Apr 122010

There is a woman named Anne Lamott, and she lives in California and writes down big beautiful stories and ideas that God gives her. She, together with Sister and husband and Jesus, convinced me that I could just go ahead and be myself already.

Before I met Anne Lamott, I thought I had to choose between God and myself. I’m not going to explain that right now, but the important thing is that her stories and ideas taught me that I didn’t have to make that choice. She taught me that those two things were the same choice, actually. When I read Anne Lamott, I feel like maybe I’m okay. I also feel like maybe she’s said it all, and I shouldn’t bother adding anything else. But then I remember that she would probably tell me otherwise, so I keep writing.

If my children don’t end up with enough money to go to college, it will be because I bought so many books by Anne Lamott. And I’ll be fine with that. I have given Traveling Mercies to one friend four different times. She didn’t have the heart to tell me until the fourth time, when she asked me if I was joking. I just want my friends to feel as free and kind and calm and understood as I do when I read her. I also like to buy her books repeatedly because each time I buy one, she gets a few bucks. So when I hand my money to the Borders cashier I imagine that I’m buying a coffee for one of her funny friends, or a flower to put in that beautiful hair that helped make her who she is. And I feel like I’m sending her a thank you card, without bothering her by actually sending her a thank you card.

Last week Krystal wrote on the Momastery fan page that Anne Lamott was going to be speaking and signing copies of her new book, Imperfect Birds, at a book store in Northern Virginia. I started sweating when I read that. But there was nothing I could do about it, because I don’t live there anymore. I was so relieved that there was nothing I could do about it. But then one of my best friends, Joanna, wrote on the wall that she would go. That she would Go Meet Anne Lamott For Me. And then I just shut the computer because I couldn’t take it anymore.

I don’t know how to tell you about Joanna. Maybe if Sister and I had another sister, in between us, it would be Joanna. She would be the artsy one who is always trying to make our lives more like art, more colorful and open for interpretation and outside the lines. And we would be like book ends for her.

So I wrote to Joanna and said don’t go, hoping that she would ignore that, and I spent the whole evening trying not to wonder if Joanna was listening to Anne Lamott for me. I ate a lot of popcorn.

The next morning, Joanna wrote me an email and told me that she was not going to tell me anything about what happened at the reading unless I called her. Joanna is always trying to turn me into a better friend by insisting I speak to her instead of just write to her. I find this annoying and unsettling and wise and brave. So I lied and told her I couldn’t call. Because of some phone problems. And she knew I was lying, but she gave in and wrote to me anyway. She wrote all of the beautiful things Anne Lamott said. And she told me that she had written a card to Anne Lamott. And that she had smiled and accepted the card with both hands and hugged the card to her chest and said, “Yay! I’ll take it home and read it tonight!” This is the card Joanna wrote to Anne Lamott. For me. For her friend.

When I saw these pictures, I sat at my computer and cried for a long time. Because I always thought that if Anne Lamott ever actually read my writing, my life would somehow be different. That it would be magical. But as I looked at the card Joanna made, and imagined her dragging her pregnant, tired self to that book store to make contact with a woman she’d never read, simply because I loved her, and she loved me, I realized suddenly that I didn’t need Anne Lamott to read my writing. Because she wasn’t the magical part of the moment at all. The magical part was Joanna. The magical part was that I have a friend who loves me so much that she wanted to thank the woman who helped me have the courage to be myself.

I don’t know how to get over that. I’m just so full about that.

Life’s magic is never on its way. It’s always already arrived. Joy is catching a glimpse of something extra-ordinary that we were lulled into thinking was ordinary for awhile. Like when we remember that each sun beam is actually a rainbow, because one hit the window at just the right angle. So we stop to look closer, and our eyes widen.

Apr 132010

Showing Up

Joey, opening her drawing table at her wedding shower. Guess the theme.

Wow, if I could just start my post with, “There is a woman named Glennon, and she lives in Virginia…” then I think you guys would get the point.

I knew exactly what Glennon was talking about in yesterday’s post…to feel so incredibly loved by a friend. I had that exact same feeling when Glennon bought me my very first drawing table last year. It was huge, heavy, expensive and something I would have put off buying for years. I was floored. I couldn’t believe she had done it for so many reasons. First of all, I was shocked that someone as small as Glennon could haul that huge table into my wedding shower. Secondly, I couldn’t believe that someone would pay close enough attention to me to know that a drawing table is exactly what I needed and wanted. Lastly, that someone would actually love me enough to make it happen.

So I guess when I logged on to Facebook that day and Krystal’s post came up, going to the book signing was a no-brainer.

When I first moved back to Virginia, about 3 years ago, Glennon gave me an Anne Lamott book. That book sat untouched on my shelf until this past weekend. I even tried to give it back to her at one point because I felt bad but she refused to take it back until I read it. I still wouldn’t read it, though. I knew it had the word “faith” in it lots of times, and I don’t read those books because I think of them as preachy and self-righteous. But Glennon told me, with great passion, that this woman was someone who had helped her with her struggles. Her writing was so outside-the-box – it made Glennon feel like she had the right to say what she wanted, the way she wanted to say it. She said that I would really enjoy it and I would laugh hysterically. But I didn’t read it. LESSON 1: Listen to people that you respect and admire. They have something to teach you.

