Happy 60th Birthday, Anne Lamott!

file4151277665601Today is the 60th beautiful birthday of one of the women I admire most, storyteller and author Anne Lamott.

She wrote a post on Facebook last weekend, beginning with, “This is the last Saturday of my 50s.”  I would write those words too, and probably will in roughly seven years and one week when I turn 60, God willing.

Why do you suppose people say “God willing?” It makes me want to ask them whether their  God who is sometimes not willing.  And exactly what is He/She/It not willing to do?

Anne and I share the same birthday month.  I’ll cross the great divide into my 54th year in six days.

Wow.  That’s far too much math.  It throws me.  I’ll only be 53 but technically starting my 54th year.

Remember the big to-do when the century changed?  Did it happen at the end of 1999 or 2000?  Did anyone else besides me picture a big abacus in the sky?

April is the best month for birthdays.  Spring flowers, thunderstorms and Easter.  Oh and Tax Day.  “You’re birthday is the 16th?  Good thing you weren’t born a day earlier; you’d be a tax baby.”  Heard that all my life and I still don’t know what it means.

You know something else I heard all my life, or at least thought I heard?  Stories that I was born on Easter Sunday.  Honest to God, for the first 48 years of my life, that’s what I thought.

My niece was born on Easter Sunday at the end of March.  Mom and I had a conversation several years ago when I told her I thought it was rare and cool that two women in the same family were born on Easter.  Mom looked at me like I was the one getting chemo treatments.

You weren’t born on Easter, she said.

WTF?  Did she think I made up that story?  Somebody–and I’m not naming names, Mom, but somebody told me I was born on Easter.

Whatever.  So I wasn’t born on Easter.  At least I was born on a Sunday around Easter.

Anne and I also share recovery.  We spoke of it briefly during her book tour stop in Fort Worth last year.

This is us (and our best friend, the woman behind me listening to our conversation) sharing a writerly conversation.  Anne was really telling me a private little ditty about her son, Sam.  IMG_0981

I actually love sharing recovery with her more than I love sharing our April birthday month.  Why, you ask?  You must know how much I love birthday cake.

Without the fertile, loamy fields of recovery, Anne wouldn’t write, “Spiritually, I have the sophistication of a bright ten-year-old. My motley crew and my pets are my life. They are why I believe so ferociously in God.”

Without my recovery, I wouldn’t be any more spiritual than my coffee table.  I certainly wouldn’t have fallen in love with the gifted writing of one of the most real women of my generation.  A couple of recovery-related samples from last weekend’s Facebook post:

Forgiveness remains a challenge, as does letting go. When people say cheerfully, “Just let go and let God,” I still want to stab them in the head with a fork, like a baked potato.

Mentally, the same old character defects resurface again and again. I thought I’d be all well by now. Maybe I’m 40% better, calmer, less reactive than I used to be, but the victimized self-righteousness remains strong, and my default response to most problems is still to try and figure out who to blame; whose fault it is, and how to correct his or her behavior, so I can be more comfortable.

Finally, and gently, this snippet of Anne’s makes me want to scribble in Crayon on the walls in my writing office:

I will try to help one person stay clean and sober, just for today. I will loudly celebrate my own sobriety, and also the fact that my writing has not been a total nightmare lately.

Happy 60th, Ms. Annie!  May you continue to help one person, one writer, one day at a time, in loud celebration of sobriety and life.

Photo courtesy of Kokabella

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8 Comments

  1. Tiffany says:

    God willing means that you leave the future in God’s hands and don’t try to play God by saying what you will be doing in the future, since you don’t know what his plans for your life are. I.e.-I’ll go to work tomorrow, God-willing (if he allows me another day).

    • Beth says:

      Hi Tiffany and thanks for your insight on my question about the phrase, God willing.

      I hear what you’re saying and I agree that the process is inevitably about surrender. The challenge for me sometimes is knowing where my decisions end and surrendering to a higher plan begins.

      Know what I mean?

  2. I loved every minute of reading your post, Beth (including the math 🙂 ). And I’m with you, Anne Lamott is one of the women I most admire, as well. I could so relate to her “stab them in the head with a fork, like a potato” in her FB post on the challenge of forgiveness and letting go… thanks for sharing!

    • Beth says:

      So you remember that whole turn-of-the-century thing too, Lisa? Some people in my world were getting downright indignant about it! Glad you liked my crazy-ish post; AL tends to bring that out in me. Have a great weekend!

  3. Herby Bell says:

    Well…Okay, it’s true, Aries folks are The Kind and people who have completed 60 laps (eh… and younger punks too..) around the Sun of God? I’m cracking myself up over here just SO delighted that I share an April belly button day with youse and the distinction Anne Lamott and I were born in ’54. I’m star struck cuz I just unapologetically dig people like Anne and you, Beth who optimize their gifts with humility and grace.

    TERRIFIC, ferociously uplifting post and story. Your smile takes you to such bitchin’ places, Beth. Thank you.

    • Beth says:

      Herby,

      You’re cracking me up too. SO cool that you have an April birthday too. ARIESIANS ROCK! And as if I didn’t think you were bitchin’ enough (to use one of your super-hero words), now to know you and Anne Lamott were born in the same year–Holy Cow! I’m surprised time didn’t stand still in 1954!

      In all seriousness, thank you, Herby, for being such an animated supporter. Sending you love and hugs–and you can believe I’ll think of you while watching the waves in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, this week.

  4. […] author who has proved to be an indispensable resource for me is Anne Lamott. Anne is an amazing woman (in recovery) who writes books that are brutally honest and full of […]

  5. […] author who has proved to be an indispensable resource for me is Anne Lamott. Anne is an amazing woman (in recovery) who writes books that are brutally honest and full of […]

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