THIS MESSY, MAGNIFICENT LIFE. Thank you all for your suggestions, by the way. You were wonderful to write them to me.
Here’s a bit more about why I wrote it: After 30 years of therapy (much of it very good therapy) and 35 years of spiritual practice (much of it with seasoned teachers), I found myself still waking up every day with a kind of background discontent or lack, as if my mind had a gravitational pull to the negative. And it wasn’t always prominent; sometimes it was simply the feeling of being irritated, as if I had barbed wire under my skin but the softest kind (if that’s possible). Or being in the middle of an argument with someone I’d seen last week. It was exhausting.
And I was tired from trying to fix myself. Tired from the endless self-improvement project of me. And so, although it was radical, I decided to not go after the next new thing, but to allow myself to settle with my own mind, its discontent, its irritations, its grudges, its ongoing discomfort — and what was beneath the chatter, the patterns, the lifelong habits.
I wanted to see if it was possible to have a different orientation to being alive that wasn’t focused on fixing, improving, changing, rejecting or otherwise trying to be the person I imagined I should be or could be. The one who, once achieved, would have the life I believed was possible.
Every book, and I only see this in retrospect, starts with a burning question. With "Feeding the Hungry Heart," for instance, it was wanting to dive deeply into the actual experience of compulsive eating. With "When Food is Love," I wrote to understand why I felt so insane when I met Matt, as if I wanted to pull on his pants cuff every time he walked out the door. (And so that book was about what happens when intimacy meets obsession). In "Craggy Hole in My Heart," I wanted to find out if I could live through the deaths of two-legged and four-legged beings whom I believed I couldn’t live without. I wanted to throw a light on what my scared little heart was cowering about. Like that.
In THIS MESSY MAGNIFICENT LIFE, it was wanting to find out what happens when I drop "The Project of Me."
Much as when I stopped dieting and wanted to see if I would head straight into bingeing and go up in a puff of ice cream, in this book, I wanted to see what would happen if I stopped trying to fix or get rid of what I believed was “wrong” about myself. I wanted to see if it was possible to stand in my own two shoes, to trust what I knew. Or, if somehow, I was going to do the inner equivalent of bingeing and find myself in some sort of despair or collapse.
That was seven years ago. And the short answer about what happened is that I discovered the kind of contentment I’d only dreamed about. (Also, that in finishing it, I realized I’d been following a set of non-linear touchstones I hadn’t realized I was following). I will, of course, tell you more about this in future posts, but, for now, for today, I wanted you to know that the book-child finally has a name — yippee! — and just a little bit about why I wrote it.