Welcome, Katrina, to SunnyRoomStudio. What an honor to have you here!
It’s great to share your guest post–your interests and books, your creative light–in this sunny space for kindred spirits. I especially liked how you explained memoir … how it captures a life, as lived, not … as perfectly figured out.
We write in order to hold on to perishable moments. We write not because we have things figured out, but because we want desperately to know more. Pen in hand, or fingers poised over the keyboard, waiting patiently, leaning in toward ourselves, we learn to contemplate the subtle energies at work in our lives and to listen to what our stories are trying to tell us.
“The page is a receptive ear for the soul’s murmurings. Writing has helped me figure out what I know for sure and, more important, it has given me a way to grapple with those questions that seem to have no answers. At times, it has been a call and response between my doubting, uncertain, seeking self and some wiser self whose voice I’m still learning to summon and trust. But sharing what I write is what takes me to my edge, to that place where my own vulnerabilities are brought to light and exposed. And what a relief it is, always, to realize I can survive the glare, and that I’m not alone after all.” – from Magical Journey
- When my two sons were small, I constantly had to remind myself: if I raced through life, I’d miss it. As I sought to become the kind of mother I aspired to be, I realized that simply being present for my family was in itself a demanding spiritual practice.
Writing was a way to pause each day and drop into the moment — right here, right now. But it was my children who finally gave me my subject. Simply by being themselves, they reminded me of something that, deep inside, I already knew: a good life isn’t about getting somewhere amazing but rather about taking time to savor the journey itself.
My first book, Mitten Strings for God, grew out of the challenge I set myself: to clear some quiet space in which our souls could grow. After all, true intimacy — with our children, with our partners, with ourselves — requires both intention and inspiration; it takes a certain rigor just to show up and stay put, again and again, come what may.
Slowing down, taking time to actually feel my feelings,making some kind of peace with uncertainty, I began to view my own ordinary life through fresh eyes. Despite the upheavals and transformations that came with the teenage years, the lessons I most needed to learn were still about being exactly where I was, loving my children as they were rather than trying to mold them into the people I might want them to be instead.
I don’t think any family survives adolescence without some bruises on both sides — the delicate dance of holding on and letting go is really about stumbling through one misstep after another. But even that confusing, chaotic life chapter comes down to a daily choice between love and fear.
The Gift of an Ordinary Day was the title of my second book, but soon those words took on a life of their own, becoming a kind of mantra, a reminder that grace and beauty are always to be found right at hand, in the unvarnished moments of everyday experience. For it’s by paying attention to our lives and the people in them that we evolve into our own best selves.
My husband says, “You wrote your way into being who you are.” I think he’s right. I used to believe that in order to be a “real” writer, you needed to have some answers; that the old injunction to “write what you know” meant you better have your act together before you presumed to write about it. (If you are writing a manual about the tax code or a how-to book about building a house or a biography of a president, this is no doubt true.)
But the writer of memoir, as I finally came to see, has a different assignment and a different set of responsibilities. We arrive at the page with material born not out of our imaginations or history or facts, but rather the very stuff of our own lives, in all their mess and confusion and ordinariness. We write as a way of honoring what we remember and to make sense of what’s right under our noses. We write in order to hold on to perishable moments. We write not because we have things figured out, but because we want desperately to know more. Pen in hand, or fingers poised over the keyboard, waiting patiently, leaning in toward ourselves, we learn to contemplate the subtle energies at work in our lives and to listen to what our stories are trying to tell us.
“The privilege of a lifetime,” as Joseph Campbell famously said, “is being who you are.” My guess is, it takes most of us a lifetime to fully rise to the challenge. Certainly I’m a work in progress myself — still seeking, still practicing, still astonished by all I don’t know.
Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment, my most recent memoir, isn’t about achieving happiness once and for all, but about learning to cultivate contentment in the here and now. It’s quiet work, this process of discovery and acceptance — a journey we can’t plan or control, but rather one that unfolds in it’s own way, in its own time. The spiritual journey, like the writing journey, is about showing up, taking one step at a time, and having faith that, if we’re open and attentive, the way will reveal itself.
A while back, I heard from a woman who was half-way through reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day. “I have the oddest feeling as I read your book,” she wrote. “It’s as if we know each other, as if I’m having a conversation with my best friend. I’m going slowly, because I want to make it last. But I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.”
“I’m wondering how it will all turn out myself,” I replied. Because, of course, the journey isn’t over when we type the final sentence of the last chapter or close the book in our hands. It continues. Stories come to an end, but life itself goes on. And I, too, want to make it last. ~
Light comes to us unexpectedly and obliquely. Perhaps it amuses the gods to try us.
They want to see whether we are asleep. ~H.M. Tomlinson
- A Reiki practitioner, gardener, and yoga teacher, Katrina Kenison lives with her family in rural New Hampshire. You can find her on her blog (Celebrating the Gift of Each Ordinary Day), Twitter, or Facebook. She is the author of Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir, and, most recently, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment. Her YouTube video for The Gift of an Ordinary Day has had well over two million views.
- Katrina is also the author, with yoga teacher Rolf Gates, of Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga. Her writing has appeared in O: The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, Real Simple, Family Circle, Redbook, and other publications. She was ars working in publishing, first as a literary editor at Houghton Mifflin Company in New Haven, New York, and Boston, and then, from 1990 through 2006, as the series editor of the best-selling The Best American Short Stories anthology, published annually by Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt. She co-edited, with John Updike, The Best American Short Stories of the Century.
Thanks so much, Katrina, for this wonderful introduction to your work.
Best of luck in all of your creative endeavors. I’m looking forward to reading your new book!
- Our spiritual journal, Turning Within, resumes Friday, March 7, with my 3rd journal entry. To find previous entries, click on Journal 2014 under Studio Topics on the sidebar.
- Until then, remember: If you haven’t looked within, you haven’t looked.
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