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Gracie is unapologetically wild.

She’s got more hair than body, and it goes in all directions. She’s mostly black, with white paws and belly. Her nose is haphazard. As if one of the cat angels happened to have some extra white paint on his brush just before Gracie went down the hatch to Earth. I imagine that cat angel saying, “Hey, wait! Let’s try something!” And then he slops a smudge of white paint across her nose. (I also see Gracie looking in a mirror and saying, “Cool!”)

She has giant fur pantaloons on her hind legs. On many cats, this would be feminine and prissy. But Gracie dismantles any idea of prissy with her pigeon-toed hind legs. And judging by the amount of oak tags, twigs, and dirt she drags in on her butt, she seems not to notice that she’s got the pantaloons.

Gracie loves being outside. She especially loves being outside at night.

One midnight on a giant full moon, I realized that she was still out. So, I stepped onto the front porch and sang her name down the street.

As I stood there in the moonlight, I thought about this little Gracie gypsy kitten I’d found. I imagined her in a coven under moonlight filtered by a forest canopy. Maybe she was in a seance with her witchly friends. I went further with my mystical visions, and saw her weaving spells and communing with the magic spirit world of fairies and nymphs. I wondered if she’d even return home on this full moon evening.

To my surprise, at that moment, I saw her running towards me from the end of my street. She had something in her mouth. Oh no, I thought. God, just don’t let it be anything cute. (Gracie hadn’t brought home anything dead yet, and I didn’t want her to start.)

As she neared me, I realized that whatever she had caught was big. It was forcing her to romp rather (contrary to her name) ungracefully. However, she refused to let it slow her down. She flew right past me, continuing her spastic lope. It was then I saw what was in her mouth.

A huge piece of pepperoni pizza.

She looked right up at me as she ran towards the side yard. The look in her eyes was a combination of panic and victory. As if she were shouting, “QUICK! Get the back door! I’ll let you have some!”

This is the instant response I get from the universe when my spiritual fantasies roam into any kind of magical Gold Dust Woman world. It seems to say, “Yea. Not so much for you. Have some pizza.”

Being Spiritual

I consider myself deeply spiritual. I think I always have been. Even when I was at my worst most high school girl shoplifting bulimic Budweiser-drinking Duran-Duran- listening-to point of existence, I couldn’t wait to have conversations about mysticism with the Jesuit priests who were a ubiquitous presence around my house. (The first song I ever wrote was called “All Our Friends Are Priests and Nuns.” It was written with my older brothers after we found out who was coming to dinner that night — yet again. For a more recent song in this vein, listen to Mary Catherine’s Ash Wednesday Journal Entry.)

After I moved to Asheville, I stepped more consciously into spirituality. It became a daily choice, a clear path, and a very intense process. But for a long time, I wouldn’t admit any of this about myself. I was scared that once I admitted it, I wouldn’t be able to wear jeans anymore. I thought I’d have to shop exclusively at the clothing stores that sell all the drape-y hemp clothing and crystal dream-catcher necklaces. Or I’d have to forgo laughter and the occasional choice swear word, and talk only in a deep whisper the way they do on New Dimensions radio.

It was my Gold Dust Woman paste-up job of what I thought it looked like to be spiritual. Kind of an “Ashram Barbie.” She talks quietly. She does yoga. She has a sensible hair cut. She never says anything stupid or inappropriate. She doesn’t listen to cheese-y pop songs. She doesn’t eat cheese-y pizza or any dairy for that matter.

Being Real

What I’ve learned, of course, is that there is no look to being spiritual. It just felt like there was because so much inside me was changing. And half the time I was totally confused. I think I figured that I should at least look the part. Then, I’d be more convincing, more certain of myself. I definitely didn’t think being spiritual could look like me.

But it could. And it does.

This was a huge thing for me to understand. No matter how I tried to change myself, or to appear more Buddah-ish, or to be more floaty and serene, I kept rounding a corner and running back into myself. Jeans and all. Swear words and all. And eventually I got it.

I get to be me and be spiritual. I get to be real.

That awareness wasn’t a mental understanding or a flash. It was a slow unfolding. And now, it’s just an acceptance. I kind of laugh at all the old ideas I used to have about spirituality.

Sure, I’ve made many changes as I’ve gotten deeper and less scared and less appearance driven. But they’ve been deep inside choices. And mostly none of them have involved buying drapey hemp clothing or listening exclusively to Enya.

I think this image thing is why lots of people get scared to embark on a spiritual path, or why the idea of it makes them roll their eyes. All this fear of what it will look like. It might mean they have to go live in a cave. It might mean they have to quit being an accountant. It might mean that they’ll become some weird ass hippy that no one in their life relates to.

