I had the great fortune to hear Anne Lamott speak last night. As wonderful as it was to hear her, it was an odd experience. I came away pretty wrung out and cried most of the way home. It was like this huge group therapy session, and a pretty cathartic one at that.
She read one piece that was new to me and then spoke for about 20 minutes about "everything" she knows about life, and then she read another piece called "Ham of God," which I had read before. As powerful as her writing and storytelling are, I got far more out of her off-the-cuff remarks.
Yesterday was a tough day for Ella. She had a problem with one of her friends at school and came home in tears. I felt so powerless to help. People, even good friends, can be mean and thoughtless sometimes. It's a lesson I wish I could shield her from, but it is one she needs to learn. I didn't know what to do or to say to make things better, so I called on her teacher, which turned out to the be the right choice.
Last night, Anne said that when she and her brothers were dealing with her mother during the early stages of her Alzheimer's, Anne said to a nurse at one point, "I just don't know what to do." The nurse's response was, "Why should you? You've never done this before. That's why I'm here to help."
Hearing Anne say that was like like an epiphany. Of course I don't know what to do with Ella when her heart is broken by a friend - I've never raised a 6-year-old Ella before. I have to go with what I know, and when that doesn't work, I have to ask for help, which is exactly what I did. It was a huge burden off my shoulders.
Anne also talked about something E. L. Doctorow said about writing. He said writing a book is like driving at night with just headlights one - you can only see the little bit of road ahead of you, but you manage to make the whole trip that way. According to Anne, life is like that. We only see the little bit of road ahead of us, but as we move forward we see a little bit more and little bit more. We learn what we need to know as we go along.
I also really related to one of her funnier comments. She said she's an early riser, but that when she wakes up in the morning, all of her neuroses are already up and are sitting on the bed waiting for her. It turns out they've gotten up earlier, and they've already had their coffee. She feels like she starts the day with her list of how she's already behind. That's how I start my days - I wake up and before I've even gotten out of bed, I've gone through my list of what needs to be done, what I've left undone, and what I'm never going to manage to do. I'm exhausted before my feet even hit the floor. I need to learn to be still and just greet the day as a clean slate.
There's so much more I could write about the presentation, but I just can't right now. I'm still processing it all. When I got home, Brandon asked about the reading, and I told him I wasn't ready to talk, and even now, 24 hours later, I'm not ready to write much more. It was that powerful of an evening for me. My hope is that I mange to retain some of the things I heard and really learn from them.