Last night Bryan and I went to see Annie Lamott read from her new book, Grace (Eventually), which she nearly titled Forgivishness.
I was first introduced to Annie’s writing when I became pregnant with Ruthie and my sister-in-law gave me her copy of Operating Instructions. I think I read that book in one sitting because I had never before experienced something so frank and honest.
It seemed like she left nothing out.
Several years later my book club read Traveling Mercies, and it was during this book that I had an epiphany. I had known for some time that I had a story to tell, and that somewhere inside of me was an incubating talent for writing. But at the time I was taking myself too seriously. I was focusing too much on time lines and overwhelming details and structure, and I was getting lost in the big picture.
I didn’t know where to begin, therefore I didn’t.
But as I read Traveling Mercies, which is a collection of essays on the theme of her faith, I was suddenly able to see my future as a writer. I knew I could tackle essays of 500 – 1000 words in length, I knew I could write honestly about my journey, I KNEW I wanted to say things that many women are not willing or able to say out loud. It was my What About Bob moment, realizing that all I needed to do was to take baby steps.
And so, as I grieved over many things during the winter of 2004/2005, I began to write on this blog. And I wrote honestly, and I was very raw, and I quickly hit my stride and found that elusive ‘voice’ that writers always talk about. Blogging has sucked me into a routine of writing and into the alertness of story telling, and now I see everything that happens to me or around me as a potential story to tell. It has helped me to not take myself so seriously, and as a result, I now have over 500 shitty first drafts categorized into topics in the sidebar to your right.
But enough gushing about how Annie changed my life.
A question from the audience brought up the topic of Annie’s ‘God box,’ which she wrote about in a previous book – I can’t remember which one at the moment. Annie had described how, when she is concerned or worried or fearful, she writes these things down on a piece of paper, folds it up, places it in God’s ‘in box,’ and tries to not do anything about it until she hears from him.
It is doubt and surrender made visible, she says.
To me, it is also letting go of the notion that I have anything to add to God’s wisdom. This comforts me during the times when other people think things about me or about people I love – things that are hurtful and untrue – or that are true, but expressed in a way that crushes the Spirit (bearing little fruit).
I can not control what others think. I can not control what others do or say. I can only ask God to convict me of the ways in which I need to repent, and ask him for grace and reconciliation concerning everything else.
Somewhere along the line I let myself believe that it is up to me to change the minds of other people, to convince them of who I really am, or in some cases, to convince them of who they should be. This is evidenced in many past relationships, romantic and otherwise, in which I was involved for all the wrong reasons and for far longer than was healthy. Little by little I am learning to let go of Things I Can’t Control and trust that God still loves me even when I don’t have all the witty answers and grand solutions.
He has, after all, been taking care of every one of us on his own for a long time, and has the gray hairs to prove it.
Listening to Annie read and tell stories and speak honestly and truthfully brought joy to me on a day when I wasn’t feeling very joyful, and I continue to be inspired by her writing and by her truth-telling.