Atheism, Spirituality, Boundaries, Slytherins (Week 50: This and That)


No preamble at all:

I feel very conflicted about my current spiritual practice, because, you see, I’ve spent three decades of my life as a proud atheist (the first fourteen years as a born Catholic). My atheism has never been a central part of my identity, as it is for, for example, the rather terrifying (and unhappy) Richard Dawkins. But it’s definitely been part of the mix in the Sorting Hat.

(I’ve never taken the Harry Potter sorting hat quizzes, by the way, but my family assures me, with no hesitation, that I’m a Slytherin. That makes all four houses represented in our nuclear family of five: Ender and Sean are Hufflepuffs, Flora says she’s a Hufflepuff but she’s really a Ravenclaw, and Cinder is definitely a Gryffindor.)

I’ve never been a cynical atheist either, usually thinking the world beautiful and fascinating even when it is nasty and cruel. The caterpillar becoming a butterfly: how fucking awesome is that? The theory of evolution to explain it—thank you, Darwin! My atheism has never been devoid of wonder and gratitude. (Only briefly, perhaps in late adolescence, when, in love with a cynical atheist, I tried to be cynical too—but, fortunately, it did not stick. Cynicism, you see, is neither attractive nor creative. You can’t make amazing shit, discover new things when you’re busy scoffing at the world.)

Anyway. So now I sit and breathe—me, the woman who always hated yoga and scoffed at meditation (almost cynically, tis true) and who will still tell you that if yoga really was the path to enlightenment, then India would be the most enlightened, peaceful, perfect society in the world and, well, caste system, sorry, you lose, you don’t get to claim enlightenment, wisdom and compassion if you have the caste system and I’m not even going to touch on the sexism. And I still think the Buddha was a psychopath and a really shitty father, and no, I can’t forgive him for leaving his little boy—what do you think your abandonment did to him, you asshole, and how much meditating did he have to do to let go of the suffering caused by his father just fucking off?

But still. I now sit and breathe. Once, twice a day. Still, alone—and suddenly part of everything that ever was and will be, holy fuck, what a feeling, and then, again, alone.

I don’t find myself in the stillness. Me, I’m always here. What I find is the rest of the world and  my very insignificant, ordinary, yet critical and magical place in it.


I sit.

And breathe.

And once or twice a week, I go and I sit and breathe and chant and wave my arms around and otherwise do ridiculous things with a group of other people who are sitting and breathing and chanting and breaking down their ego. There is nothing sexy or athletic about the yoga I do—and not a single leotard or crop top in sight, by the way, although palazzo and harem pants seem to be all the rage at the moment. And I have to admit that on some level, this is my church. That being amidst other people who experience that same moment of something or other, stillness or belonging or unity or dissolution—their presence amplifies the experience. Alone-not-alone. I like it. I want it. Maybe, I even need it, although that’s still hard to admit.

I sit and breathe. Sometimes, I lie down and breathe. Walk and breathe. Yesterday, I sat on a damp, sunny hill, my back against the trunk of a tree, cold winter sunshine on my face and in my eyes, and I breathed. Then I smoked a cigar. Breathed some more.

You: Jesus, if you try to argue that cigar smoking is part of your spiritual practice.

Jane: No. It’s an indulgence, a vice. And a short-cut.

But it achieves the same thing. Time slows down, I slow down, everything else recedes, there is only the breath and the smoke.

My  morning pages are still part of my spiritual practice (year five now). And I don’t flinch every time I say “spiritual” (although, fuck, isn’t it a pain when the way other people use a word spoils it for you?). So be it. I’m a spiritual ape. I think the natural laws and yet unknown mysteries of the universe are amazing. I don’t mind, some of the time, giving them the word “divine.” After all—cosmic dust, promiscuous electrons—and that liquid caterpillar in its chrysalis—how are they less divine than the flour-free chocolate cake you made me just because you love me?

You: Chocolate cake?

Jane: Chocolate cake is divine. And so is Hafez’s poetry and the seashell ear of a child.

