quote du jour ~lamott – grace is…

[Grace] is unearned love–the love that goes before, that greets us on the way. It’s the help you receive when you have no bright ideas left, when you are empty and desperate and have discovered that your best thinking and most charming charm have failed you. Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there.

~Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

quote du jour ~lamott – your problem is how…

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued…Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.

~Anne Lamott

post du jour ~lamott

pathwriter’s note: I count myself among those who grumble at Facebook when they change the format of the newsfeed or choose which of my friends’ posts I’m going to see. However, Facebook has also reconnected me with far-flung and long-lost friends, for which I will forever be grateful, and it allows me to connect with the brilliance of some of my favorite authors, like Anne Lamott, on a regular basis, without having to wait for the next book. I love Anne Lamott for her flawed, oh-so-human faith and doubts, her railings and rantings at God and the unfairness of it all (sometimes), her crazy-raw honesty. She says the things we all think and feel but wouldn’t dare say out loud, and she hasn’t been struck by lightning yet, which should make us all a little braver about saying some of those things ourselves. Her language is peppered with less-than-holy words, which I think a lot of us also think, even if we don’t say them out loud. I hope the language won’t put you off, that you will see through it to the heart of her words.

*******

Every morning these days, you have to ask yourself, What the hell IS it all about, Alfie? Or you pray for a sign that you absolutely cannot miss or misinterpret, the tiniest hint of direction and assurance.

Well? I got one.

It has been one of the worst week in years, and that’s saying something. You know exactly what I’m talking about, no matter how much you love your life and your pit crew; no matter how hard you strive to present a good face. It is so hard here. It’s like Old Yeller meets the Hunger Games; plus the parking is terrible.

Under the best circumstances, we are a nutty and sometimes violent species, on an extremely dangerous piece of land.

But one of the saddest things happened. We had to put my darling old dog Lily down. She died peacefully at home in my son Sam’s arms on Wednesday.

I think she was the closest I’ll come, on this side of eternity, to experiencing the direct love of the divine. You may know the feeling.

Through this love, Sam and I came through. We cried a lot, but agreed to let our hearts stay broken for awhile, because that is how light, grace and healing can get in, through the armor.

The next morning, I took Lily’s beloved ne’er-do-well husband Bodhi for a walk. I adore him, but he has tiny mental issues, such as aggression, and having eaten entire chickens, and 24 muffins once. Then, too sad to stay at home without Lily, we went out for a bite.

After eating sandwiches in the car, we headed home. I was disoriented, and so far behind on my daily life, after a month of Lily in decline, that Sam frequently consults A Place for Mom online. But a block from home, I got that Holy Spirit nudge, a tug on my sleeve, which urged me, as it often does, “Stop.” It’s given up on nuance. Continue reading

quote du jour ~lamott – and because all lives…

And because all lives are hard and difficult to understand, you acknowledge the slipperiness of those who died—they got out. You hold onto them because it can be so appalling here, until you can’t hold on anymore, because you’re not holding on to anything after a while. Either they had a Get out of Jail Free card or they became part of the bigger natural order of things. You can’t tether them to earth anymore, because the thread has grown too fine. All you can do is say, “I get it: You are somewhere else now. But little flecks of you remain, like mica in rock, which glint and say: It was all true.”

~Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair

a few inches of light

It’s incredibly touching when someone who seems so hopeless finds a few inches of light
to stand in and makes everything work as well as possible. All of us lurch and fall,
sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving, feel like idiots, lose our balance,
gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going.

~Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith

Most of us have been in this place at one time or another, hopeless and searching desperately for a tiny patch of light, trying our damnedest to pull it all together—or at least not let it fall apart. I’ve been there more than once in recent years.

I do believe that, ultimately, getting through such times comes down to faith. I’m not talking about religious faith. I’m talking about the mundane kind of faith that gets you up in the morning and puts your feet on the ground and points you toward the realization that you are, in fact, still here—that whatever-it-was didn’t kill you while you were sleeping last night, and the world actually continued to turn.

