I had nurtured in the pages of my journals for years–my health, my two children, my husband, my home.  All of my creation.  All grown in the earth of my despair.

Writing Exercise: Think back to the worst moments of your life, moments that you felt lost, alone, and without direction.  Today, as you sit reading this and reflecting back, what did those moments reveal to you about yourself?  What treasures did you recover or discover about yourself?

I believe that these moments are necessary to live rich, meaningful lives.  They force us to use courage, for without fear and struggle, there is no such thing as courage. When we uncover the gifts of our struggles and use them in our lives, we are able to step in line with our own divinity and walk each of our right paths.

I hope I have found the words that you need to hear.  Until next Friday, ride these winds of Life, this sheer adventure as if your life depended on it.  Because it does.

Save your life now.

  1. That’s a very engaging entry! I can’t wait to do the journal exercise tonight. Thanks for your inspiration!!!!


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