For those of you who have followed my life and stories for a while now, you’ll know that I have a deep, abiding respect for Shauna Niequist that blossomed when Katrina and I read her two books together last summer. It would be an understatement to say they changed my life. Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet are two of the best books I have ever read. I’m sure several people I love will attest to the fact that I will gladly talk your ear off about how much I love her writing.
With that in mind, you’ll understand why I was a little reluctant to pick up her latest book, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table. I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to my extremely high expectations, and I was skeptical that anyone could write anything better than Bittersweet. Even her.
However, my fears were not well-founded. Shauna’s gentle and wise voice sneaks its way into my soul and buries itself there almost without my permission, molding the way I see everything around me. With her first two books she chose to touch on several topics, but this time she centered the book around community and food – both of which have been on my mind more recently. I love her approach to food and life, giving herself so much grace and inviting others to be vulnerable with her.
The extra pounds didn’t matter, as I look back, but the shame that came with those extra pounds was like an infectious disease. That’s what I remember. And so these days, my mind and my heart are focused less on the pounds and more on what it means to live without shame, to exchange that heavy and corrosive self-loathing for courage and freedom and gratitude. Some days I do just that, and some days I don’t, and that seems to be just exactly how life is.
I came near to tears that day, reading those words. I was desperate: desperate to be enough, to just have someone look me in the eye and put a hand on my shoulder and say you’re doing alright. And by accepting herself, Shauna opened the door for me to accept me, in all my messiness and imperfection. She handed me the key to free myself from my prison of self-judgement.
Shauna, I owe you about a million thank-yous for all the wisdom you have shared with me. I would not be who I am if I hadn’t pulled Cold Tangerines off the shelf that wintery day of freshman year. Your words have touched me and challenged me and understood me in a way I’ve never known before.
In your own words, thank you, and keep going.