Beloved writer Anne lamott (or Saint Anne, as I affectionately call her) shared these words on Instagram last week and I felt both inspired and wrecked:
“What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65 or 75,
and you never got your memoir or novel written, or
or you didn’t go swimming in those warm pools and
oceans all those years because your thighs were
jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy;
or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and
people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy
creative life, of imagination and radical silliness
and staring off into space like when you were a kid?
It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.”
Then she said there is one month left in this decade. ONE! IN THIS DECADE! This is the part that sent me into a tailspin.
Of course I want to “write that book.” I’ve been working on “that book” for three solid years now; that’s three years of sitting down for hours each day, to write about some of the deepest and most mysterious parts of my own story. It’s been grueling and soul-opening, emotionally costly and a spiritual gauntlet. In case you don’t know, it’s not at all like the movies. I read the quote and clenched my teeth, I’m working on that book, Anne.
I’ve done my best at this decade, while also losing my father to a horrible cancer battle, watching my mom get two cancer diagnoses and fight to be well, and parenting a child with severe medical needs who also has learning disabilities. I’m doing my best while raising two incredible highschool boys-turned-young-men who have just a few more Christmases living in my house before their dad and I introduce them to the big, wide world. I’m doing my best while doing the daily work of cultivating a marriage for 18.5 years, caring for friends, managing a business, leading creative retreats, writing, getting my butt to therapy, and spinning countless other plates. Did I mention, Anne, that I also have chronic pain, Endometriosis, and a heart condition?
I’m trying, Anne. I really am.
I am tempted to look at the laundry list of hard and mundane burdens and let them win. I’m tempted to say, “See! Of course I can’t finish that book because just look at my life!” and “Of course I don’t want to show off a body that has paid the cost of being unable to work the way it used to, and now is much more comfortable eating chocolate. at night. in bed.” and “Of course I don’t want to show off my jiggly thighs and my tummy, which is so “nice, big comfortable” that, when I lay on my side, it can almost lay next to me like a faithful, curled up cat.”
I was word-vomiting all of this and more to Jeremy in the kitchen when he told me, “yeah but think of all the good that happened in this decade.” And he was right. It wasn’t just the decade when my dad died, but when Zion’s bright light came into our family. It wasn’t just about leaving one home, but finding another that holds a richer, deeper existence. This decade is not about what was lost or poured out, but all the good, graceful wonderfulness found in the place of all that had been taken away.
I’m working on giving grace to myself for all I didn’t accomplish in this last decade, and honor to myself for all I did. I’m working on loving the heart of the woman I see looking back at me in the mirror. The more I love her, the more I am able to make room for her, whatever shape she may be and however she got there. She is giving my soul an address in the world and I can think of no greater gift.
And that book? The one I’m writing? I’m nearing the end of the proposal writing process and will have a full manuscript complete in May. I’ve even vacated social media for the last month of the decade in order to reach my goals. This decade will close marking and honoring the long labor spent bringing the book closer to the world and the next one will see it born. Yay, birth! I’m ready to push this baby out!
So I hold Anne’s words as a charge and an invitation. I look back on the last decade and even in the moments when I swore my heart was broken beyond repair and all hopes for the future were lost, there was still hope. There has been so much good and there is so much more to come. Not just for me, but for you, dear one.
May you believe you are bigger and deeper than the things you have not accomplished. May you take wide, rich breaths as you thank the decade behind you and get dressed to welcome the one ahead.
You are loved, and there is so much hope for you.
(And if you want a little dose of Saint Anne, here’s her Ted talk. I’m pretty sure I’m appx. 1,000 of those views.)
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