photo source: the gaurdian, what frida kahlo wore
This is the story of how Frida Kahlo’s shoes led me to write a book.
More than a decade ago I left church.
I still had the values I’d learned in church — compassion, generosity, justice, forgiveness — but the rest had lost it’s function. Prayer didn’t provide me with guidance. Worship services didn’t connect me to the divine. And I was tired, so tired, of spending all my time trying to convert somebody to something.
When I left church I lost my tribe. Everything I knew, from cradle onward, was bound to the church. From Kindergarten through graduate school I attended religious schools. My career as a minister was inextricably linked to the institution. My close-knit community of friends who saw each other two, even three times a week, all came with church membership. And every single member of my family identified first and foremost as Christian.
So when I left church, I lost tribe. And with the loss of tribe I became tremendously ill. In bed in a dark room ill. Injections in your head ill. Ten years of chronic pain ill.
In that illness I became enthralled by Frida Kahlo, an artist who moved forward in spite of pain. After an accident, Frida was left with one leg shorter than the other, and a lifetime of back pain. Yet she continued to build a rich and vibrant life filled with art, soul, and community. In one children’s book about this iconic figure the author said, “She turned her pain into something beautiful. It was like a miracle.” And I thought, I’d like to do that. I’d like to turn this pain of losing tribe into something beautiful.
I had no idea how to do that. I only knew that while I was no longer religious, I was still something.
I still needed rituals, habits and practices — not just “because it’s tradition,” but because they help me live out my core values in a complex world.
I still needed a community, not because I needed spiritual “accountability”, but because the wisdom of the group is so necessary for the journey.
I still needed sacred texts, and hymns, and saints, and icons — but not necessarily the ones from my past, with their heavy history and damaging patriarchal roots.
I wasn’t religious, but I was relig-ish.
And so were you.
Together, you inspired me to write volume, volumes, about this relig-ish life. Hundreds of posts. Maybe thousands. A half-dozen attempts at manuscripts. Three proposals without a home. A million words dedicated to devotion.
We turned our pain into something beautiful.
We took the shoes we were given, and we stacked up one heel so we could stand straight.
We colored the leather so it reflected they way we felt — powerful and beautiful, not weak and hidden.
We threaded our laces the way they best supported us so we could stride out and find the others who needed to travel with us.
Those posts and pages — they were my map out of loss.
The way you shaped them with me, that was the beauty.
And Frida’s shoes — her shoes are a symbol of the work we have to get done.
Frida’s shoes are my new icon. They are the sacred symbol of the work we’ve done together here, and at Magpie Girl, and at Urban Abbess before that. They remind me of where we’ve been together, and where we’re going next.
And where we’re going next is to gather the others.
We are going to gather the others who are leaving church, and losing tribe.
We are going to help those who are trying for first time ever to build a life of art and soul,without a map.
We are going to help people create rituals, habits, and traditions that are rooted in their history, authentic to who they are today, and creative enough to grow with them.
We’ve done it before — in fits and starts–at retreats and meet ups and in on line communities. But now, we have a publisher. Now we can get the book into thousands of hands. Now we can give our siblings a guide.
So put on your boots friends. The ones we’ve made right-fit for us. The ones we chose. Lace up.
Because the contract is signed, and together, we are writing the guidebook for people who are creating a practices for a spiritual (but not religious) world.
Are you ready to partner with me one more time in this growing relig-ish world?
Can you throw some money, or connections, or goodwill at this good cause?
Will you lace up with me walk the next length of the journey together?
I think you are.
I know you can.
I hope you will.
Chalice Press and I have partnered to co-source the advance needed to support the writing of Becoming Relig-ish. I need 160 people to pledge $25 each, or 80 people to pledge $50 (and get the book!). As a thank you we are offering soulful pledge rewards at every donation level. To learn more and pledge, click here for the Kickstarter. (Thanks, you.)