My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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L’Arche and good habits

I love email and the surprises it brings. Yesterday, a note from a woman at a JCC near Washington D.C., who’d learned of my recent talk about my great-grandfather at the JCC here and wondered if I’d give a talk at hers. By this morning, it was more or less set: Thursday October 19 at 1.30 p.m in Fairfax, Virginia. The fee they’re paying will nearly cover the cost of my flight, and I’ll stay with my two cousins who live in Washington and visit other relatives, including my ex-husband, as well – people I see far too rarely. Thank you, email.

On Wednesday night, a truly wonderful experience – I had dinner at a L’Arche community in Riverdale. I’d asked a former student who works at L’Arche if he could arrange this, because I wanted a clearer memory of my time there in 1979. L’Arche, as I’m sure you know, is now a worldwide network of houses where mentally and physically handicapped people live and work with assistants, in an atmosphere as like a normal home as is possible. My time at my friend Denis’s L’Arche community in Provence changed my life.

There were five handicapped people at dinner, and as we sat and talked, what came back immediately is that the disadvantaged in mind and body have no defences, no disguises, no subterfuge. They are what they are, and they expect you to be too. There’s a profound honesty in these dealings; you can’t pretend to be what you’re not, because they are looking straight at you and through you with clear eyes devoid of guile or judgement. As in those months in France, I could feel my heart growing bigger as the meal progressed. There was one particularly beautiful man who has been at L’Arche since 1980, his hands and body crooked and his face full of vulnerability, kindness and wisdom.

I arrived at the community in France in 1979 confused, lost, in some anguish. When I left four months later, I was a different person, because I had learned something vital about my own value: just being myself, paying attention, caring, loving and working, I had contributed something worthwhile. This is what I’m writing about now – one of those times when by some miracle you end up in exactly the right place at the right time. Lucky and blessed, indeed.

Also lucky and blessed: I just finished Gretchen Rubin’s Better than before: mastering the habits of our everyday lives, and like L’Arche, this was exactly the book I needed just when I needed it. Yes, Rubin is perky, and living with her would be hell; she’s a driven, rigidly organized, rather self-righteous American woman who won’t eat a single carb and disapproves of drinking wine, so I could just have slammed the book shut. But she’s also funny and honest, and the book was valuable in helping pinpoint what I was doing wrong in my attempts to set up a work routine. Her section on loopholes, the excuses we use to get out of doing what we should be doing, made me laugh. I am a grand master of loopholes.

But I can report that for the last five mornings, I’ve followed a routine. Won’t elaborate until more time has passed, don’t want to jinx this or FIND A LOOPHOLE – but it’s a New Year’s transformation that makes me happy.

In the meantime, the tsunami of horror south of the border continues to gather steam. And then there’s this:

How fabulous. My Macca, of course! Just a tiny message to El Trumpo about those artists who support him – the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, at least those who have not quit in protest – and the artists, above, who do not. What a lineup. Hooray for musicians. Hooray for Alec Baldwin and his absurd creation. Please God make that vile man go away. And we thought Stephen Harper was bad.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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