When Katrina Kenison’s new book, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment, arrived in the mail this past week, I might have actually made the “squee!” sound. I was that excited.
She’s sort of a brilliant writer, Katrina. A beautiful writer. A bracingly honest writer, even when it hurts. What I admire about Katrina’s writing is that nothing is off-limits; she courageously exposes the underbelly of being human–the feelings of being broken, lost, fumbling for a compass.
But this book is so much more than about struggle. It’s about courage and compassion and growing up–even at a time in life when you think you are done growing.
Twice in my life, when I felt as if I was holding onto jagged shards of my own broken self, Katrina’s words helped me through. Her previous books, The Gift of an Ordinary Day and Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry were like maps for me, outlining the paths that–if I had I the courage and the will to travel them–would lead me out of the weeds.
Magical Journey is no different, and yet it is.
The book begins, as many hard journeys do, with loss. Kenison bears two swift losses: the premature departure of her youngest son to a far-away boarding school and the loss of a dear friend to cancer. Faced with an empty house and a wounded heart, Kenison faces the question that all women face in the “afternoon of life”–What now?
What happens when the white noise of mothering and caretaking and managing a household vanishes into the ether? The white noise that kept our lives so full that we didn’t have the chance to stop for a moment and wonder about what we wanted? Who we were? What hopes we still harbored?
The answer, of course, is not easy or linear or clear. Life doesn’t work that way. As I followed Kenison’s struggle to rediscover herself–to accept that maybe this life isn’t what we’d counted on–that something else entirely lies in wait, I could feel my own doors opening.
Wasn’t it just this August, when I put my newly-minted first grader on the school bus and wept for days, that I wondered who I was weeping for…my daughter or myself? Who am I, without that small voice asking for snacks and games and books?
With her honest and encouraging words, Kenison extends herself and her hands to the reader, inviting us to experience what comes–the ugly and the joyous–standing side-by-side, at attention.
It is this very attention, the act of quieting ourselves and opening our hearts to what follows, that provides the compass and the courage to navigate this second act in our lives.
Kenison writes: “I suspect now that growing up–or rather, growing up a soul–must always involve a time of falling apart. How naive I was, to ever think wisdom could come without loss, or understanding without experience…What I left behind [was] layer after layer of my beliefs and attitudes, judgments and fears. Those were the defenses I thought I needed in order to become a better version of me…The great surprise of growing older, it turns out, is not greater certainty about these things, but less.”
Kenison’s journey is a beautiful affirmation that life isn’t about crossing the finish line with the most medals. It’s the process, and the hard-won lessons and the people you love along the way that matter.
She comes to the point of understanding that, “The question that’s haunted me for months now–What am I going to do with the rest of my life?–has come to feel a little less urgent, a little less complicated. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it has begun to answer itself…something more achievable, something right at hand, something closer to surrender.”
Like taking a long walk with a dear friend, Katrina’s book warms the soul, encourages the spirit and reminds us that we are not alone. Believe me, you need this book.
You do! It’s heartfelt, illuminating and oh, so wonderful. I’ll be giving away a copy of Katrina’s book a week from today to one lucky commenter, so write away! And if you aren’t already following Katrina Kenison’s blog, I encourage you to click over now. You won’t be sorry.