Monday, June 30, 2014

Bonnie Gray’s “Finding Spiritual Whitespace”

In 2011 and 2012, I was participating in a blogging linkup hosted by Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista. It was mostly a linkup with women and “mommy bloggers,” but I could write about my own children and my new grandsons, and I didn’t need an excuse to do that.

And then Bonnie went off-the-grid, for personal reasons. We knew she had been writing a book, but when you go off-the-grid to write a book, that’s what you say. Bonnie didn’t say that.

When an online community leader says “personal reasons,” you respect that, and you pray.

Bonnie’s season of rest went on for a year. She was writing a book, but not the book she expected to write. What she was writing about was surviving and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and some of its more visible symptoms.

Panic attacks. Insomnia. Depression.

Bonnie turned to counseling, and she wrote what seems to be an almost effortless book that is part memoir, part meditation, and part resolution of what she was dealing with. I say “almost effortless” because the book reads easily; it’s both well-written and compelling. And you keep reading on even when it’s time to turn the light out and sleep.

It’s a book written with pain, and in pain, a book about how brokenness and broken relationships can suddenly and unexpectedly erupt, decades after they happen. It’s a book about finding rest and resolution, or at least the beginning of resolution. And it’s a book about understanding, realizing how to deal with what can never be made whole, what can’t be “fixed.”

The heart of the story is what happened to Bonnie when she was a little girl. Divorce is, unfortunately, not an uncommon event. Abandonment by a father is not an uncommon thing. Dealing with a mother’s anger and rage may be less common, but it is still common enough to be recognizable, to be familiar.

In Bonnie’s case, the effects were both immediate and often ugly and long-term, buried until they erupted into those panic attacks and insomnia. Our culture may make divorce a relatively easy to accomplish, but there is nothing easy about what leads up to it and what happens afterward.

And what she writes about her own story is personally familiar. My own parents had both been previously married. Each had a child from their first marriages. How and why those marriages failed played itself in our family, too. Children often don’t, or can’t, understand how this happens, but their do experience the effects. Brokenness shapes who all of us are, even in families that don’t experience divorce.

One result from divorce can be overachieving, the state of constant activity and work that is both a reach toward an unattainable perfection and a desire to escape pain. Welcome to American culture.

Bonnie tells her story with a structure that is both personal and communal – developing her own story and helping readers find ways to tell theirs. The purpose is in the subtitle – awakening the soul, and the mind and the heart, to the idea of rest, rest from the frenzy of activity we call contemporary life, rest from the pain many of us are trying to escape.

Finding Spiritual Whitespace is more than a good story. It is a needed story. It’s a story that, as you read more and more, becomes uncomfortably and personally familiar.

It’s our story, too.

And Bonnie’s community linkup is back.

Photograph by Bobbi Jones Jones via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Maureen said...

It's not easy to write about a book about loss and pain, how much we suffer in trying to recover. Your approach here honors the struggle. I wish Bonnie so much success but most of all happiness and peace.

Anonymous said...

you know how it feels to finish the writing and have it emerge as printed pages with a cover.
knowing that it's not the end of it, but a new chapter, as it were.

Thoughts for the day said...

This book touched me in a very deep way, as I was a child of trauma too and it pulled and tugged at my heart and reframed some memory moments. She is brave and gifted. I will put this book on my 'keep list' and share it with others.