But here’s the good news: you get to be exactly who you are. (It might be the bad news too. Especially if you’ve been waiting for some larger version of yourself to show up before you let yourself begin.) If changes are meant to happen, they’ll happen. But they’ll happen naturally and in the perfect time.

In the meantime, begin where you are. Be exactly who you are. Have some pizza.

17 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Carolyn

    Love the word “pantaloons”. Wish you had a photo of your cat’s pantaloons here.

    Love the white splotch on its nose.

    And I don’t even like cats (very allergic to them). 🙂

  • kathleen

    Hi Christine

    I’ve recently stumbled on your blog and all I can say is THANK YOU! I love your writing. You inspire me to embrace my truest deepest most joyous self!

    Oh, and your cat is gorgeous 🙂

  • Tim

    Christine: One of the most humbling and edifying compliments someone has ever given me, although I am not sure it has been fully supported… was when someone said “You feel like truth”…and so I give it away and say the same toward you, your life’s work, your music, your blog, most likely all that you do. Thank you for that. It’s what most of us and I am sure many of your fans I am sure find when we’re “searching” – and listening to you whether through our own voice while reading your blog, or yours when we listen to the stories you speak about. It feels like home.

  • David Richeson

    I LOVE your blog! Being Spiritual is being real. I agree that so many people want to look spiritual (wearing yogi clothes, saying “namaste, etc.) but thta’s just another image to portray.

    Being spiritual is getting down to your essential self.

    I think you’ll love my blog at http://www.360degreesuccess.com

    It’s about similar topics.

    David

  • christine

    Thanks Jack! I couldn’t possibly say it any better. Time for you to start a blog…!

  • Jack

    I was raised as a Christian Scientist, and that’s a very deeply, almost ascetically spiritual religion. I’d often thought that being a serious Christian Scientist is a bit like being a secular monk (no drinking, no swearing, no extended self-indulgence or smart-ass behavior, and of course no drugs or pills). The Christian Science practitioners that my mother took me to see as a boy were all impressively calm and relentlessly affirmative women, who sat behind their neatly arranged desks in little home offices where everything radiated order and health. For a long time I thought that was spirituality at work.

    Until I met Jim McGrew. He was a Christian Science teacher in Chicago, and I decided — after years of being determinedly nonspiritual — to talk to him, because I needed some some help in sorting through big issues, as I was feeling a ton of ambivalence about getting married. Jim had gotten into Christian Science about the age of 20 when he was healed of blindness after going to a church service one day (no kidding). He later fought as an aide to Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific in World War II, and later rose to become comptroller of a big corporation, before he bagged the career and went into spiritual practice full-time.

    Jim had an expansive, just-swallowed-a-candy-bar grin, as well as the double-chins, the happy perspiration, and the shirt-tails-hanging-out of a guy who maybe runs a circus. There was nothing even faintly monastic about this man; he’d have gladly eaten a piece of Gracie’s pizza, if he thought she really wanted him to. Jim almost never quoted a line of scripture to me, but instead always told stories, about himself and other people. Later he’d write me a letter with more ideas that came to him, from our conversation. These letters were like little battle summaries from the front: written at full tilt, full of encouragement and little spiritual tips, always with an underlying, simple logic. He knew that the world, as we live in it, isn’t perfect, so he didn’t waste time trying to deny the existence of bad weather. But he also knew that every one of us is able to enter new information on the keyboard of his or her own life, and that anything was possible, if you first understood who you really were: the image and likeness of the one infinite Mind, which is also Love — and that you were authorized by that one, original source of power to dissolve any obstacle or any threat (emotional or physical) to being who you are. In a word, goodness can’t be stopped.

    I left Chicago a few years after that and saw Jim a lot less. In New York City once, several years after he passed away, a woman who I met for a blind date, and who seemed to be totally rational and intelligent, told me as we were walking away from the restaurant that she was also a mystic, and informed me quite undramatically that I had a guardian angel. She told me this as we were standing on a street corner on the upper West Side, and she said she knew this was true because the angel was standing behind me. For some reason I believed her. And I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if the angel was Jim McGrew.

    Real spirituality definitely involves cats, pizza, and circuses.

  • christine

    Hi Susanne,

    And thanks! It sounds like your thoughts about yourself are the real issue here! I’ll be you’re not boring in the least…

  • Susanne

    And there I was hoping if I only had the right outfit my inside would be more artsy or spritual… Rats! No, seriously, marvelous post.