This is kind of a good news/bad news thing to realize. Continue reading

lying in the mud

And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.

~Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

I’ve been in this place before, and I know exactly what Anne Lamott means when she says “I just had to lie in the mud…grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.” There were people who wanted me to “get help”—which was code for drugs to dull the pain—and I stood and listened while people tried to tell me that I shouldn’t still be feeling what I was feeling. But I believed then, and I believe now, something that I once heard Oprah express beautifully on one of her shows, “When someone says something to you about how long you’re taking to get over a loss, just remember, it’s different for everybody—tell them it takes as long as it takes.”

I don’t discount the benefits of antidepressants in certain situations, and yes, there are people who wallow in their grief to the point that it takes over their lives and becomes who they are. However, I think we as a society have become increasingly uncomfortable with uncomfortable feelings. We want to “fix” them and make them go away, in spite of the fact that those feelings are often the very means by which we grow and deepen as human beings and by which we become more truly ourselves.

Continue reading

quote du jour ~lamott – gratitude…

Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and in the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.

~Anne Lamott – Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

pre first draft ~anne lamott

I had a great idea for a new book, although come to think of it, maybe it is just a Facebook post. But it would be called Pre First Draft, and address the way we suit up and show up to be writers, artists, and general tribal-two-stomp creative types.

I think it would begin with an admonition: if you used to love writing, painting, dancing, singing, whatever, but you stopped doing it when you had kids or began a strenuous career, then you have to ask yourself if you are okay about not doing it anymore.

If you always dreamed of writing a novel or a memoir, and you used to love to write, and were pretty good at it, will it break your heart if it turns out you never got around to it? If you wake up one day at eighty, will you feel nonchalant that something always took precedence over a daily commitment to discovering your creative spirit?

If not—if this very thought fills you with regret—then what are you waiting for?

Back in the days when I had writing students, they used to spend half their time explaining to me why it was too hard to get around to writing every day, but how once this or that happens—they retired, or their last kid moved out—they could get to work.

I use to say very nicely, “That’s very nice; but it’s a total crock. Continue reading

quote du jour ~lamott – what a mess we are…

What a mess we are, I thought. But this is usually where any hope of improvement begins, acknowledging the mess. When I am well, I know not to mess with mess right away; I try to let silence and time work their magic.

~Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

anne lamott on facebook

pathwriter’s note: What a gift Anne Lamott is. I’m so glad her son and her editor talked her into getting on Facebook, because it means she writes posts like this from time to time—and usually just when I need them, like today. 

This is a true story.

I have been doing a bunch of radio interviews to promote the coming paperback edition of Some Assembly Required, and so was in San Francisco recently. There was no street parking to be found, so I parked in an underground garage. I stuck the ticket in my wallet, went and did the interview, came back to the car, and got ready to leave.

But I couldn’t find my ticket. It wasn’t in my wallet. I looked for it there, again and again, but couldn’t find it, so I rifled through my purse. The ticket wasn’t there, either. I took everything out of the purse, put it on the passenger seat, and pawed through it, like a Samuel Becket character.

Sighing loudly, I looked everywhere it could have fallen—the console between the front seats, the ashtray, the floor, the glovebox. Then I got out, exasperated with myself. I am getting so spaced out.

I don’t want to be put in a home yet! Continue reading

quote du jour ~lamott – my belief is…

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say to God, “I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,” that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. If you told me you had said to God, “It is all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand,” it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real—really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table.

So prayer is our sometimes real selves trying to communicate with the Real, with Truth, with the Light. It is us reaching out to be heard, hoping to be found by a light and warmth in the world, instead of darkness and cold. Even mushrooms respond to light—I suppose they blink their mushroomy eyes, like the rest of us.

Light reveals us to ourselves, which is not always so great if you find yourself in a big disgusting mess, possibly of your own creation. But like sunflowers we turn toward light. Light warms, and in most cases it draws us to itself. And in this light, we can see beyond our modest receptors, to what is way beyond us, and deep inside.

~Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers