Be it cosmic intersection or divine intervention, I was meant to read Everything Belongs at this particular season of life. I’ve been smacked upside the head by Richard Rohr.
Thanks, Richard Rohr.
It’s taken me longer than I anticipated to read through Everything Belongs, and here we are past Easter and I’ve yet to get to Thomas Merton. Lent just slipped by me, but it wasn’t because I was inattentive. Every morning I sat down to read whatever Lent-specific book I had on the side table, but nothing has been elementary enough to breeze through it – Rohr’s book, in particular. I’d read a few pages, then ponder them. Then I’d read a few more, then I’d look around the room because I was sure he was writing this book just for me and it creeped me out.
When I was in high school, I went through a troublesome time with my body image. I was self-destructive, insecure, desperate to be validated in one way or another. That ugly beast followed me to college, and I’d be lying if I said it was entirely gone even now. However, instead of dwelling on the things of teen girls, now I’m battling the beast of rejection letters and more than ever I want that stamp of validation that says, “Yes, your writing is just the work we’ve been looking for. And, we like you!”
But back to Richard Rohr.
In chapter three of Everything Belongs he talks about the ego, that precious little part of ourselves that we try to protect with lots of validation. It’s the part of us that keeps us asking, “Do you like me? Do I look okay? Did I do that right? Am I skinny enough? Have I done enough? Am I enough of anything?” The spiritually mature person does not waste her time with questions like these because she is fully rooted in the foundation of truth and living in the assuredness of now. She is content just to be.
He writes, “When we live out of ego, we impose our demands on reality. But when we live in God’s presence, we await reality’s demands on us.” What does it say about us when the most common one-liner in the entire Bible is “Be not afraid,” but we’re all so freaking scared of failure and rejection that we live these stressful, bogged-down lives seeking approval from anyone within arm’s reach?
So here I am – absorbing all of these meaty spiritual concepts about what it means to live freely and in the moment and totally okay with myself because God is with me/for me/behind me/ahead of me, and yet I’m awaiting actual approval from literary agents so I can get on with this dream I’m trying to live out.
HOW DO I RECONCILE THIS, RICHARD ROHR? WHERE IS THAT PEACE I’M SUPPOSED TO HAVE?
He writes a lot about living in response to others, saying, “To my ego, my wealth, my intelligence, my moral goodness, and my social class are what they are only in contrast to the person next to me.” Guilty as charged, because as much as I love going to bookstores and finding a little jewel to bring home, my ego is saying, “You aren’t yet good enough to be on these shelves. You aren’t yet good enough.”
I’m in the midst of dream-following here, and it’s downright dirty. I’m going to get hurt (already have) and I’ll want to quit (it’s tempting) and walk home with my tail between my legs. But I can’t quit, because as much as I know Jeremy and Jackson are mine, I know I was given the gift of writing and I’m supposed to do something with it. Even something fiction.
Dream-following isn’t easy and it’s not for the weak. Somehow I need to compartmentalize the rejections and not let it ignite my ego into needing validation elsewhere. Like Rohr says, “We have the power to decide what each moment means and how we will respond to it.” I want to be a contemplative person, at peace and full of gratitude. But I’ve chosen a vulnerable path, so I must work doubly hard not to get distracted by the speed bumps.
I must keep my eyes fixed on what’s right in front of me and hold tight to the dreams of what’s beyond.