    I’m still confused about this issue. I used to think that I’m boring and mundane, only to find people who told me how artistic they thought me to be. Nowadays I stay with my comfortable and boring wardrobe (and pizza), and try to spend more time on making music than on thinking about what people are thinking.

    And the just being part? Really hard to do. But so beneficial! And calorie-free!

  • christine

    Chris – Oh no, Duran Duran is the reason I am who I am today! What would life be without lyrics like “I’m on the hunt I’m after you” rolling around in our heads?

    Paul, Thanks for the note. Of course, you’re right!

  • paul merrill

    Good post!

    It’s so important to be real and be yourself. (Facades only fool ourselves.)

    Pursuing the truth – at all costs – is the most central thing any of us can do.

  • Chris Cree

    Wait. Wait. Are you saying that Duran-Duran-listening-to was a bad thing that we did? Geeze was I confused. I thought listening to them was supposed to be cool. No wonder I never fit in!

    Oh, well. At least I still love pizza!

    Good post Christine!

  • christine

    Susie, Ah yes…the cool syndrome. In her book, Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Debbie Ford talks about resisting admitting her spirituality because she would look so un-cool. Thankfully, that idea is phasing out. I mostly only want to talk to people who are willing to go way below the surface! Thanks for writing, and good luck with your pantaloons!

  • Susie

    Hey Christine,
    Ive recently learned that a lot of my friends, old and new, have always thought of me to be a very spiritual person; which am, but I wondered why they thought that. Its not like I run around yelling, Im a Christian, Im a tree-hugger, I’m a spiritual warrior, etc. so why do they describe me as spiritual? Then I realized: Thats just who I am! By simply being myself, people around me learned more about my spiritual side. Theyd pick up on it by learning what Im passionate about, what makes me happy and what I get out of life each day.

    I went through a phase too where I thought its great to be spiritual, but I had to be cool at the same time, otherwise being spiritual was just dorky. I learned this technique just didnt work; instead, I turned into a clumsy/dorky spiritual wanna-be. (P.S. the best medicine for this wanna-be syndrome is reflection followed by laughter!)

    Isnt it funny that we spend so much time and effort trying to mold ourselves into who we think we should be? When in truth, when were just ourselves and have no contortions to mold ourselves to, is when were actually the happiest? Thanks for the thoughts and just like Gracie, sometimes I pick-up grass stains on my pantaloons, but its just another story to tellĶ

  • christine

    Hello Kathy. I’m lucky in that my cats are mostly not all that interested in catching things. Just an occasional mole. If they brought me birds, I don’t think I’d let them go out anymore. (Sadly, I don’t have as much love for the moles.)

    Just Be-ing is the big challenge isn’t it??? Have you read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth? Gotta go check out David’s blog…

  • Kathy

    Wow – what a great entry! In college, your brother and I used to talk about just wanting to Be. That’s it, just Be. The act of simply Be-ing was one of the most spiritual things I did at college…but it didn’t happen much. It wasn’t singing in the folk group, talking to the Jesuits, going to New Testament class or even going to mass on Sunday nights….they were spiritual too I guess….but I wasn’t usually fully present then. Distracted by getting the harmony right or who was sitting with who out there, everything other than just Be-ing. It was hanging out with people not expecting anything from me, like Steve and our other cool friends (many of whom will be at our wedding!), who knew I wasn’t expecting anything from him either. Now, up here in beautiful Ghent, David and I just “Be” all the time. See David’s new blog (inspired by you!) for more on our wonderful Ghent.

    And on cats – we don’t have any but they crack us up. When I lived in boston there were two cats that lived on the first floor – their parents were big jazz fanatics so they were named Duke and Furry Louis. Furry Louis got too fat to fit out the cat window to go exploring but Duke often came up to our top floor and did cat things like balancing on our balcony railing chasing birds. I was sure he’d plummet to his death one day and it would be my fault. Well he must have loved it up there because to show me how much he appreciated me sharing my balcony with him he started bringing me presents. Yes, cute and not so cute things he captured while on adventure – left them on the back door for me to see on my way out. That was my first inkling that maybe cats were more fun than I thought and rather smart after all.

  • christine

    Yes. I think that’s it, Kelsey.

  • Kelsey

    Hmm. . . I’m not sure how well this jives with the gist of your message, but it reminds me about some of the complicated feelings I have had about my weight. I used to think I was fat, when I wasn’t. Now, since giving birth, I am decidedly more weighty than I used to be. Once in a while I find myself thinking, “but I don’t feel like a fat person, I just feel like a person.”

    Exactly.