One of my favorite writers is Anne Lamott. I discovered her in my 20s because a friend purchased Lamott’s novel Rosie for me. But I fell in love with her not because of her novels (which are certainly good) but because of her non-fiction which made my heart sing the first time I turned the pages of Traveling Mercies. The thing about Lamott’s nonfiction is that it features her skill with prose partnered with her vulnerability and humor and self-awareness and pluck. She’s fabulous, and because I cannot get enough of her, I’ve often looked for a steady web-presence from her. I want a daily blog, a Twitter feed, more, more, more. As much as I can possibly get from her. But that constant web-presence I seek from her ain’t out there.
Then, recently, I came across this essay by her that was published in the April 2010 issue of Sunset. And I realized that I am never going to get that steady web-presence from her. But that’s okay because she gave me these words as a gift as she described telling her writing students everything she knows about writing including this most important nugget:
… there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.
Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.
This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity—cell phone, email, text, Twitter—steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement. That multitasking can argue a wasted life. That a close friendship is worth more than material success.
She goes on to say that she asks her students- as they argue for the good of Facebook and the nightly news and cleaning the house and all the other stuff we do- if they will be pleased if their children also have this kind of whirlwind life or if, instead, they want their children to enjoy “lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely” and, if so, “why are they living in this manic way.”
Oh. OH. OHHH!
See, this is why I want Anne Lamott to have a regular web-presence. But it is also why I am just fine with her not. Because I get it, and I gain so much from this sort of nugget that she offers just every now and again. Over the years, I’ve realized how big I’ve drawn my life– there is a lot of busyness to it, a lot of business to it- a consequence that I didn’t see when I was creating the structure of my life. And though I try really hard to let the busyness and business just happen when Happy’s at preschool and try to turn all my attention to him when he’s home, it doesn’t always work the way I imagined it would. Out in the yard, we play balls for hours but my Blackberry is in my pocket so that I can covertly answer an email while he’s running off to recover a ball. Because that many emails come in and their piling up causes me anxiety. But I am never as covert as I think I can be and Happy is always back in a flash saying, “Put your phone in your pocket, Mommy.” Shame on me.
Out in the world or over email, I run into old friends, and I am always so happy to reacquaint. I send them emails to keep up; “you should get on Facebook,” they answer. And though I have a professional Facebook page, I just can’t create a personal one because the sense of responsibility I feel about answering every email in a timely manner will only magnify with Facebook. Answer every wall post, see every video, comment on every photo, that is how I’d have to engage in Facebook if I were on it. And, seriously, getting busted by my 2 year old for answering email is bad enough. I can’t add another layer.
I don’t want to be the mom who feels she has to check email (in case some pressing Circle de Luz or teaching or freelance or book issue is out there and someone is waiting for me for the next move) while playing tee ball and, yet, I am. And to think that Happy might one day remember that about me is horrifying. And, yet, I also know that I am doing the best I can with what I’ve got right now.
So, what gives?
Slowly, slowly, the mania will have to be tamed. I hope to do a lot of that this summer with creating my lesson plans for my fall course load before the first day of school ever arrives, working ahead on my article assignments, taking more and more time between looking at my Blackberry when I am with Happy so that I can synthesize that the sky doesn’t fall if I don’t answer an email immediately (now, I will say that I am good after 5 pm and on weekends about walking away and not responding until work hours again).
But the rest of it, the rest of it, isn’t so much about abating that incessant sense of responsibility that dogs me, but, instead, is about the relishing of all that is lovely out there. It’s what I try to do every year with the birthday list and this year’s Summer of Intentionality. It’s what I- all of us, I reckon- need more. Sucking out the joy and marrow of life and worrying less about the business of life and more about the sweet stuff.
Lamott writes “every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.”
So, there you have it. How dare I ask her to provide me with a daily web-presence when A) she’s out savoring and B) she provides such dense nuggets that their wisdom will last me months, years, even.
Here’s to beginning today with that time to savor. What lovely thing will you savor today? How much time will you treat yourself to the stuff that really matters?