When I write articles for local magazines, I intentionally wait to research until after I’ve talked with the subject or source I’ve been asked to interview. I’ve had a couple of interviewees question my approach; the assumption is that I’m not doing it right by not digging up details or at least familiarizing myself with someone or something prior to chatting.
Sometimes I have to explain myself because they’re just that irked that I’m asking questions I could obviously find answers to on their website had I only taken a peek prior to talking. I tell them that I purposefully don’t dig around and read everything I can find before we talk because I know myself, and I know that if I do that I’ll hear my own voice instead of theirs when we talk. I’ll hear their words through my filter, and I’ll think I know the story before I’ve given them the chance to tell me who they are and what matters to them.
I don’t think that’s fair, that the filters of my own experiences and opinions and priorities can sometimes drown out the person I’m asked to hear. So I go in blind, so to speak, and do my very best to let their words tell me who they are.
I approach book reviews in the same way. When I’m lucky enough to be asked if I want to review a book, I don’t google the author first. I skim the info I’m provided, sure, but I don’t study it. I say yes if my gut says to do so and dive in, head first.
And so I did with Open Boxes: the gifts of living a full and connected life by Christine Organ. Truth is, I’m glad I didn’t research first because I probably wouldn’t have read the book.
That sounds really harsh, I know. But it’s true, and I promised to be honest in my review.
Generally speaking, I shy away from reflections about faith (unless it’s Anne Lamott writing about faith). I cringe at God books and automatically assume I’ll get a lecture. A “should fest.” A finger wag…or twenty. I’ve always felt that faith and religion are very private struggles and that being humble is to be quiet and keep your struggle to your damn self, already.
I can’t say that I don’t still believe that sometimes, but I can say that as I’ve grown older my faith has changed. Maybe that’s why I was surprised to feel a kind of kinship with Organ.
We’re both cradle Catholics. She had a spiritual meltdown during and following a Christmas Eve mass. I’ve had meltdowns during mass. I’ve struggled to become more catholic than Catholic. So has she, though not in those words. She’s come to terms with creating a church of her own that works, a group she calls Spirituality Girls. I haven’t, but I smiled as I read her words, knowing that some who seek find.
My only regret in reading Organ’s collection of reflections is that I didn’t start early enough. I read the book in just a few sittings instead of choosing one each day or two to savor. Had I done the latter, I think I’d have seen the true depth of the realizations she shares. I’ve no doubt I’ll return time and again to read an essay here and there, and let it sit with me for a bit. It’s one of the most beautiful qualities of her book, I think; it’s timeless and evolving, and what you take from it depends on where you are in your own personal journey.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Organ’s book isn’t just about faith though that’s what resonated with me most this time around. It’s also about mothering and being mothered, writing, working, welcoming, learning, thinking, unraveling, and building. It’s about being tired and being grateful, being raw and being authentic. It’s beautifully written and Organ is smart, insightful, and vulnerably transparent.
Disclosure: I received a free advance copy of Open Boxes: the gifts of living a full and connected life in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Some links here are affiliate links; I earn a (teeny tiny) commission from Amazon.com if you choose to purchase something after clicking a link.