Grace [Small Victories]

Small Victories Anne LamottI really enjoy this style of short books, those that take just a couple hours to breeze through, where I can see the Kindle reading time racing past. And when Anne Lamott writes them, they’re wonderfully similar to a book of collected thoughts, quotes, and diary entries. It’s uniquely personal—definitely personal to Anne and yet also personal to the reader, which is a testament to her writing. This one was full of great wisdom and anecdotes for those times in life when you need it the most. Recommended.

(The following are excerpts taken from Anne Lamott’s Small Victories. Bold, italics, and notes are mine. Everything else is Anne’s.)

Now I make myself accept gratitude. I look people in the eye, and say gently, “You’re really welcome.”

They say we are punished not for the sin but by the sin.

Getting found almost always means being lost for a while.

Jesus had an affinity for prisoners. He had been one, after all. He must have often felt anxiety and isolation in jail, but He identified with the prisoners. He made a point of befriending the worst and most hated, because His message was that no one was beyond the reach of divine love, despite society’s way of stating the opposite. God, what a nut.

We stood outside an inner gate, showed our IDs to the guards, and got our hands stamped with fluorescent ink. “You don’t glow, you don’t go,” said one cheerful, pockmarked guard, which was the best spiritual advice I’d had in a long time.

Things I tell people at writing conferences: Pay attention, take notes, give yourself short assignments, let yourself write shitty first drafts, ask people for help, and you own what happens to you.

Anything could happen. God is such a show-off, and I never give up on my dreams.

I have sometimes considered writing a book called All the People I Still Hate: A Christian Perspective, but readers would recoil. Also, getting older means that without meaning to, you accidentally forgive almost everyone—almost—so the book would not be long.

You forgive your mother, for having had such terrible self-esteem, dependent on being of value to all men, everywhere, in every way. You forgive her for not having risen up, for not teaching you how to be an autonomous, beautiful woman, for not teaching you how to use eyeliner and blotting papers, and for not having been able to lose the extra fifty pounds that led to childhood embarrassment and your own lifetime obsessions.

You forgive your father, for—well, you know—everything. The masculine shut-downedness, for which only the Germans have a word, the faithlessness, the drinking, and the general contempt for women, with their icky, messy, mysterious bodies and minds.

You forgive all but the very worst boyfriend, with whom even Jesus struggles. You forgive awful bosses, gravely incompetent doctors. You forgive your child’s peers who bullied him or first got him smoking cigarettes or weed. You forgive your professional rival, especially if you surpass him in stature, and his books sell poorly, and his hair falls out, and people can finally see what a generally loathsome pervert and fraud he is, ideally in the book review section of The New York Times.

You mostly forgive life for being so unfair, for having stolen away from and saddled us with so much, for being so excruciating to most of the world. You even semi-sort-of-mostly forgive yourself, for being so ridiculous, such a con, a nervous case, a loser.

Rumi wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Lewis Smedes said it best:

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

I have what everyone wants,” she said. “But no one would be willing to pay.”

“What do you have?”

“The two most important things. I got forced into loving myself. And I’m not afraid of dying anymore.

Everyone, from almost every tradition, agrees on five things.

Rule 1: We are all family.

Rule 2: You reap exactly what you sow; that is, you cannot grow tulips from zucchini seeds.

Rule 3: Try to breathe every few minutes or so.

Rule 4: It helps beyond words to plant bulbs in the dark of winter.

Rule 5: It is immoral to hit first.


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