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.”
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.
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.