Sadness Books Friends

<<a re-post, from January 2013>>

I’m a little sad today. It’s a challenging life, isn’t it??

There are some sorrows that seem to sort of just linger below the surface.

& there are 1 or 2 things in my life right now that I would change, if I had a magic wand.

(There is A LOT in the world I would wave it over, & change, if I had one. To put it mildly. Yegods.)

& I have a good life. A grand one, even.

But today, this morning, I was sad.

So I plucked 2 favourite books off the shelf

(my life is pretty much about people-people-people & books-books-books)

I picked up Unattended Sorrow – Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart, a Stephen Levine treasure I once posted about here, & read the first 2 chapters, & it was a great comfort to my sorrowing soul.

Then I picked up Broken Open – How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser, looking for a particular line in one of her stories, & of course landed instead at ‘For Hugo’ (a perennial favourite), & oh my oh my oh my

How this story

& Lesser’s insights

& her compassion

blew me right of the water (the way they always do)

I have a lot of literal friends (living, breathing, busy, awesome people) & dearly loved family members who mean everything in the world to me

& work that will last me a lifetime

... but I couldn’t manage life without these other “friends”

The writers who speak to me

& who seem, miraculously, to understand me, even though we’ve never met

Whose wisdom & compassion & generosity of spirit run so deep, it’s as though they’re an ocean wide enough for every single one of us to swim in.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to Stephen Levine & Elizabeth Lesser & Rachel Naomi Remen & Pema Chödrön & Anne Lamott, & others whose names I am forgetting right now.


So. I still have a bit of a lump around my throat (I don’t cry very easily, dammit).

But I know now, I’ve been reminded, that I am not alone

Stephen Levine has given me compassion for myself

& Elizabeth Lesser has reminded me that just “showing up” is right at the top of the list of what life needs from us, & that “we are sent here to love each other and to help each other – that our lives are about each other.” That “all of my ideas about life meant nothing; the experience of being alive with those that I loved – that meant everything.”

Yes. Yes, yes, yes.


Thank you, Elizabeth Lesser, for those words & for the whole incomparable essay & book.

Onward ho,


p.s. Lesser goes on after the words quoted above to quote Thomas Merton, monk & social activist, who “once said that as he grew older he came to understand that it was not ideas that change the world but simple gestures of love given to the people around you, and often to those you feel most at odds with. He said that in order to save the world you must serve the people in your life. ‘You gradually struggle less and less for an idea,’ Merton wrote, ‘and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.’”

p.p.s. & goloptious thanks to my dear friend Ms. P – who introduced both of these books to me!  

p.p.p.s. & here is a lovely, utterly relevant quotation I had not yet encountered when I posted this the first time around:

"4 Rules for Life

  • Show up.
  • Pay attention.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Don’t be attached to the results." – Angeles Arrien, U.S. teacher, author (1940 – ) 

'Quote of the Day' with this post: “Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” – Margaret Shepherd

** enough great quotations to choke a horse, here