Arts

Taking it ‘bird by bird’: Anne Lamott instructs audience to be hopeful, merciful

Anne Lamott talked eloquently about navigating the difficult journey of self-forgiveness.

Image By: Grace Wallner

Anne Lamott writes to figure out what she thinks about anything, something she shared during her talk at the Orpheum Friday. Whether that’s faith, politics or motherhood, her open and blunt inner dialogue graced pages of a dozen novels and nonfiction pieces and helped readers figure their own minds out for decades.

Wrapped in a pale lavender-pink shawl (a color she said she always wears because she looks great in it) and wearing baggy, rolled-up jeans, her presence and gentle voice made it feel like I was sitting at tea with my grandma. She spoke openly and casually, reminiscing about growing up in an academic family and her ongoing experiences participating in an alcoholism recovery program. Her words were comforting, though, and her talk inspired a whole new idea of self-care, making me want to put on a face mask and write a novel about dealing with this life.

Her main push was hope, particularly being hopeful while living under the current tumultuous government. She talked about protecting oneself by “learning radical self-care” and being merciful in order to guard loved ones from the world’s harshness.

She shared thoughts from her 2017 book “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy” to weave messages of caring for others and how to love oneself into her point.

“Mercy is both giving, mercy is both listening, mercy is letting people... in my little galaxy, have their mess, releasing them to the mess and beingness of life and the weariness and not getting our own way,” Lamott said. “That’s how we grow, that’s how we evolve.”

The writer sardonically finished with “I hate it and wish there were a different system.”

Lamott talked eloquently about navigating the difficult journey of self-forgiveness. She writes about topics branching off healing and self-acceptance in several of her books, many of which instruct readers on subjects of faith and a few on mothering.

Her best-selling book “Bird by Bird” coaches writing techniques and has changed the lives of numerous writers. In the night’s Q&A portion, one audience member emotionally told Lamott that reading the book decades earlier shaped her life into what it is today — it gave her hope, a concept Lamott stressed.

She finds hope in teaching her teenage niece that she’s beautiful no matter her weight. Eating issues made Lamott’s road to self-acceptance difficult, something she now sees her niece facing while wading in society’s beauty standards for young women. But she reiterated her niece is “beautiful, she’s stunning as is” and does not need to lose weight. She tells herself and her niece to “do the radical work of taking care of her body,” which doesn’t mean going to the gym.

“[I told my niece] the culture of American beauty is going to set out to destroy you, so here, I’m going to give you this battered up toolbox,” Lamott said. “One of the tools is to learn how to tell when you’re hungry. American girls aren’t taught that.”

She ended the night reading the final chapter of her latest novel, “Almost Everything: Notes on Hope.” She mentioned a seeming contrast to the rest of her lecture, but she focused on moving away from that dark feeling, discussing how life is too short to dwell on it. Instead, she again mentioned her keywords: hope and mercy.

“What we want is to really be alive, here and now, with this one life we’ve been issued, which is so blessed and also so hard, and weird,” Lamott said. “I mean, the weirdness levels have gotten so high.”


Sammy Gibbons is Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.

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