A few weeks ago I finished the book Devotion by Dani Shapiro. Since reading it I’ve been, in the words of Kristen from Motherese, buffering. I wanted to resist the overwhelming temptation to come running here and profess, yet again, that my life has been changed by a book. And I’m not alone in this. Lindsay of A Design So Vast did the same after she read it.
So I’ve sat with it. Reflected. Considered. Pondered. And it has stayed on my nightstand. Whispering to me with newfound knowledge and inspiration.
What is it about these books that is influencing my life so much? Why, suddenly, do they affect me so deeply? I think I finally understand. It came to me just a few days ago as I considered, yet again, how far I’ve come and why. They are unlocking a deeply buried part of me that I didn’t know existed. They have opened up a world of deep comfort and self understanding that was previously unavailable to me. Devotion and Hand Wash Cold and Raising Happiness and several others, my treasured and dog-eared books, filled with notes in the margin and underlined passages marked enthusiastically with !!! They speak to me. The words, the wisdom, and the feelings they evoke are providing me with the path I needed to discover me. They offer the clarity I needed to burn off the fog.
Devotion is one of the most well-articulated, elegant books I have ever read. Dani’s words are full of intensity and overwhelmingly insightful and compelling. This book is simply beautiful. It’s about Dani’s journey to find meaning in the face of her troubled relationship with her mother, after the intensity of her son’s life-threatening illness, and because of her struggle with her father’s death. She writes in equal parts about her own life and in discussion of spirituality.
In just the first few pages, she says of her father:
He died when I was young, and everything I am-everything I’ve become since that day-is because of him.
Of course, you can understand how these words would speak to me. How, as I face a similar journey of my own and attempt to find my own peace as a motherless mother, this passage so simply said would evoke an intensity of kinship. She asked and I wept:
How to hold steady and also let go?
But my connection to her words transcends even this. It comes from my own desire to fill my life with meaning and peace. From my need to quiet the unhappiness and honour the joy that is right in front of me, for both my own sake and that of my family.
Just as with Hand Wash Cold, I am struck by Dani’s profound wisdom and how gentle and meaningful the guidance she provides. She reached out just by being, through her desire to untangle the thoughts in her head and a commitment to question and provide honest reflection.
My ability to be present in the world with an open heart depends on my ability to be present to myself with an open heart.
Oh yes! So true and yet such a struggle. To accept ourselves, with all our flaws and weaknesses. Not only to accept but to love and cherish. This is truly the ultimate challenge.
I urge you to read Devotion, particularly if you’ve ever had questions of faith and spirituality or if you feel something is missing and long for a deeper sense of self. Dani calls us a seekers, “driven by an insatiable desire for knowledge, awareness, wisdom, peace.” To this I say, indeed. Indeed I am compelled to better understand myself and in so doing perhaps live a life that is a model for my children, a model of contentment and strength.
I leave you with Dani’s words:
Please allow my heart to open to all that is.
This I hope I can continue to do.