It’s not like I’ve never heard of her. I have. “If you want to learn how to write, read Bird by Bird.” my friends say. I own Bird by Bird and while I’m not entirely certain as to whether or not I’ve read it, I know it’s here in my home somewhere. I put it away for safe keeping — along with all of my other safe keeping dreams.
Time and busyness of life have relegated the book to one of my piles of things that stack up when unattended. Sometimes my piles of things include tangible things like books and papers, other times they are more reminiscent of Pandora’s box — this dream, that lust, this need, that resentment. Which box or which pile or room I’ve relegated that book to, has yet to be determined. In many ways, I’m still sifting through yesterday’s hopes, and clearing out some wreckage in order to make room for the good stuff. Only recently am I starting to remove the bandages on my wings and testing their muscle. I do notice that while they tire easily, they grow stronger every day.
I could simply go buy it again. It’s not like I can’t afford to. And maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter at the moment because in all honesty I didn’t meet Anne in Bird by Bird. Maybe I sensed something when I held that book in my hands that I was just wasn’t ready to face. I think I was afraid. Afraid of change. Afraid of truth. And maybe even a little afraid of meeting myself.
Because the truth is, you cannot meet Anne and not be changed. I wasn’t ready to meet me yet. Sweet little,dishonest to a fault, people pleasing, just give me the rules and I’ll follow them so you’ll like me, me — standing on my branch and rather than flying choosing to climb back down for a while. The clamor of life: laundry, dishes, dirty floors, homework, sex, obligations, gardens that keep dying cover the voices screaming in my head that there has got to be more.
More to this recovery thing.
More to this God stuff and service.
More to writing and family.
More to life.
More to me.
Anne’s is a name that is sometimes spoken in hushed whispers in my somewhat conservative circles. Even in AlAnon, she is considered contraband “Non Conference Approved Literature” and all. It’s not as if she’s Voldemort or anything. I mean she’s just a woman like me – except for the dreadlocks. Oh how I love the freedom in those.
I didn’t meet Anne in Bird by Bird. I met Anne in Sunday School while teaching a safe and Board of Education approved class on Spiritual Disciplines. Not a bad study really. We talked about the importance of prayer, and meditation, forgiveness, and walking in the Spirit. Strong, spiritual Godly stuff. Stuff fit for women taught to serve and not ask questions. Problem is, I had a lot of questions. I still do.
Two visitors wandered in one day and joined my class. After a month or so one of the ladies torn over the ultra conservative nature of our church and her own personal beliefs, offered me a book on loan. “Read this and give it back to my friend when you are finished. I’m not coming back.” –
The book is Traveling Mercies.
This is where I met Anne.
This is where I learned that it is okay to have a crazy family, a messed up testimony,and a messy faith that is wholly mine and no one else’s. It’s okay not to have all the answers, have teeny tiny control issues, and I learned that thinking things that would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of a cat dish is a starting place for forgiveness sometimes. It’s okay to tell the truth. To stand up for women. To be ourselves, without apology. It’s okay not to believe everything people believe and to think for yourself.
It’s okay to find your own music and purpose in life.
We listen to the same radio station, (K-FKD) only I was too embarrassed to admit it. Not Anne – she called it was it is and dropped the F-Bomb right there in black and white. I giggled out loud and looked around the room to see if anyone had heard what I just read. Feeling safe in my overstuffed green chair, certain that no one had overheard, I sank in deeper and read the book through the night. By the end of the book, I wanted dreadlocks as well.
I don’t have them. Frankly they would look foolish on me.
Being the only daughter of an alcoholic mother myself, I run the gamut of loving and hating Anne. Sometimes I feel jealous and fall into traps of self-pity and wonder what my life would be like had my mother stayed in the program. Other times, I feel alive and torn between conviction and reassurance that I am indeed on the right path.
Anne is to me what women like Gloria Steinem were to my mother — an awakening. A voice to be heard and digested. A reminder that I am a child of God first, as well as a woman and a sister to others. All of my roles, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend MATTER. I too have a responsibility to wake up and keep the fight that the women before me fought. Freedom does not come from passively enjoying the benefits bestowed upon my generation by my Grand Mother’s and Mother’s generation or by assuming they will always remain. Simple things like credit, workplace equity,educational equality, peace in this world, caring for the poor, all of those things matter and can go away with the very next generation if we don’t speak up.
This world needs voices.
This world needs women.
This world needs you and it needs me.
I’ve been asking Anne (via Facebook, I know weird right?) if she’d please include Tulsa in her book tours. That hasn’t happened yet. She is however on tour again discussing Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son and is coming to Kansas City MO in April. The church she’ll be speaking at is only four hours from my house — I’m going. Bought my ticket already and everything.
I just want to meet her and say thank you.
Hopefully I won’t gush. That would be embarrassing really —
She’s influences me as a woman and that influences me as a writer.
She is just a mirror really — because the truth is – you spot it, you got it.
That which is we dislike in others are things we usually dislike in ourselves
AND JUST AS TRUE
Those things we hold up and admire in others are also those same things that exist in ourselves.
So, where were you when you met Anne? Have you? If not — let me introduce you — I think you’ll like her. I do. — ANNE LAMOTT FACEBOOK PAGE