Ticket-holders sat shoulder-to-shoulder on long wooden pews, flanked by stone walls and arched doorways in the cathedral-style sanctuary. We’d dressed for the occasion in our Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes–which, translated loosely for SoCal residents, means anything on the fancier side of beachwear.
In walked Anne Lamott, instantly recognizable for her scarf-tied dreads. Her eyes twinkled when she smiled. “I tend to talk about myself a lot,” she began, with the barest hint of an apology. “I’ll share myself in a way that’ll make you feel comfortable… but not for long.”
Sunlight streamed through stain-glass windows. Heads nodded, and shoulders relaxed. We smiled back at her, as if to say: We’ve read your books; we’re ready…
Anne read a selection from her latest book, SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED: A Journal of my Son’s First Son, which was co-written with her son, Sam Lamott. It was disarming in its honesty, at once spiritual and irreverent…the inimitable writing style she’s known for. [Note: You can read the passage at this link, but if you’d rather watch a live performance, click here.]
Then she shared some loosely braided stories from her own life. She talked about dancing and sobriety, the writer’s life and faith. Each experience was a teacher, Anne said; the lessons, interchangeable. [See also: The miracle of “Me, too,” below.]
I’ve paraphrased much of what she said about writing, and I’ve also included a few Grace notes. Hope you enjoy these gems as much as we did!
You say you want to live a richer, deeper, childlike existence. Guess what? You get to do that!
Stop the train of unconscious living and mindless multi-tasking. Ask yourself: How alive am I willing to be?
Do what you’ve been putting off, what you’ve been dreading for so long. Be afraid of not finishing the work.
Silence your self-loathing. Transform it into a thing of beauty and service. Hook yourself to something bigger–that’s the path to world peace.
You can fill your mind with stuff: acre upon jumbled acre of rusty car parts, and/or alphabetized rows of planted vegetables. Or you can simply wade into the tide pools of Breath.
A good time to write is never, so begin at the next available time slot. How about 10:00 this evening?
Progress comes of rough feet and rage, of boredom and a butt gone numb because you’ve sat so long in your writing chair.
You need friends who’ll tell you, “I’m going to love this. It’s not perfect yet, but it will be.” And you also need that One True Friend–someone who’s willing to say, “This isn’t going to work,” even (especially) when all you want them to do is clap and pet you.
When you're writing from a place of consciousness and intention, your work becomes a source of light and truth–a remedy for despair and isolation. That’s the miracle of “Me, too.”
“I don’t understand the mystery of grace,” Anne said, “But absolutely all I need to know is that it’s an unmerited gift…the unexplained help that gets you out of extreme stuckness.”
Grace is the sliver of light that peeks through the redwoods. It’s a glass of cool water from the flow of the Beloved. It meets us where we are, and does not leave us where it found us.
Grace is fresh air that sneaks through the cracks of our imperfections. It’s WD-40, a solvent for things that grind against each other. And grace is water wings, made available to you at the very moment you feel yourself sinking.
Our afternoon with Anne Lamott was grace, personified. She met us where we were, and did not leave us where she found us.