Then, I made a decision. Kind of an odd decision. As I was skipping around the internet, I stumbled onto some info about a writer’s group in Seattle called Greater Seattle Women Who Write and I decided I wanted to join. I’d checked out a couple of writer’s groups closer to where I live, but while attending a workshop for one, a woman who knows my ex showed up. Another is run by a woman who’s also employed by the guy who provides most of my freelance work. Small town problems.
I clicked through and a window opened for profile information, which, in this case, was required in order to be considered for membership. I answered a couple of questions, then came to the last one, which asked, “Who are your favorite authors and why?
I’ve read so many books I wasn’t sure where to start, then, from out of nowhere, Barbara Ehrenreich’s name popped into my mind. It had been a while since I’d read any of her books, so I made another decision that probably only super geeks would think of doing. I went to check out her website to see if I could find anything that would help me answer the question at least somewhat intelligently.
When the site came up, I was struck by an image, words, that caused a rush of feelings. Frustration. Disappointment. Envy.
Barbara Ehrenreich literally just published a memoir, Living with a Wild God, which is based on a mystical event she experienced in her teens.
I thought, “I’ve been working so hard, doing what I’ve been told, spending hours on social media, trying to figure out how to talk about my experiences, trying to get people interested in what’s been happening to me, but not having any idea how to do it without sounding crazy and, boom, she has credentials in a completely different area and she gets this book published.”
As I read it I could see that there were significant differences in the way we processed our experiences and the effect they’ve had on our lives, but we have strikingly similar personalities and our experiences have quite a few common features.
Not surprisingly, both of us struggled for years with the idea of talking about what we’ve experienced. For Ehrenreich, she didn’t, for half a lifetime. When I talked about my first experience, I left out the part that was difficult to explain. When the second one happened, I had no idea what to do. I was writing at the time and knew no one could generate a book on two bewildering events. But various types of experiences kept occurring and I kept writing, trying to understand, processing the information like Ehrenreich did in her journal.
Like Ehrenreich, I also have original copies of my stories. I did the same thing she did. Not knowing what to do with them, I wrote them down, then left them. I have files dated from 2003 that include the first two of three pivotal events that create the foundation of my memoir and some responses from people I shared it with at that time.
Slowly my writing style began to change, bringing forth a voice I never dreamed could come from me.
Ehrenreich explains that she’d spent years trying to figure out whether or not God could exist. She explains why she tried to rationalize everything away at the time. It’s understandable given that her family was atheist, that she and her father had a passion for science, and the fact that she was a teenager at the time.
I came from the opposite direction, having been raised Christian, I struggled with feelings that I never fit, but I kept coming back to it. Then, shortly after I decided I had to walk away from religion as I knew it, I experienced an event that reached deep into aspects of my character to traits that distinctly defined me. Four years later I experienced another event that affected me even more profoundly. After I made a major life change, remarkable events seemed to just keep coming, not on quite the same level, but then another astonishing one occurred in 2012.
About a year and a half ago, I realized that a large portion of my writing actually fit together as pieces of a memoir, a spiritual journey, and I started to weave them together. Given what I was experiencing, it made me wonder who I was and that became an important part of my story because I’m the complete opposite of the image people have of someone who is or should be blessed by God.
I’m incredibly independent. I’ve made difficult choices to maintain my integrity as a feminist—I’ve done what I believed was right for me and dealt with the consequences. I now have accomplishments few people can claim, including maintaining a business for over 25 years and supporting my daughter’s dreams, one of whom is now at MIT, because being the best mother I could be has been my top priority.
As I learned to make difficult choices to do what I felt was right in different areas of my life, I found myself doing the same for my writing, investing an immense amount of time trying to understand what’s been happening and trying to figure out what to do with all of it. The events/gifts/awareness I’m receiving/experiencing — including some critical pieces of scientific information that arrived without any attempt to seek it out—led me to radical conclusions about God. How those conclusions impact feminists and progressives, actually everyone, needs to be heard.
But Ms. Ehrenreich understands, like I do, that these journeys are long. We both describe periods of time when we felt terribly alone.
To make sure I understood what she experienced, I went back to re-read a few chapters and noticed a deep connection in a couple of the words, which, in some ways, didn’t surprise me given everything I’m experiencing.
In the chapter called “The Trees Step Out of the Forest,” Ehrenreich describes her first unusual experience, which occurred when she was looking at pine trees, as dissociation.¹ A chapter that follows is titled “All, All Alone.” In the next chapter, when she experienced the event that is the focal part of her book, she was in a town called Lone Pine.²
Pine. Lone Pine. Maybe I responded to those words because of my experiences and maybe part of it is because I have a passion for double entendres. Pine doesn’t have just one definition. It also means yearning, longing. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch for some, but, to me, the juxtaposition of those two words is spine-tingling. Even more so, the fact that two pivotal events revolved around that same word with the focal event occurring in a place with a name that could so clearly and deeply speak to her story, and, for me, to know that feeling.
