A memoir recommended for those who have experienced limitations to their grand visions of doing good but are willing to find tiny bits of hope and rebirth in their own experiences.
"How are we going to get through this craziness?" I said. "Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe," said Father Tom. It's a good answer for many readers of Anne Lamott's readers who, like her, feel depressed about the war in Iraq and the plight of the poor in America. "I wake up some mornings pinned to the bed by centrifugal sadness and frustration," she says. But like a good trooper, Lamott sallies forth trying to find the energy and the daring to see things afresh and to give hope a chance to bloom in strange places.
In this endearing and bold follow-up to Traveling Mercies (1999), Lamott is older and a little bit wiser. As a good Presbyterian and regular churchgoer, she reveals her idiosyncratic faith that serves her well in times of high anxiety. She admits that puttering around the house is her main spiritual practice, and laughter and resting are her ways of making the sign of the cross. She finds solace in a thin, red cotton cord blessed by the Dalai Lama that Jack Kornfield gave her to protect her "from the values and the judgment of the world, from the disaster of my own thinking, and to allow me the forgetting of myself."
One rousing essay describes her frustrations in running a Sunday school at her church; she realizes that there are limits to her grand visions of doing good. She outlines her most daring spiritual project — trying to move past her scorn for President Bush and put herself in his shoes through acts of her imagination because "loving your enemies was nonnegotiable." That doesn't stop her from participating in marches against the war or recounting the tale of A. J. Muste, a peace activist who during the Vietnam War stood in front of the White House night after night with a candle. When a reporter asked him whether he really thought that his small act of protest could change the policies of the country, Muste replied, "Oh, I don't do it to change the country, I do it so the country won't change me."
Lamott finds herself in middle age to be a much juicier person. Read her loving accounts of two friends with afflictions, a tender reflection on the death of her beloved dog, several pieces on the struggles and the joys of raising an adolescent son, and a paean to Mary who stands for the feminine face of divine love. One thing that keeps her going is an observation by Christian writer Barbara Johnson who said that we're an Easter people living in a Good Friday world. Lamott practices the resurrection by finding tiny bits of hope and rebirth in her own experiences. And we are happy to join her in this valiant effort.