Recently, a friend asked for prayer after receiving bad news from her doctor. As I read through my “quotes notebook” for something appropriate to write in a note to her, I came across advice from Anne Lamott I had copied from one of her essays, “Wailing Wall,” which helped me write my own note and is helping me in my daily dealings with my friend.
“What can you say when people call with a scary or heartbreaking prognosis? You say that we don’t have to live alone with our worries and losses, that all the people in their tide pool will be there for them. You say that it totally sucks, and that grace abounds. You can’t say that things will be better down the road because that holds the spiritual authority of someone chirping, ‘No worries!’ at Starbucks, or my favorite, ‘It’s all good!’ at the market. It is so not all good. And I’m worried sick.
It’s fine to know, but not to say, that in some inadequate and surprising ways, things will be semi-okay, the way wildflowers spring up at the rocky dirt-line where the open spaced meadow meets the road where the ground is so mean. Just as it’s fine to know but not to say that anger is good, a bad attitude is excellent, and the medicinal powers of shouting and complaining cannot be overstated.”
Some thoughts to think on this Thursday evening…
A book that has caused me to muse on faith and its various manifestations for the past few weeks is Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. Published in 1999 by this renowned essayist and novelist, it’s messages are still just as relevant as ever.
As one critic said, Lamott can be “…both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime…sometimes in the same breath.” She gives the reader stories of her life and about her son, Sam, at an early age. It is “tough, personal, affectionate, wise, and very funny.” It covers from her troubled past through her enlightened life today. My favorite essay was from the “Fambly” section, titled “Mom”. In it Lamott writes, “In the photo (of her mother and herself) I am looking over at her with enormous gentleness because I sometimes feel this…But I was only feeling this about half the time that day. The rest of the time, I was annoyed…she is not at all whom I would have picked at the Neiman-Marcus Mommy Salon.”
Lamott makes the reader smile; she makes her/him tear up, but she always makes the reader want to read on. I rationed my reading to one or two essays a day, for I wanted to savor each one, to ruminate and muse on the kernel of each one, to restore my faith and to understand the otherness of friends’ brands of faith and in whom/what they have faith. Lamott allowed me to do just that.