61st birthday

Anne Lamott (Author) Writes Down Every Single Thing She Knows, As of Today

61st birthdayI am going to be 61 years old in 48 hours. Wow. I thought i was only forty-seven, but looking over the paperwork, I see that I was born in 1954.

My inside self does not have an age, although can’t help mentioning as an aside that it might have been useful had I not followed the Skin Care rules of the sixties, ie to get as much sun as possible, while slathered in baby oil. (My sober friend Paul O said, at eighty, that he felt like a young man who had something wrong with him.).

Anyway, I thought I might take the opportunity to write down every single thing I know, as of today.

1. All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of us who were born extremely sensitive. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.

2. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

3. There is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of last way, unless you are waiting for an organ. You can’t buy, achieve, or date it. This is the most horrible truth.

4. Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides.

Also, you can’t save, fix or rescue any of them, or get any of them sober. But radical self-care is quantum, and radiates out into the atmosphere, like a little fresh air. It is a huge gift to the world.

When people respond by saying, “Well, isn’t she full of herself,” smile obliquely, like Mona Lisa, and make both of you a nice cup of tea.

5. Chocolate with 70% cacao is not actually a food. It’s best use is as bait in snake traps.

6. Writing: shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. You own everything that happened to you. You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart–your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born

7. Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and sometimes nearly-evil men I have known were all writers who’d had bestsellers. Yet, it is also a miracle to get your work published (see #1.).

Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesey holes. It won’t, it can’t. But writing can. So can singing.

8. Families; hard, hard, hard, no matter how cherished and astonishing they may also be. (See #1 again.) At family gatherings where you suddenly feel homicidal or suicidal, remember that in half of all cases, it’s a miracle that this annoying person even lived. Earth is Forgiveness School. You might as well start at the dinner table. That way, you can do this work in comfortable pants.

When Blake said that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love, he knew that your family would be an intimate part of this, even as you want to run screaming for your cute little life. But that you are up to it. You can do it, Cinderellie. You will be amazed.

9. Food; try to do a little better.

10. Grace: Spiritual WD-40. Water wings. The mystery of grace is that God loves Dick Cheney and me exactly as much as He or She loves your grandchild. Go figure. The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and our world. To summon grace, say, “Help!” And then buckle up.

Grace won’t look like Casper the Friendly Ghost; but the phone will ring, or the mail will come, and then against all odds, you will get your sense of humor about yourself back. Laughter really is carbonated holiness, even if you are sick of me saying it.

11. God; Goodnesss, Love energy, the Divine, a loving animating intelligence, the Cosmic Muffin. You will worship and serve something, so like St. Bob said, you gotta choose. You can play on our side, or Bill Maher’s and Franklin Graham’s. Emerson said that the happiest person on earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So go outside a lot, and look up.

My pastor says you can trap bees on the floor of a Mason jar without a lid, because they don’t look up. If they did, they could fly to freedom.

12. Faith: Paul Tillich said the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. If I could say one thing to our little Tea Party friends, it would be this. Fundamentalism, in all its forms, is 90% of the reason the world is so terrifying. 3% is the existence of snakes.

The love of our incredible dogs and cats is the closest most of us will come, on this side of eternity, to knowing the direct love of God; although cats can be so bitter, which is not the god part: the crazy Love is. Also, “Figure it out” is not a good slogan.

13. Jesus; Jesus would have even loved horrible, mealy mouth self-obsessed you, as if you were the only person on earth. But He would hope that you would perhaps pull yourself together just the tiniest, tiniest bit–maybe have a little something to eat, and a nap.

14. Exercise: If you want to have a good life after you have grown a little less young, you must walk almost every day. There is no way around this. If you are in a wheelchair, you must do chair exercises. Every single doctor on earth will tell you this, so don’t go by what I say.

15. Death; wow. So f-ing hard to bear, when the few people you cannot live without die. You will never get over these losses, and are not supposed to. We Christians like to think death is a major change of address, but in any case, the person will live fully again in your heart, at some point, and make you smile at the MOST inappropriate times. But their absence will also be a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you.

All truth is a paradox. Grief, friends, time and tears will heal you. Tears will bathe and baptize and hydrate you and the ground on which you walk. The first thing God says to Moses is, “Take off your shoes.” We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know.

I think that’s it, everything I know. I wish I had shoe-horned in what E.L. Doctorow said about writing:

“It’s like driving at night with the headlights on. You can only see a little aways ahead of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.”

I love that, because it’s true about everything we try. I wish I had slipped in what Ram Das said, that when all is said and done, we’re just all walking each other home.

Oh, well, another time. God bless you all good.

