It has to be said: I'm thankful for Anne Lamott.
In Spring 2011, I had the chance to meet her and promptly turned into a shy, giggly 12-year-old who could barely make coherent sentences. It was bizarre.
When I had heard Anne Lamott was going to be speaking at a nearby Barnes and Noble, I started counting down the days. When the day finally came, I strapped my infant into the Boba carrier and rode the escalator to the second level of the massive bookstore in the heart of Dallas. When I arrived at the top, there was Anne in all her dreadlock'd glory, just standing at the podium casually talking with a few people who had already gathered. It was a small crowd, almost ridiculously small considering her widespread influence as an author.
I intentionally stood in the back with a few friends. When Anne looked directly at me, asking, "Would the mother with the baby in the back like to have a chair?" I practically tinkled on myself, blushed, and answered shyly, "That's okay, I'm fine."
Afterwards, when it was my chance to meet Anne in the autograph line, I handed over my piece of notebook paper, barely muttered "thank you," watched her sign it, and then surrendered my spot to the person behind me. That's it. How about the words I'd always wished I could say to her, like, "Your writing helped me realize I wanted to be a mother." Or "Your voice showed me that there are many ways to genuinely follow Christ, that not all believers have to fit into a cookie cutter conservative mold." But no, I couldn't muster the courage. We took a group photo with Anne, and then my friend asked if I wanted to get my picture taken with her alone. I downright refused and shuffled us all out of there as quickly as possible.
That night in Barnes and Noble, I had dissolved into a puddle of shyness, my most introverted self. And I wasn't sure why. Anne Lamott is just a person like you and me. She's not perfect. My behavior is ironic considering the personal insecurities Anne speaks openly and repeatedly about in her writings. And I certainly don't love every single thing she's written. But one day, maybe I'll have another chance to tell Anne how much her writing has meant to me without practically peeing on myself.
I've just begun Anne's latest book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers and already laughed out loud on page two.
After reading her book Traveling Mercies, I wrote these words in review...
I laughed with Anne, I cried with Anne, I wanted to be her best friend and friends with all of her best friends. Her candid writing makes you trust her. You can tell her faith is real, and it has been tested and tried by difficulty: divorce, death of close people in her life, single parenthood. She can write a one-liner that will stick with you for days. To me, this book feels like cool sun and a warm fire - where I read it on Easter weekend by the pool and realized I definitely wanted to be a mother - not for the fantasy of it, but for the real nitty-gritty of it. I'll always remember this book for that gift. And I'll probably read it ten more times in my life.
And after the beloved Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life...
This is required reading for any writer or anyone who wants to become a writer - not just for publication purposes but even just for your own private enjoyment - to write your memoir, your stories. I was sad when I finished it, because I knew that even if I read it again, nothing would be the same as the first time. Anne makes it sound like writing can be one of the most sacred gifts you can give someone. And after reading this, I believe it.
"So many of us can be soothed by writing: think of how many times you have opened a book, read one line, and said, 'Yes!' And I want to give people that feeling too, of connection, communion...
It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company. This is what the writer has to offer." ~Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, p. 204
Now, my copy of Anne's adorable autograph will be framed and hung over my creativity desk to remind me of that entire, strange experience.
Looking back on that warm spring night in a giant Dallas bookstore, I realize how much I've grown as a person. If I have another chance to meet Anne, I will wait peacefully for my turn in line, walk up to her, crouch down so I'm at eye level, and tell her the story of how ridiculously I acted last time. And if she is who she seems to be, she'll probably laugh it off and make some joke about herself. I'll tell her what I really wanted to say last time. And then I'll walk away, thankful to be reminded that I don't need another person - even Anne Lamott - to define my value or confidence in this world.
For a list of some great Anne quotes, check out this blog post: 10 things I've learned from Anne Lamott.