Happy or normal?

IMG_0920I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning never stops.  The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.

That’s Jeannette Winterson, in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? She is talking about her long-time fascination with the Grail stories and Perceval’s “twenty years wandering in the woods, looking for the thing that he found, that was given to him, that seemed so easy, that was not.”

Winterson’s book is a memoir.  Adopted at the age of six weeks, she has explored issues of identity through reading and writing, an endeavor I identify with strongly.  Her book elicits thoughts and memories for me related to my worklife, and this message in the grail stories reassures me as it did Winterson.  I remember that the same message comes through in The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong, another favorite of mine whose title is a reference to this process of departing and returning.

At one point in my life I worked for a magazine on a staff of creative writers as well as with people revisioning psychology, looking at the field’s intersection with spirituality.  Already a reader of Carl Jung, an observer of my dreams, and a student of Taoism, I couldn’t believe my fortune in landing this job.  The staff, which was young and inquisitive, attended plays and concerts after work, had stimulating conversations over lunch.  I was living my dream life.  Then the magazine folded, and most of us were faced with the prospect of reentering a more utilitarian, mechanistic work world.  Like Perceval, I’ve been trying to find my way back for a long time, and I haven’t made it, though I’ve found sure found some nuts and berries along the way.

Like teaching yoga and studying ayurveda.  Exposure to some incredible teachers and experiences through yoga.  Writing articles on Feldenkrais, Continuum, and qigong.  Studying Hakomi, or body-oriented psychotherapy.  Working for an herbalist and making tinctures from freshly harvested herbs.

Like living in a small town in Colorado and hiking in the mountains.  Working at a bookstore, meeting folks in the disability world.

Finding berries in the form of books and ideas from novels of all kinds to Kerouac to American history, to Buddhist psychology to yoga to Jung, Wendell Berry to David Orr and Terry Tempest Williams.

Work has been spotty, but I have grown, and I’ve had an incredible education.  I am ready to plug into a community, a project, an organization working for change in healthcare and education.  Think Parker Palmer, founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal.  The Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota, Positive Futures Network, the Center for Mind-body Medicine.

Where do I come out?  Winterson writes that the “stories of loss, of loyalty, of failure, of recognition of second chances” related to the Grail continue to inform her life.  Right now they inspire me, for I have experienced loss of good and connected jobs.  I have remained true to my mission in many ways, but I have also failed by becoming lost in fear or alienation, but I am still here, and I recognize the second chance.  I come back to writing, yoga, and integrative medicine.  My “Perceval” question to the Parker Palmers, the James Gordons, the editors of Yes! magazine, is, can I work with you?

Leave a comment


  1. This book looks interesting. It’s kinda strange thinking about second chances. It seems sometimes – I am speaking for myself – that when an opportunity is lost, we think its gone and then dwell on the fact that we failed. What we – I should really do is look at it like a second chance. The phrase one door closes and another opens… Sort of imbues this idea but not from a second chance point of view. Or at least that is the way I am interpreting it. Or one way, at least. Anyhoo – I am rambling. Sorry. I must read this book. Thanks for writing about it!

  2. So much bravery in the path you’ve chosen. Not easy to feel at odds with the way the world works. I’ve always felt more like a soul in a body, which can be as lonely as it is exhilarating. Wishing you more good fits & ease in days to come.

  3. It’s the square pegs realizing they don’t need to fit a round hole that makes the world an interesting place

  4. epilepsymeandneurology

     /  March 2, 2013

    I feel that the fact you recognise fear and alienation indicates you are far from failing or lost. Long may you continue on your healing path.

    • Thank you Ruth. I appreciate it and get the feeling you understand what I’m writing about more than most. I’ve been following your blog too, as often as I can!

  5. I’ve nominated you for a liebster blog award.

    • Thanks Diana! I really appreciate it–will check out your blog and info on the award after work this evening! Lynda

  6. Recognizing that it is important to step back and look at where you are with love and compassion is so important! The journey has so much to teach us if we just get out of the way. The book you mention sounds interesting. Thank you!

  7. I’ve also noticed the almost-moon-like waxing and waning of my passions. They come to me and go away, and I do the same to them. I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing.

    Also, your post reminded me of one of my favorite reads, one I haven’t re-visited in some time. It’s a book by Frank MacEowen called The Spiral of Memory and Belonging Perhaps you can check it out. 🙂


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