Anne LamottAuthor Bio: Anne Lamott writes and speaks about subjects that begin with capital letters: Alcoholism, Motherhood, Jesus.  But armed with self-effacing humor – she is laugh-out-loud funny – and ruthless honesty, Lamott converts her subjects into enchantment.  Actually, she writes about what most of us don’t like to think about.  She wrote her first novel for her father, the writer Kenneth Lamott, when he was diagnosed with brain cancer.  She has said that the book was “a present to someone I loved who was going to die.”  In all her novels, she writes about loss – loss of loved ones and loss of personal control.  She doesn’t try to sugar-coat the sadness, frustration and disappointment, but tells her stories with honesty, compassion and a pureness of voice.  As she says, “I have a lot of hope and a lot of faith and I struggle to communicate that.”  Anne Lamott does communicate her faith; in her books and in person, she lifts, comforts, and inspires, all the while keeping us laughing.
Lamott has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has taught at UC Davis, as well as at writing conferences across the country.  Lamott’s biweekly Salon Magazine “online diary,” Word by Word, was voted The Best of the Web by TIME  magazine.  Academy Award –winning filmmaker Freida Mock has made a documentary on Lamott, entitledBird by Bird with Annie(1999).  Anne Lamott has also been inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

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  1. Happy Birthday and big, huge, uber-super-mega-hugs to you for this fabulous post. I am going to point to this one via my blog, luluopolis.wordpress.com. This is truth, barefoot on stilts, and has already made my day MUCH better. Thank you! 🙂


  2. Happy Birthday, Anne. Your words have always had a simple honesty that I’ve enjoyed and applied to writing and life. You are an inspiration. God Bless and have a great celebration.


  3. I love your writing style! I love what you share from the heart. I look up to God. I look up to the older generation because their wisdom is true. I hear it and it feels so freeing. Thank you for sharing your gems. I write about love too – love that is patient, kind, and changes everything here: itssofai.wordpress.com


  4. Reblogged this on athingirldotcom and commented:

    I love Anne Lamott and was so thrilled Elle Knowles, a writer I follow, reblogged her essay from Salon originally on KIndness Blog. Anne is such a light for me quieting my heart, adding hope while making me laugh. I highly recommend anything Anne Lamott pens. Enjoy. Susannah


    1. Came to read all the comments. How amazing so many people reblogged this. I am very moved since she deserves to be known by everyone. I’ve read all her nonfiction. Bird By Bird is a must for any writer and the rest for anyone who needs uplifting. You have a lovely site. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Good Woman and commented:

    I am re-blogging this absolutely wonderful post by the author Anne Lamotte. I can’t quite believe that this is every single things she knows, but I agree with almost everyone of the truths she speaks herein. I have no knowledge of whether #7 is true or not, but other than that I think she is spot-on.


    1. Hi Kate!
      Anne is one of the people who convinced me to get back into writing. I love her humor and compassion. I only feel sad for her blind spot: “little Tea Party people” seems beneath her. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ (as Jesus followers) and I think her knee-jerk condescension doesn’t leave much room for differing opinions or love and forgiveness. As she often points out even Liberals are messy and complicated. She might want to try being more tolerant of people she doesn’t understand. I’ve been liberal and conservative in life and there’s good and bad in both circles.

      Peace to Anne and you, my friend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What a beautiful, thoughtful comment. I share your reaction but couldn’t put my finger on the small disconnect I have felt with her otherwise connective writing. Thank you for articulating your reaction with such grace and kindness.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Dearest Anne:

    The reason that Jesus loves each as if they are in their own world is because fear of death has us all trapped in the cage of our self-perceptions like that bee in the bell jar. Love is the light that encourages us to look up, and when our eyes adjust to its brilliance, we see through the veil of death and enter fully into peace.



  7. I’m just glad I found you before it’s too late…I’m already 72…I want to learn from you.I need to write a lot before I go.


  8. Utterly special that I find you today!
    God is so good.
    I have found in you, Annie, something which I have been waiting for, for a very long time.
    I have found myself here, in these “eyes of the heart” ,,,,oh sweet company!
    Thank you


  9. I call Anne Lamott my Sage Balm… I thank her, hear and feel her. I share her with my women friends. Just gifted 9 copies (one to myself) and I am sure will be gifting more in the days ahead. Choosing kindness to self and others is the answer we can always offer.


  10. Having been born on Dec 5th, 1954, I really wish your counting was accurate. If you discover your age is correct please let me know, I need some good news!


  11. Thank you for your inspiration and realness. As a recent seminary grad, it is refreshing to see a devout leader for Christ living real life and embracing imperfections. You have given me the courage to speak my truth and be as real as possible to those around me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


  12. First read “Bird by Bird” in 2006 and was enthusiastic galore! Re-read it a couple of months ago and enjoyed it even more. My favorite book on writing. Thanks for your words and the way you convey them. It’s such a joy to read you!


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