I can’t remember why I first started reading Annie Lamott. A gift, perhaps, from a conscious friend who was trying to open my eyes to something important or a book review in the paper that caught my eye or maybe the fact that I have spent most of my adult life working in the community where she lives and, while not knowing her directly, knowing people who know her and love her and think that she is one of the most brilliant writers in the world. I don’t know when it started but somewhere along the line I picked up one of her many, many wonderful books and I haven’t been able to put her down.
I wish I could write like her. She’s funny and witty and irreverent and smart and most of all she tells the truth, her truth, in a way that makes you want to stand up and applaud or clench your fists and yell "Yeah!" at the top of your lungs causing the people around you to stare at you with a look of bewilderment but you don’t mind because something inside of you just woke up and you just needed to acknowledge it, just then, at that exact moment for fear that if you didn’t, it would go back to sleep again.
On Wednesday night I took my writing group to hear Annie speak. I had been talking to them about her for weeks, these wonderful, resilient, courageous, fractured souls who have withstood so much of the dark side of life. I wanted them to have the chance to hear her words, her powerful, funny, brilliant words delivered in her own voice. I wanted them to hear the way she uses her experiences, writing about them with honesty and clarity and humor.
Wednesday was the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Annie read "Bastille Day", a piece from Grace, Eventually.
“In the spring of 2006, I believed that good people who had watched
their country’s leaders skid so far to the triumphal right would want
to do something. I mean, wouldn’t they? Otherwise, those people’s
children would ask them someday, when we would all be living in caves,
“What did you do to save us?” And the children would be angry, and they
are so awful and unpleasant when they are mad, even in the dark.
I, for one, did not want to answer that I’d done nothing, or that I’d ranted and flailed, showing up only to support my own causes and candidates. In the face of hate and madness, you can’t just turn your face to the wall and give up. I wanted to figure out how to say, “Enough” – and be part of a revolution that would save the world. Or at least help some people keep the faith.
I hoped that July 14 worked for everyone.”
I know I’m not alone in this, but recently I have been getting increasingly worried about where we are going. I mean, here we are, 8 years into this experiment gone awry with the second Mr. Bush and things are such a mess I wonder if we will ever recover. Truly. This is where being a social worker is not such a good thing. We tend to get involved in the undersides of things, the view most of us would rather not see and herein lies the problem. The underside is getting bigger. More people are struggling, more people are in pain, more people are hurting and in those dark moments, those wee hours of the night, I worry that we won’t recover.
On Thursday I asked my psychology students to design a bumper sticker that would tell the world what was important to them. "Matter," one of them offered. Matter. “It has lots of possibilities,” she said. I loved it.
It’s funny how sometimes, when the sky seems at its darkest, the clouds part just a bit and the tiniest ray of sunshine manages to peak through. A tiny sliver of light emerges, forcing its way through the heaviness, shoving aside all that blackness and worry and fear and replacing it with hope and energy and optimism.
We sat towards the back of the room. Somebody asked about who she supported in the upcoming election. She likes them both, she said and then proceeded to talk about why she felt hopeful. “We’re going to be OK,” she said to no one in particular and then, as if she could hear the worry pouring out of my brain, she leaned over the microphone, cupping it with her hand, the way you do if you are telling someone a secret, “Did you hear that in the back of the room? We’re going to be OK.”
And in that moment, I knew she was right.