remembering who i am

Once again in the midst of the panic this evening, came a friend’s unwitting nudge, prompting me to revisit Etty Hillesum’s diary, my first encounter of which became a tattered copy that companioned me through my own personal darkness and my hard-won All is Well.  In Etty, I found a kindred soul, one who understood what I saw.

 This movement back into the quiet of my heart and out of the chaos of my head, which has been occurring over these past few months, is not at all conceptual for me but a deep homecoming to the heart of who I am.  This is not a surrender but it is a surrender to Love.

 Sister, I thank you for reminding me of who i am.

This evening, I recycle these words from myself to myself

Jan 24, 2010

Etty speaks the words of the deepest knowing of the soul–that life is somehow ‘terribly beautiful’; that God/Love is not present ‘despite’, but right in the midst of; and that the soul’s journey of becoming (of learning what it looks like to be Love) takes place right here in the often brutally ‘ugly’ places of life. Her experience is my own… in that within the most painful places of my life, I was blessed, and have come to know that the sacred and profane are as close to one another as a breath.

When i first read her diary a few years ago, i found myself to be overflowing with ‘yeses’ at her discovery of beauty/love/god ‘in the midst of’, and at her uncovering the indestructible serenity that is within. In a way, she feels kindred to julian of norwich’s ‘all manner of things shall be well’, especially when you know something of the horrific world in which julian also lived. These women feel like kindred spirits to me, ones who have seen what we have seen and know what we know. no polyanna version (or vision) are these ‘life is beautiful’s’ but ones of great depth…

and yet, i wonder, could it be a wisdom that cannot always be so readily expressed to another (especially when the other is in the midst of a suffering that they perceive as mere suffering) lest it be heard as a dismissive cure-all or felt as cover for pain or mere escape or may risk making suffering sound noble or the individual sufferer made into an unattainable, elevated idol. alas, this knowing must come from within, i suppose.

we must each of us trust what know deep within, when we are willing to look inward and listen to the still voice. only then, perhaps, can one find true comfort in words such as Etty’s, for in them at last you may find a companion, soul-sister, one who knows and understands the depths of your heart, whose voice resonates with the voice within.


If you do not know Etty, she was a young Jewish woman, living in Amsterdam, who refused to go into hiding, instead volunteering for the Jewish Council of ‘social welfare for people in transit’ at the Westerbork Camp, where she eventually was made an internee. We have her diaries from before she was interned and her letters from Westerbork . Her final correspondence was thrown from the train on the way to Aucshwitz. It said this

“We left the camp singing”

For snippets from Etty’s diary, check out this page .



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