So that leads me to this book reading and signing. I walked in and the place was packed. People were laughing loudly and clapping. At the front of the room, at a podium, stood a hippie with dreads. Am I at the right place? I sat down for about an hour and listened to her speak. To steal another person’s words from the reading that night, I was charmed. Anne Lamott was saying so many things that sounded exactly like Glennon. I wanted to raise my hand and say, “OMG, YOU would TOTALLY love my friend Glennon. You guys would be like really good friends!!!” But I didn’t. Probably a good call.

She talked about her struggles with drugs, her new book, her past relationships, Jesus, politics, her son, and she even told some great jokes. But what really resonated with me was when she said, “If you don’t do what you want to do right now, you’ll never do it.” With that, I woke up. She went on to say that lots of younger women come up to her and tell her their dreams of being a writer, but they always had an excuse as to why they couldn’t be. “I’ll start when my husband retires” or “I’m so busy right now, I have to wait a little while.” She went on to say, “You’ll be 80 years old and STILL be wishing that you were a writer.”

I looked down and felt sad and guilty. I had been doing that exact same thing with my dreams of becoming an artist and I knew it. I make a lot of excuses to put off doing things I love because I am scared. I am scared I won’t be good enough. Then, you know what Anne Lamott said? She said “If you are trying to do anything well, you’ll be really shitty at first. If you’re trying to play piano, you’ll botch Farmer in the Dell for months and nobody will ever come to see you play.” The she quoted Woody Allen and said, “80% of life is just showing up.” So if you just SHOW UP and keep at it, you’ll be a master before you know it. LESSON #2: Show up.

At this point, I rushed up to Anne Lamott with tears in my eyes (I’m pregnant) and handed her the card that I had written. I thanked her for being awesome and told her my friend couldn’t be there but I wrote a card on her behalf. I walked out mesmerized by her message.

Upon leaving the bookstore. I was immediately motivated to go home and do some artwork. I was inspired. More than anything, I was grateful I had I shown up. LESSON #3: Whenever you set out to help a friend, you end up helping yourself.”

The next morning, I was sooo excited to talk to Glennon. I was excited to thank her for loving Anne Lamott. I should have KNOWN that if Glennon loved her, I would love her too. I couldn’t wait to tell her how cool I thought Anne was. How smart, articulate and inspiring she was. I told Glennon all of her jokes, all of her recommendations, all of her stories. Glennon was, of course, equally as enthused by all of my previous night’s action. She was glad I “got to know” Anne Lamott and saw something great in her. As excited as I was about seeing her speak and about Glennon’s reaction, I was happy and relieved that Anne Lamott (unbeknownst to her) had gotten me out of a very long funk. She made it so simple. She cleared all the clutter and excuses.

A few days before this book signing, I had mentioned to Glennon that I wanted to do a blog a là Julie & Julia – posting an original drawing each and every day for a full year.

Now, I’m not the quickest to put things together, so as I continued to speak about what Lamott’s words meant to Glennon, she patiently interjected. “ Hm. I wonder what this means for you? Don’t you think it might mean that you shouldn’t put off your blog idea any longer? I mean, if you’re ready. But she did say if you’re not ready now, you’ll never be, right?”

Ahhh, Glennon. Why didn’t I think of that!? How come things can be so obvious to everyone but me sometimes? LESSON 4: Always tell people your dreams. If nobody knows them, how can they help you follow them?

Ok, (oh God) so…HERE GOES!

I spent all weekend putting this blog together, clearing off the drawing table that Glennon bought me and getting my supplies together. I am mortified, terrified and extremely curious to see where this goes. I guarantee it will be really rough at first but perhaps at the end of this year I’ll have something I’m proud of!

I’m thinking by sort off “announcing” this, now I’ll be held accountable…and there’s no turning back!!! (I feel like I’m at the edge of a really high diving board.) Thank you, Monkees. You guys are responsible for so much more than you’ll ever know.

Love Love Love,


PS. Oh yeah, I got to Chapter Five of the Anne Lamott book that Glennon gave me three years ago. She was right.


Hi Monkees. It’s me, G. Please, if you find the time, follow Joey’s progress as she takes on this challenge. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all encouraged each others’ dreams? We’d be like a little slice of heaven on earth.

Apr 142010

Monkees, I think we must do what we want to do. Those who disapprove will either come around or stop coming around. Either way, lovely.

This is one of my favorite poems.


By Louis Simpson

Ed was in love with a cocktail waitress,

but Ed’s family, and his friends,

didn’t approve. So he broke it off.

He married a respectable woman

who played the piano. She played well enough.

to have been a professional.

Ed’s wife left him . . .

Years later, at a family gathering,

Ed got drunk and made a fool of himself.

He said, “I should have married Doreen.”

“Well,” they said, “why didn’t you?”

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