Advice from a single mom dying of cancer
Adima Shirky (1994 –)
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I was raised in what appeared to be a good family in Dayton, Ohio. But no one knew about the violent tempers or tension which were part of daily life. I grew up confused, fearful, and very insecure. On the outside I was a normal, decent, even religious young woman. Yet on the inside there was extreme pain and turmoil.
When I married, I half-hoped my wounds would heal. They didn’t. I had always known self-doubt and self-hatred, but now I began to project those feelings on others. I was angry. I felt rejected and worthless. I desperately wanted to be loved, and I looked for love in everyone around me. I sought peace through Christian counseling, and through prayer, but it remained outside my grasp.
It was only years later, at the Bruderhof, during a retreat for new members (my husband and I had been looking for a communal way of life, and joined in 1987), that I found peace through squarely facing my past. I realized that the root of my anguish was my self-centeredness. Hell-bent on my own happiness, I had become an emotional leech. It was a humiliating discovery, but it was also redemptive. Suddenly I was able to feel remorse for the hurts I had caused others, instead of always feeling sorry for myself. I even felt a desire to forgive those who had injured me in the past. In those days something Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark became real to me: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I still have to battle anxiety at times. I still lapse into old worries. I still have to struggle against the temptation to please others. But there’s no longer a divide between my façade and the real me. That’s peace.
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With photography by British photojournalist Danny Burrows, this 300-page hardcover book celebrates what is possible when people take a leap of faith. It will inspire anyone working to build a more just, peaceful, and sustainable future.
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