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Posts Tagged ‘Anne Lamott’

Operating InstructionsI am the piece of shit the world revolves around.” Anne Lamott, author of “Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year” and “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.” 

I was on the freeway yesterday, driving home, thinking about God knows what, or, perhaps trying NOT to think about God knows what, when my peripheral vision captured the image of a driver with blonde hair cruising past me in the slow lane.  The car I didn’t recognize, the hair was unmistakable.  It was Anne Lamott.  And as always, whenever I see her or hear her name, I am reminded of the above quote.  As someone who has been bipolar as long as he can remember (and long before it became fashionable (or profitable to the pharmaceutical companies)) I have had the distinct impression that I am both incompetent when it comes to handling even the simplest of tasks, and at the same time, fully capable of taking over the world.  At least my world.

Floored the first time I read it, I have since come to believe that it should be the bipolar slogan. 

Seeing her also reminded me of my first encounter with her, which was a reading of  “Operating Instructions,” and of my previous post on authenticity.  “Operating Instructions” was a revelation as well.  Long before everyone and their dog was publishing memoirs, and long before every last human being felt compelled to share their innermost thoughts with the world via the web and reality TV, Lamott dared to expose herself.  I can remember being both shocked and impressed when she wrote this about watching her infant son: “I look blearily over at him in the bassinet, and think, with great hostility, Oh, God, he’s raising his loathsome reptilian head again.” 

How horrible?  How honest?  How funny!  How refreshing! 

Bird by BirdA writer is at their best when s/he bleeds on the page, which is not an easy thing to do.  I attempt to do that here, but there is a fine line between sharing and dumping, between expressing and complaining.  What Lamott manages to do in that journal, and again in her follow up book on the craft of writing, “Bird by Bird,” is to open an artery. 

This all comes back to authenticity.  She is not afraid to be who she is.  She is not concerned about what we might think of her.  Whether she’s “selling out” writing a magazine article to make a buck, or confiding in us that her son, Sam “…is an awful baby,” she’s real, she’s herself. 

Who am I trying to be?  Who do I pretend to be so that others will like me, so that I’ll fit in?  Part of that is habit, from trying to present a “sane” front to the world, from trying to take control when I feel out of control.  Of course, sometimes we have to, to keep a job, to get a promotion, etc.  Or do we? 

How do you compromise yourself to get what you want?  And is it worth it?

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