Anne Lamott on The Big Picture

anne_lamott_credit_sam_lamott_final_small_custom-7e5d0b9ab1f825f3b80131f7594ab88e8c3f9039-s6-c30I recently read Anne Lamott’s newest book, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, and fell in love with her writing, her perspective. I immediately started following her on Facebook.

She shared this today, and I think it might be everything you need to know about life.  Seriously. I’m going to print it out and keep it in my purse to look at frequently. I want to share it here because I know some of my readers aren’t on Facebook, and I don’t want anyone to miss this!

*****

Last night, at Arborlawn United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, the last of 14 cities on the book tour for Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair, a woman in her late twenties raised her hand and asked, “What is the big picture? I do a lot of things that I love and value, but don’t have a clue what it all means.”
The crowd was actually hushed, as if I might have the secret launch codes, and could answer this for all time.

I said, “Welcome to the monkey house,” stealing one of Vonnegut’s titles. Everyone of every age roared with friendly laughter, because we’re all in the same boat. We ALL think we missed school the day that the visiting specialists stopped by our 2nd grade classroom to distribute the pamphlets on what is true, who we are, how we are to live with the great mystery of life, how to come through dark times, how to awaken. We’re all sort of winging it, trying to learn self-love and respect, trying to be here, now, sometimes, and live lives of meaning and joy.

You do a LOT of things you love and value? That’s the big picture.

You’ve learned about radical self-care, and putting your own oxygen mask on first, yet also have discovered that we can only be filled up by service, by giving? Are you laughing enough? Are you saying “No” enough? Have you taken to heart that “NO” is a complete sentence? That no one over 40 must EVER again help anyone else move to a new house? That no one over 50 must EVER chair a yard–or-parking lot-or garage sale–for a church, or a high school sports team?

Ram Dass said he thought that when it was all said and done, we’re all just walking each other home. That’s the meaning, I think. That’s the big picture.

You’re not squandering your time racing around all day doing meaningless bullshit, multi-tasking, and always feeling like you’re behind on your homework? If not, that’s what it all means. Rest is a spiritual act.

My pastor once told us that you can trap bees in jars without lids, because they look straight ahead, muddling around, panicking on the floor of the jar, bumping into the glass sides, because they don’t look up. If they did, they could fly to freedom.

You’re learning NOT to chase the mechanical rabbits at the Greyhound Race Track, of fame, drama, achievement, ownership? You’re pursuing a creative call of some sort, now? You’re not pretending that you are going to get back to writing, singing, dance, as soon as this or that happens–ie as soon as you graduate or retire, or your youngest leaves home? You’re doing it NOW, badly, herky-jerkily, as a debt of honor? That is the bigger meaning of it all: creation.

You’re living as if you may have a year or so to live, and want to make the most of it, savor and be filled, by spending time with those you love most, much of it outdoors in the beauty of our Mother? Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”

So are you out there, shaking your head with amazement, smiling about the earth’s wild sweet beauty? That is the bigger picture. That is the meaning: wonder, presence, immediacy, being HERE. Like my teenage friend Mason says in Stitches, “I had brain cancer. I was in a coma. Then I was HERE again.” Are you here?

That’s the big picture.

7 thoughts on “Anne Lamott on The Big Picture

  1. Barb, thank you so much for sharing this! It’s exactly what I need to hear today as this week has been all about deep depression and looking for meaning. Thank you, thank you, thank you! (I’ve loved Anne Lamott for a long time but haven’t had the chance to read Stitches yet. Again, thank you! xoxo

  2. I’ve been following her on facebook as well the past couple of months. Our current house guest had me read her book Bird by Bird to help me w/ my writing ability and happened across her facebook page..>I have already printed out 2 of her earlier essays, hadn’t seen this one for some reason. I too am a fan of Anne! :-)

  3. She does have a way with words, doesn’t she? A lot of reminders, wake-up calls for me here. Especially in the next-to-last paragraph – living as if it were your last year. I SAID I was going to do that, very mindfully, at the beginning of the year, and somehow that intention got lost. Time to get busy with it, I think, because the truth of it is clearer to me now that it was at the beginning of 2013.

    I also like the rule about no one over 40 ever having to help someone else move. :)

    Thanks, Barb!

    Barbara

  4. Read Stitches in two sittings….couldn’t put it down. Thanks for sharing because you are right, some of us do not do Facebook.

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