You: I think you’d better wrap up this essay while you still have a point and before it degenerates into utter self-indulgence.

Possibly already too late. But, time is pacing, relentlessly, and I still want to sit and breathe a while before I start doing all the things.


The doorbell rings at 9 am.

Ender: Yes, you can come in. But only stay three or four hours, ok? When you’re here the whole day…

Friend: It gets boring?

Ender: It’s just too much. I need a break and some me time.

Sean overhears them. Is amazed—“Isn’t that amazing that at  nine, he can articulate that?” But then, this is my son. Earlier this week, I am seated in a loveseat at Lounge XVIII with her. The loveseat opposite us, separated from ours by a low table, is empty. The lounge is very crowded; two young men ask, politely, if we mind if they sit there. She agrees. I nod. Why not, the table separates us—and the lounge is very crowded. It is a kind, NICE thing to do.

The two young men are very young. Very drunk. Very friendly.

Too friendly.

Jane: So, you are very welcome to sit there, but we’re on a date here, and I actually don’t want to interact with you, so if you could just talk to each other and not to us?

They are… muzzled, muted. And actually, after a period of awkward prolonged silence, get up and join someone else’s table.

Her: I can’t believe you said that.

Jane: Did you want to spend the whole evening making conversation with two drunks?

Her: No, but…

No buts.


I spent years teaching Flora about boundaries, how to recognize them, respect them, communicate them—how not to feel bad about having them. It was an upstream battle (forgive the mixed metaphor), because our culture works very hard at breaking down girls’ and women’s boundaries.

Nice girls smile and say yes.

Bitches have boundaries.

Well. So be it.

I am not a nice girl, and I’d rather raise a bitch than a victim.


Mornings. Mornings. Mornings.

My routine in 2019 is about to get two mornings on which I have to be somewhere, perky and ON, by 8 am, which means I’ll have to get up at 6 am, which means…


I’m not sure I can do it. Ok, let me rephrase that. Of course I know I can do it. I will do it. I must do it. Can I do it unfrazzled, unhurried, unresentful? Taking my time for my morning pages and scalding hot coffee, my shower and my meditation, a proper breakfast?

You: Probably not.

See, this is what I’m afraid of. My story for the past 20, 30 years has been that I don’t do mornings. The last time I tried to change this and create an intense early morning work routine, I almost went crazy. (Fall 2017… to be fair, there were other reasons compounding the crazy. But getting up before 6 am did not help.)

It’s not even, I think, that I mind getting up early. Today, I was up at 7 am, and no one made me, there is no place I need to be by 8 or 9 or even 10. But… I’m just not… I’m not fast or focused early in the morning. I move like molasses or a sloth that needs to empty its bladder but, ugh, the bottom of the tree is such a long way away, is there no other way to pee? In the mornings, I move slow and I don’t like to be hurried. Hence, I’m thinking 6 am wake up time to make my 8 am commitment, not 6:30 or 6:45, which, technically, might be enough… but really isn’t. I want time to move at my sloth-molasses pace. But that means, waking up so early.

Will I do it?

We will see.






Flora: I think you called me a bitch.

Jane: I said I was raising you to have boundaries.

Flora: And then…

Jane: How about… I’m trying to inject a bit of Slytherin into your Hufflepuff.

She’s not convinced. But trust me. The Slytherin do have some redeemable qualities, and not just because Alan Rickman played Snape.

Jane: You’ll thank me. I’m pretty sure, eventually, you’ll appreciate this.

Thank me, blame me.




Professor Slytherin Glasses ;P


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change)

I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison)

You have a bad memory, while I want to rest on a flower (Week 49: Mothers and Caterpillars)


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3 thoughts on “Atheism, Spirituality, Boundaries, Slytherins (Week 50: This and That)

  1. Pingback: When everyone’s a special snowflake… (Week 51: Normal and Narcissistic) | Nothing By The Book

  2. Pingback: The year will end on a Monday (Week 52: Guilt and Gratitude) | Nothing By The Book

  3. Pingback: 52 Weeks Project (2018 Blog Post Index) | Nothing By The Book

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