Review: The Wounded Healer

Any Henri Nouwen fans in the house?

Just wondering. I just finished The Wounded Healer, and I just know I’ll be passing it along. Not this particular copy, of course. It belongs to Lovey Loverpants. And that would be impolite. Paying it forward when I didn’t pay for it in the beginning.

Nouwen’s books are generally quite short and the language is very plain, but the message is always deeply profound. Like if Dr. Seuss became a Jesuit and wrote for adults.

My first encounter with Nouwen changed my life. I know that sounds like a canned reaction from an Oprah Book Club audience member, but let me take you back. Just a month or so into my first semester of college, I attended a weekend conference where one of the books being sold was The Return of the Prodigal Son. I took that book home and spent nearly all of my holiday break poring over it. The way that Nouwen unravels the parable is so basic and beautiful. I took a long look at my life’s relationships and particularly at my family’s. As I began to understand the parable, I could actually feel the glacier moving in my heart to let new love flow in where there had previously only been an impasse. I have gone back many, many times to read this book and I recommend it often.

I was stunned, then, when Lovey Loverpants brought up Nouwen this past spring when he was thinking of a book to give a departing intern. One of his co-workers, Doc Martin, had recommended The Wounded Healer. I was further stunned to hear of this recommendation, given that Doc Martin is who he is: the Cuba-loving, conspiracy theorizing, Jewish shrink with a passel of jokes about Mainers. But after reading the book, I now understand why anyone in the social services field would find this book to be a prize, even if ministry is viewed here through a Christian lens.

Nouwen addresses the oft-asked Who’s healing the healer? Who listens to the listener? Who cares for those in the business of caring for others? Doctors, social workers, ministers — their jobs can be so lonely when it seems that no one is asking them, So, how are you?

Nouwen offers this – in this life, we can be empowered by our loneliness, because it can put us in touch with the suffering of others. Sounds perfectly pleasant, right?

Like everyone, I’ve had my bouts of loneliness, and I can’t deny that some days at home with Baby Girl do get a tad isolating. But I remember a time the year when I bought The Return of the Prodigal Son when the loneliness felt interminable. Like everyday was Christmas and everyone else had a family with whom to celebrate, besides myself. The next year, though, I became an RA and I think I was a good RA because I had experienced the loneliness that my residents would manifest time and time again.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who works in direct service to people or, in my case, if you sometimes find people absolutely exhausting (see also: the exhaustion of living with yourself). Nouwen’s insights are rich and unforgettable.

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U2 in 3D

There are many excellent reasons to see “U2: 3D,” aside from shifting your gaze for 85 minutes from that big red circle on the calendar marking WEE LEE’S DUE DATE.

If you are not still carrying a hot air balloon under your shirt a day after WEE LEE’S DUE DATE, there are other valid reasons to go see The First Live Action 3D Concert Movie, for which National Geographic has not paid me to endorse, but probably should, because when I’m not working to will this hot air balloon out from under my shirt, I’m going to be playing Rah-Rah girl for U2 over the course of the next month. With or without you.

Whether or not this concert is playing in a theatre near you, the point is that you get to count Bono’s eyelashes in a theatre! In cushy chairs! With no hairy backed guy standing in front of you blocking your view, and no guy singing off key and spilling his beer on you from behind. I know that sounds really white girl bougie, like “Yeahhh! Let’s go rage at a concert and sit back and drink our slurpees and get home at a decent hour!” PART-AY! But this is the closest I’m going to feel as though I’m standing on the edge, staring up at The Edge, for twelve moneys, and I’m not too proud to say that this was a pretty good Saturday night for me.

The concert itself mainly takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and as the cameras pan the stadium, I’m pretty sure that there is no one left outside of the stadium in Buenos Aires. They are all there singing “One” with Bono, and that’s probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in the last year – a whole South American city swaying and singing “One” in a language that is not its first.

There are some great moments on stage that are the stuff of live music’s wonder. Bono is as much a passionate believer of his lyrics as he is a complete nutbar who appears to be doing an interpretive dance that no one can interpret. The Edge is the coolest Irish man alive. Larry Mullen Jr. is given his due spotlight as the enduring drummer of the set. Adam Clayton’s hair is outrageous and his facial expressions always cause you to wonder if he is amused by the fact that he is still rocking with a band that was once known as the Larry Mullen Band.

You might be overcome with the urge to throw your 3D glasses off and hold up your cellphone and keen over Sunday, Bloody Sunday, or suddenly mash faces with the person next to you, and you might just leave a little blissed out. It’s a powerful show from a powerful band. Let me know if you go.

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Juno, see also: “What kind of a girl”

Saturday night – when I was not otherwise predisposed to snarking at the punks next to me in the theatre who insisted that “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis?” came from a show called “Webster” from the ’70s – I was busy allowing the movie “Juno” to inch its way into my Top Ten Favorite Movies of All Time.

If you’ve ever been sixteen, or pregnant, or both, you must see this movie.

It’s very wise in a way that films about adolescence only sometimes succeed. Juno, played by the brilliant Ellen Page, is spectacularly snide, clever, and self-assured. She has a plan, always, it seems. She probably even planned to wear her cherry underoos when she goes to pop Paulie Bleaker’s cherry. But then there is a moment when she confesses to her father and stepmother that she’s pregnant, and her father says, “I thought you were the kind of girl who would have known when to say when.”

And then Juno says, hesitantly, “I don’t really know what kind of girl I am.”

Here we begin to realize that she is not so wise. She does not always have a plan. She is sixteen, she is pregnant. She is very confused.

There’s a courage in her concession. I don’t really know what kind of a girl I am.

When I was sixteen, I was very busy overachieving and not eating and covering my notebooks with aphorisms and “Proud to be a virgin” buttons. I thought I knew what kind of girl I was. I thought I had a plan, always. Now, I realize that I was a chickenbone. I was the wilted pickle on Juno’s hamburger phone. I didn’t know what kind of girl I was and this was evidenced in how I treated those around me, and how I treated myself. I should note that one of my old neighbors told her kids that Juno reminded her of me. And I can only hope it was because she once knew me in high school when I dressed androgynously and wore a perma-ponytail, and not because I was someone who always seemed to have a plan. Because that would just be too painful to know.

I’ve been thinking about “Juno” for a few days now, and I’ve watched every interview with “Juno” screenwriter Diablo Cody on youtube, and I’ve listened to a few tracks from the soundtrack eleventy four times a piece, and when I am not otherwise sobbing from all the beautiful scenes these rewinds trigger, I am thinking that I hope Ellen Page wins the Oscar. I think she’s the kind of girl who should win.

ellen page
Photo from Oscars.com

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