The more I thought about Ehrenreich’s story, the more excited I became. I realized that it was a pretty incredible set of circumstances that directed me to find out about her book in the exact month it was published. But it’s also exciting to see that a renowned feminist, who has a Ph.D in science, is giving this topic relevance.
It’s giving me hope that there will be interest in my manuscript, especially because I know there will be people who will continue to try to rationalize away what Ehrenreich has to say, and what I have to share not only supports her tentative conclusion, it takes it a step further.
My search has simultaneously been focused on trying to understand current challenges faced by women. To my surprise, it led to an intersection of spirituality, feminist perspectives, and science that can’t be denied. Given the current war on women and the impact some beliefs are having on the state of our democracy, I believe the ideas I’ve developed are needed to help shift thinking about who God is and how ideas about God are affecting women. I never expected to be in this place. I know Barbara Ehrenreich didn’t either.
For anyone who cares to know the answer to the question on the profile, I listed Barbara Ehrenreich first and wrote, “…because she’s willing to take on difficult subjects.”
Presented to The Center for Spiritual Living on May 11, 2014.
It’s been terribly difficult to try to figure out how to tell people about my book because it’s based on a series of events and I haven’t wanted to share those stories before finding a publisher, but that doesn’t really even convey the scope of my book, because I share the evolution of my spiritual journey and concepts I developed along the way. (I explain more at ceejae-devine.com/books.)
As you can see, there can be some long periods of time between these experiences, so when I started blogging I just talked about other subjects, practicing my writing and sharing ideas. About a year ago, I decided to share a short story about my older daughter called We Often Didn’t Think in Terms of Success, We Simply Tried, but then about six months ago, a kind of cool series of events occurred, so I posted, “Star Gazing & Other Matters of Immense Gravity,” even though I knew most of that story could be dismissed as luck or chance. Another minor series occurred that spanned from Christmas to April, but it was about my youngest daughter and her boyfriend, so I felt like I needed to wait a while to see how best to handle that one, but I presented the story at The Center for Spiritual Living in April, 2014.
So, it’s incredibly exciting to finally have a story I can share that demonstrates the kind of direction I’ve been receiving. It’s still really hard to get my mind wrapped around the fact that this revolves around subject matter that is so relevant to my book: being directed to another feminist who’s trying to understand personal experiences that compelled her to reconsider her views about God.
Two weeks ago when I shared just that much with the minister at The Center for Spiritual Living, she offered me another opportunity to speak to the congregation. Then, when I re-read the sections about Ehrenreich’s experiences and discovered the deep connection in the words “pine” and “lone pine,” I thought, “Oh, my God, there’s more and it’s mind-blowing. People will finally be able to see some of the things I’m experiencing. This is what I needed.”*
Maybe because the pivotal events in my memoir occurred when I was out doing things, I kept wondering if that was the only way that level of event could happen. I haven’t been able to do much of anything for a long time because my kid’s needs have been so financially demanding, so I kept thinking, “Will anything significant happen again? How will anyone believe me if I can’t show them? Practically all I’m doing is reading and walking.” But this and “Star Gazing” have shown me they can continue to happen, anywhere. I’m apparently doing what I need to be doing and, even though things feel a little frustrating at times, I know I’m in the right place.
*The observation that the term “pine” was related to her first experience and the focal event of the book, the discovery of the double entendre, and the meaning attributed to it are elements that I noted and developed. None of this is part of Ehrenreich’s analysis of her experience.
Note: There are a couple of striking similarities about our experiences that haven’t been covered in this post and I will address those as soon as my book is published.
1) Ehrenreich, Barbara. Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything. New York, NY: Twelve, 2014. Print. p. 47.
2) Ibid., p 115-116.
Also, please check out the other posts about my spiritual journey and experiences.
I believe what I have to share in my memoir will help shift how people see God and that shift will have an impact on unnecessary harm that’s being inflicted on many people around the world. I understand there many people who now follow spiritual concepts that revolve around how we think— and they involve ideas that we don’t need to think, we just need to be; that we can think our way to becoming rich; and that all anyone needs is love—and I will be sharing my thoughts about all of that soon.
I hope you’ll follow! There’s so much more I want to share!
Please contact me if you would like to share your e-mail to be put on an e-mail list. I will be starting a small newsletter soon and will only use e-mail for announcements of posts or progress on my book.