As anyone who has read my book — or even seen the title — would suspect, I love parables about lost keys; and the following is one of my favorites:
A policeman sees a man frantically searching for something beneath a street light and stops to see what’s going on. The distraught man explains that he has just lost his only set of keys. The policeman takes pity on him and offers to help. After a thorough but fruitless search, the policeman finally asks the man if he can remember exactly where he was standing when he dropped his keys. Without hesitation, the man points to the parking lot across the street.
“But if you lost your keys on that side of the street,” the bewildered policeman
asks, “why are you looking for them on this side?”
“Well, why not?” the man replies, “The light is so much better here.”
And that pretty well sums up my spiritual journey.
I’ve spent most of my life searching for God where the light was brightest—only to discover that He seems to prefer meeting in the dark.
My vision of a spiritual experience has generally tended toward the beautiful and serene: a meditative walk by the ocean, a quiet evening with an inspiring book, a communal gathering of fellow seekers. But sometimes it takes a bit more discomfort to create a real opening. And although I prefer the gentle approach, I can see that sweetness and light don’t always get you there.
In fact, one of my most profound breakthroughs occurred during a near-violent, middle-of-the-night encounter with piles of dirty laundry that had followed me halfway across the world. (See Chapter Eight of A Cluttered Life.) This was all the more ironic because I was certain that my clutter represented the single greatest obstacle on my spiritual path—and, here, it turned out to be the catalyst for a major shift in my relationship with God.
Apparently, it doesn’t take a life-and-death crisis or a weighty challenge to bring about transformation. If anything, those extreme situations often produce a level of spiritual contact that’s nearly impossible to sustain when things returns to normal. More often, it’s those humbling slices of everyday life—the moments when we feel overwhelmed, confused, vulnerable, unable to cope—that create real and lasting change.
In my case, an unsettling confrontation with my clutter was all I needed to push me past my own limits. Once we reach that breaking point and recognize that we’re no longer in control, the door to spiritual possibility flies open. After all, if we’re not running the show anymore, Someone higher and wiser hopefully is. And that’s the light I’m looking for.
About the Book:
A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys
by Pesi Dinnerstein
Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Seal Press
A Cluttered Life tells the story of Pesi Dinnerstein’s touching, quirky, and often comic search for order and simplicity amid an onslaught of relentless interruptions. When a chance encounter with an old acquaintance opens her eyes to the extent to which disorder has crept into every corner of her existence, she begins a quest to free herself of the excess baggage she carries with her and finds—to her great surprise—that the answers she has spent a lifetime searching for lie within her own piles of clutter.
Dinnerstein’s battle with chaos takes her on an odyssey of self-discovery that leads from the mess spilling out of her closets and the backseat of her car to the more subtle forms of disorder in her everyday life and, finally, to the most hidden expressions deep within herself. In the end—with the help of devoted friends, a twelve-step recovery program, and a bit of Kabbalistic wisdom—her struggle with the things of this world is transformed from a distraction along the way into its own journey of healing and personal growth. At turns insightful, unsettling, and wildly funny, A Cluttered Life describes how one woman found her true self—and spiritual clarity—while trying to make sense of her muddled world.
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About the Author:
Pesi Dinnerstein (a.k.a. Paulette Plonchak) has written selections for the best-selling series Small Miracles, by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, and has contributed to several textbooks and an anthology of short stories.
Dinnerstein recently retired as a full-time faculty member of the City University of New York, where she taught language skills for close to thirty years. She has been an aspiring author and self-acknowledged clutterer for many years, and has spent the better part of her life trying to get organized and out from under. Despite heroic efforts, she has not yet succeeded; but she continues to push onward, and hopes that her journey will inspire others to keep trying as well.
The giveaway has ended. The winner is: Louis U! Congratulations!