Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love

As a follow up to the previous post, another author who makes me laugh is new-to-me memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert. Her book, Eat, Pray, Love chronicles her journey through three countries as she explores what each has to offer in the way of culture, religion, and balance. I had so many people recommend this book to me that I was almost resistant to read it. That ever happen to you? Anyway, I'm so glad I picked it up. Gilbert's writing is inspired and witty, and once you start reading, you won't put it down. I especially liked the "Pray" section as she travelled to an Ashram in India and learned about prayer and meditation.

Spiritual journeys intrigue me, and I found myself wanting to buy a plane ticket to the other side of the world and hiding out for a month. I wonder what it would be like to be a monk on a mountaintop, or a nun living out a life with orphans in China. What does that type of committed service feel like, look like?

I recently went on a spiritual retreat in pursuit of my own faith (I am Christian), and the timing couldn't have been better. You see, this past month I've lost two dear friends to cancer -- Mary Ann Corrigan and Ronda Thompson -- and the losses hit me rather hard. Ronda Thompson, as some of you may know, is a New York Times bestselling romance writer from Amarillo, and was one of my first real writer friends on the journey. She was electrically sarcastic and a terrific storyteller. Mary Ann Corrigan is the mother of one of my best friends, and I spent about a third of my youth sitting at her kitchen table eating sandwiches on white bread -- a secret luxury. Mary Ann's daughter is a sister of my heart, and that she has lost her mama is unthinkable. Both women were way too young to have gone so soon, and have left many an aching heart in their passing.

In the midst of grieving those losses, I discovered a lump on my own breast. Perhaps the worst part was watching the ultrasound technician measure the black spheres that showed up on my film. It wasn't in my head, or a sympathy bump...there was a mass, and it was real. I scheduled an appointment with a surgeon, and waited.

It is true, as Tom Petty sings, that the waiting is the hardest part.

Then came the spiritual retreat. It was a 72-hour period of no phones, no watches, and a complete immersion into learning and prayer. Plenty of eating and love, too. I think I gained about five pounds. We took communion and sang songs, and I had ample time to focus on other things besides what might or might not be growing in my breast. We sang the old hymn, "It is Well With My Soul." The opening lines go like this:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

These words, for me, became that flowing river of peace and a personal plea. Faith pulsed with the longing that, whatever my lot, it would be well with my soul. The Monday after the retreat, I had my first medically-supervised chest stabbing. Some refer to it as a "biopsy," but I speak the truth. During the whole time the surgeon was poking me with needles (I kept my eyes closed, but I'm sure they were about a foot and a half long), I sang that hymn in my heart and prayed.

The results came back yesterday.

No cancer for me.

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

What inspires you? Nature? Music? Time with family? Ever been on a spiritual retreat?

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Blogger Kern said...

They were a foot and a half long. I saw them. It looked like a scene from an old western movie when things go awry on the wagon train. Her bravery and composure were definitely inspiring through the whole ordeal. She never flinched.

On a lighter note, I am always inspired by the sea. To me, nothing announces the presence of a Creator more powerfully than open water. It's depth, width, beauty, etc. As chance has it, I get to see it again in just a few weeks.

Spiritual retreat? The Walk to Emmaus, 1997. It changed my life forever. It was there I learned that we are all created equal.

Heavy Blog Babe!

10:17 AM  
Blogger *Tyler* said...

Oh Britta, I am so glad to hear no cancer! And I am jealous of your recent spiritual retreat. I have been longing for rejuvenation in the spirit for quite some time now. I will continue to seek it and will be patient in the mean time.

The day Rhonda Thompson's obituary was in the Globe news, I was leaving for the Enchanted Circle with a group of friends including Sally. I brought Rhonda's first book, Isn't It Romantic, with me to share with the girls about this wonderful author who had passed so young. My mom gave me that book to read nearly 10 years ago and I still encourage my friends who haven’t read it to read it. It’s laugh out loud funny! She was the one author I was hoping would be at FiW this summer so I could meet her. Though I wasn’t able to meet her, I am so fortunate to have met a wonderful group of women:)

On our way to the Enchanted Circle, we decided to stop at the Eklund Hotel and Saloon for a drink when my friend Karen (whose cabin we were going to) received a phone call from her doctor giving her the "all clear" from her cancer scare. Needless to say, the one drink we stopped for turned into two in order to celebrate the good news. And in a few weeks, we will have a drink (or two) to celebrate your good news.

7:41 PM  
Blogger desperate_writer said...

I'm so glad your news is good, Britta. I'm so sorry to hear about your other friend.

I can't believe Ronda has gone on ahead of us so soon. When a group of us went to lunch the Monday after her funeral, I saw the slip of a pantsuit go into the door ahead of me, and I thought, "Oh, there's Ronda."

Then I remembered.

That hymn is one I've heard all of my life. Recently, We went to Palo Duro Canyon to see TEXAS, and they've incorporated this hymn into the program. At night, in the majesty of the Canyon, under a black velvet sky filled with stars,the words resounded exceptionally well.

I find my 2 1/2 year old niece inspiring. Through her discovery of the world, I rediscover it too.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Travis Erwin said...

Glad to hear, all is well.

I'm sad to say Ronda is one local writer I never got the chance to meet. I have heard many wonderful stories about her, and I wish I would have had the chance to get to know her.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Britta Coleman said...

Much love to my blogtastic friends for the kind words of encouragement. I had a follow up appointment this morning...I'm clear for another six months before I have to go to the booby squashers (a.k.a. mammogram) again. Woohoo!

Kern, as you know, I am a mighty warrior. Thus, the no flinching. Thanks for going along with me and holding my hand. Or, more technically, my foot.

I can't wait to catch up on all your adventures, Tyler. We'll definitely toast the "all clears" in our lives.

DW -- I find little ones inspiring, too. My neice in California calls me Aunt Buck, which absolutely melts my heart. I'm thinking of using it as a pseudonym and taking up painting, a la Grandma Moses.

Got the picture, Travis. Thanks! For those of you who haven't met this surprisingly male women's fiction author from West Texas, I'll get the photo posted soon on my album at

8:47 AM  
Blogger desperate_writer said...

I haven't met him...I've kinda been "out of the loop" lately. ;)

Look forward to it. :)

2:53 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...


My heart sank when I read you found a lump! I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and relief flooding through me that all is well. Beautiful blog entry. Stay well.

Love, Jenny

5:10 AM  
Blogger Britta Coleman said...

Thank you, Jenny! It is a relief, and I'm so thankful for friends to celebrate with me.

12:25 PM  
Blogger dee said...

I have to second Jenny's comment. The recent event have made my hyper sensitive. I went through a similar scare a few years ago which turned out to be a cyst, but I still am very nervous to go to the 'booby squishers' just in case they find something. I was just out in CA and one of those "life changing" experiences with a woman who I am ghostwriting a book for. I keep listening to the tapes I made as she had such a peace in her voice. I hope to have that someday.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Britta Coleman said...

The thing we have to tell ourselves: the booby squishers are our friends.

7:39 AM  

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