pathwriter’s note: Liz Gilbert hits the nail on the head again and again, whether she’s sharing her own thoughts or the thoughts of others. This is her Facebook post from yesterday (12/1/14).
THE CRAB BUCKET
Dear Ones –
A few months ago, I was on stage with Rob Bell — minister, teacher, family man, great guy — and a woman in the audience asked him this question:
“I’m making all these important changes in my life, and I’m growing in so many new and exciting ways, but my family is resisting me, and I feel like their resistance is holding me back. They seem threatened by my evolution as a person, and I don’t know what to do about it.”
Rob said, “Well, of course they’re threatened by your evolution as a person. You’re disrupting their entire world view. Remember that a family is basically just a big crab bucket — whenever one of the crabs climbs out and tries to escape, the other crabs will grab hold of him and pull him back down.”
Which I thought was a VERY unexpected comment to come from a minister and a family man!
Rob surprised me even more, though, as he went on to say, “Families are institutions — just like a church, just like the army, just like a government. Their sense of their own stability depends upon keeping people in their correct place. Even if that stability is based on dysfunction or oppression. When you move out of your ‘correct place’ you threaten their sense of order, and they may very likely try to pull you back down.” Continue reading
HOW NOT TO BE OVERWHELMED.
Dear Ones —
So a funny thing happened to me yesterday at Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour.
Or, rather, a funny thing DIDN’T happen to me.
I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t overwhelmed. I didn’t walk around all day thinking, “I can’t believe I’m here!” or “I hope I don’t ruin everything!” And every time Oprah came near me, I didn’t squeal (internally or externally) “Oh my god that’s OPRAH FREAKING WINFREY, OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I’M STANDING NEXT TO OPRAH!!!!!.”
Nope. I actually felt calm.
This is not what I had expected. Because that was a crazy situation, people — a giant arena, a big-ass spotlight, a potentially blinding amount of glamor, the possibility for humiliating screw-ups, and a lot of expectation piled right on top of me.
But I realized this truth, yesterday morning: If I turn this into a big drama or a thrill ride, then I’m making it all about me. Which isn’t fair to anybody here, and won’t serve anybody here. And I came here to serve.
Dear Ones –
The other night at my event in St Paul, a young woman asked me about how I achieve balance in my life.
First of all, I love that she thinks I have achieved balance in my life!
Secondly, I felt the need to speak out once more against the subtle tyranny of the word BALANCE, which I think haunts and punishes modern women more and more every day.
We are constantly being told that we should be achieving balance — that we should somehow exquisitely be negotiating the relationships between our work lives, our home lives, our romantic lives, our health and well-being, our spiritual selves. You can’t read an interview with a famous woman these days that the journalist does not applaud her for having achieved BALANCE….and then if you turn the pages of that magazine, you will find ten more articles showing how you can achieve balance. too!
Be careful. Continue reading
Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.
Dear Ones –
OK, so I don’t usually quote myself on this page, but a reader asked me today if I would take a moment to further explain this idea that ruin can sometimes be a gift in our lives.
*takes a deep breath*
Let me begin by saying that the ruin I’m talking about here is not something I would encourage anyone to ever deliberately seek. I’ve seen people who chase darkness and destruction on purpose (sometimes for the glamour of it, sometimes for the romance of it, sometimes for the sheer self-hatred of it) and this is not a path that I am capable of endorsing for anybody.
No, I’m talking about the ruin that happens to you, without you ever seeing it coming. The chaos that sneaks up on you.
Because sometimes the bottom falls out of our lives. People leave us. Precious certainties are yanked away. We lose our health, our money, our gifts, our faith, our familiar surroundings, our trust. All the truths that we thought we could believe in forever suddenly depart us with no warning. The ground that we always knew was solid under our feet turns out to have been nothing but a trap door all along. (And then there’s another trap door under that one.) We disappoint ourselves. We are disappointed by others. We get dead lost. We are no longer longer recognizable to ourselves when we look in the mirror. It all falls to ruin.
And that, my friends, is when things start to get really interesting. Continue reading
…If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things. Period.
~Anne Lamott, Facebook post, 8/21/13
I’m sitting down to write without really knowing what’s going to come out. I’m doing this because I tend to obsess over what I should write about, and whether I can carry through the thought to the end, and whether anyone will get what I’m trying to say, and whether what I write will sound like just so much metaphysical/spiritual drivel. Who wants to read this stuff, anyway? And, of course, all this fretting keeps me from writing. (I’m sure plenty of you out there are nodding your heads, being well acquainted with this state.)
On the other hand, I’ve always done well with assignments and deadlines. When I was the dance writer for a weekly publication here in NC, I was invited to participate in the American Dance Festival’s Dance Critics Conference. The format for the conference was that we would attend performances by modern dance companies from all over the world, then immediately return to a room full of computers and write our reviews in the space of an hour and a half or so.
When I learned this, I panicked. After all, I’d only been doing this for a year and a half, and I’d pretty much lucked into the job, and I was used to writing for a weekly. I was used to having a LOT of time to edit and rework what I wrote. What the hell would my reviews be like with only an hour and a half to complete them? Continue reading
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
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
pathwriter’s note: I love Anne Lamott. I am in awe of her open heart and her willingness to be so uncomfortably honest and so perfectly imperfect. She posted this (complete with typos) on her Facebook page just a few minutes ago.
Oh, all of you who have sustained hardship today, I am so sorry. i wish all of us at this site who are just watching could rush to help you. We really would if we could. Tell us if there is anything we can do, beside the obvious–donate, pray, breathe, wait for the water to recede, and be exquisitely kind–especially to ourselves. That’s the hardest thing.
I’m probably writing this to myself as much as to you, but it is okay to be having any inappropriate feelings and responses and obsessions you may be experiencing. If you still feel obsessed with the election, even in the face of these images of destruction, it’s really okay My mentor, Horrible Bonnie, would say that something beautiful is being revealed in the current weirdness, in brokenness and the not-knowing. I always say back, “Oh, yeah? REALLY?”. Then I swear I’ll never call again.
But it is, every time, no matter how huge the family mess, or loss, or in this case, nature’s terrifying power and force. Truth is revealed. People’s natural outpouring of generosity will be revealed, & their ability to sacrifice for the common good, which you don’t see all that often without darkness. How resilient and loving we are. How we ALWAYS end up getting our senses of humor back, which to me, is one of the ways we know grace is real.
I’m not suggesting that the next few days are going to be easy for Continue reading
The following is an excerpt from Anne Lamott’s Facebook post this morning:
Home, in bed, smothered in dogs like biscuit gravy; they are exhausted after giving me the ritual cleansing and have gone back to sleep, so I have this early morning all to myself. The sun has streaked highlights into my flowering pear tree like Vidal Sassoon, and I am wearing my Ethel Mertz jammies and eating peanut butter toast. This is what grace looks like: amazed gratitude and relief at your plain old gorgeous life.
I was up at 3:30 Tuesday, headed to Tennessee for two talks—one on Writing, one on faith—and then to Chicago for a talk on the Search for Meaning. They are all, at core, the same—the decision on how we choose to live this one short, precious life. The decision to stop hitting the snooze button. The willingness not to be good at things right away, to be clueless but committed; to make more messes and mistakes in the interest of living with spaciousness and a sense of presence; to find out who we truly are, who we were born to be, and to learn to love that screwed up, disappointing, heartbreakingly dear self of ours.
~Anne Lamott, Facebook, 9/22/12