Thank you India
Thank you providence
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you, thank you silence
— Alanis Morissette
Sometimes you find a church home in the most unexpected of places. I’ve experienced a fair amount of church in my life. I grew up in a liberal Catholic Church community, I meditated with Buddhist monks, I watched as my uncle was ordained as a Baptist minister, I burned sage and prayed with friends at altars created in their living rooms and, on and on. I visited and explored and prayed and searched but throughout my younger years, my spiritual practice was unformed and inconsistent. However, there was one exception; for many months in my 20s, I worshipped regularly at the church of musician, songwriter, and singer, Alanis Morissette.
In 1995, Alanis Morissestte released an album entitled Jagged Little Pill. It was raw and honest and unfiltered and urgent. It felt to me like a collection of anthems for young women who were alive and struggling on the planet during the 90s. It filled me with a healthy rage and a sense of sisterhood. I felt a deep sense of belonging at that altar.
Part of the legend of Jagged Little Pill is that the lyrics came directly from the pages of Morissette’s journals. This fact only added to the mystique of and my connection to the album. The act of journaling has never come easy for me. Despite the fact that I have purchased any number of beautiful journals over the years and received an equal number as gifts, I have never been able to perfect a journaling practice. I seem to always feel a crippling sense of judgement toward the words that appear on any journal page of mine. While I have worshipped at the raw, honest, unfiltered, urgent church of Alanis, I have never able to translate that into my journaling. I suspect that for me, seeing my truth laid out before me in permanent ink feels far too, well, permanent.
In December of 2019, I received another beautiful journal for Christmas. I greeted it with the same excitement that I always feel when a new journal comes into my life and yet, in the back of my mind, I knew that its pages may never be filled. On January 12, 2020, I opened my blank journal with a new plan. Keep it simple. I recalled the words of Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you said was thank you, it would be enough.” And so, that is what I wrote. Over and over. Just that. Thank you.
A few months later, I, along with everyone else, entered a strange new land called Pandemic. Pandemic Land was filled with unimaginable challenges, fear, exhaustion, and never ending change. It seemed to permeate everything and as I entered the new land, the pages of my journal remained closed as I sought out other, less scary ways to comfort myself. When life feels that overwhelming, many people return to church and that is exactly what I did. I returned to the church of Alanis Morissette.
The album Jagged Little Pill sold more than 30 million copies and is one of the top selling albums of all time. While there are many, like me, who felt a deep connection to it, there are even more who felt and still feel disdain for it. That level of success coupled with the intense criticism that inevitably follows can be overwhelming for some artists and that was indeed the case for Alanis Morissette. She took a break as the minister of my church and went to India to meditate. I had long admired this artist for her bravery in making her journal pages public and this decision to step away for some self-care only served to make me more devoted to her.
She returned to the music scene in 1998 with the album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. If I’m being honest, as much as I wanted to love it, the album as a whole did not shake my world. However, there was one track on the album that pulled me back to my old, much beloved, unconventional ministry. It was a song entitled, “Thank You.” It is a song that is always on my playlists but prior to March of this year, I had kind of forgotten about it. As I was reaching for safe comfort during my journey through the pandemic landscape, this song found its way back into my consciousness. It is a song that expresses gratitude for unexplored, distant lands, and the grace that can be found in them, and the confusion that leads us to deeper understanding, and the joyful simplicity of nothingness and the peace that can be found in profound silence. It is a song about being lost and somehow, finding your way. It is a song about embracing what is without asking it be different and learning to walk in gratitude. And so, as I navigated this strange new land called Pandemic, I listened to it. Over and over. Just that. “Thank you.” It has become the anthem of my Pandemic Land.
The journal I opened in January of last year has a grand total of 10 entries and five of them contain nothing but the words “thank you.” It is not what one might call progress with regard to my journaling journey but in this strange land, it does indeed feel like enough.