Yesterday my mental well-being fell completely off the radar, and I took some time off to find it again. I know I have a few friends who are waiting to hear about Anne. This is a universal occurance for me: all of the writers I love make me feel less alone. She is the only one who can make me laugh out loud. Anne Lamott gives me hope that through some loophole I can keep my Jesus-y Person citizenship even though I find myself in strange spiritual terrain. Seeing her this week was such a gift.
She read two essays from her new book, Grace (Eventually). The first was funny, the second was really hard and sad. The packed-out audience sat spellbound, and there was a certain reverence present as we collectively witnessed the raw courage of another human being. Lamott's courage inspires me more than anything else about her. It connects me to my longing to find freedom from my own fear, mostly my fear of other people's opinions. As she read, gentleness covered us like a blanket, taking the edge off the chill of separation and loneliness. For awhile we forgot our fear and looked with wonder at this thing she was crafting and raising up for all to see like illustrations in a pre-school storytime: hope. Could that really be for us, too?, we wondered.
Her new book begins,
There is not much truth being told in the world. There never was. This has proven to be a major disappointment to some of us. When I was a child, I thought grown-ups and teachers knew the truth, because they told me they did. It took years for me to discover that the first step in finding out the truth is to begin unlearning almost everything adults had taught me, and to start doing all the things they'd told me not to do. Their main pitch was that achievement equaled happiness, when all you had to do was study rock stars, or movie stars, or them, to see that they were mostlly miserable. They were all running around in mazes like everyone else.
On the other hand, sometimes you encountered people who'd stopped playing everyone else's game, who seemed to be semi-happy, and with it, who said, in so many words, I saw the cheese, I lived on it for years, and it wasn't worth it. It was plain old Safeway Swiss.
I thought of my writing friends when she said, "Write what you would love to come upon, for then it will exist." She told us that people usually take offense at her spirituality, mainly her belief that everyone is going to heaven. "I even think that Dick Cheney is going to heaven." (groan from the audience) "He may not get a seat next to the dessert table, like me . . . " she trailed off and smiled.