**5++ Goodreads Stars**
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
“Haters want us to hate them, because hate is incapacitating. When we hate, we can’t operate from our real selves, which is our strength.”
Oh Anne Lamott, how do you manage to rip my heart into pieces and then mend it ever so carefully back together? This is what Lamott calls a paradox or conundrum, that life brings both immense joy and heart-wrenching pain, pain that, at times, is unbearable. Take her discussion of having children:
“We are consumed by the most intense love for one another and the joy of living, along with the grief and terror that we and our babies will know unbelievable hurt: broken bones, bad boyfriends, old age…Every day we’re in the grip of the impossible conundrum: the truth that it’s over in a blink, and we may be near the end, and that we have to live as if it’s going to be okay, no matter what.”
Lamott’s Almost Everything: Notes on Hope is meandering and rambling in the most poignant way, a method of writing only Lamott can get away with. It is structured around themes that she wants to share with her grandchild, stories she wants to pass on that she deems critical for one’s survival in a brutal world.
As with Lamott’s other books, I highlighted nearly everything. So many beautiful passages, so much wisdom that has come from the pain that Lamott has known well. This is not a pain she monopolizes. Rather, this book is about how pain is part of the human condition. And because it can happen to any one of us, Lamott believes that we must find peace and happiness every single day. That joy cannot come from a number on a scale or your paystub, though:
“Could you say this about yourself right now, that you have immense and intrinsic value, at your current weight and income level, while waiting to hear if you got the job or didn’t, or sold your book or didn’t? This idea that I had all the value I’d ever needed was concealed from me my whole life. I want a refund.”
“The opposite of love is the bathroom scale.”
Lamott argues that happiness is not found in materiality but something that is omnipresent, waiting to be found in the most mundane places. There is also beauty in grief and beauty in tragedy, though she certainly does not argue that there is a rhyme or reason as to who gets saddled with grief in this universe. Grief is not a lesson to learn, forced upon those who have sinned.
“We do get a taste of the spheres in birdsong, eclipses, the surf, tangerines. In the dark, we see the stars. In the aftermath of devastating fire, the sun rose red. To pay close attention to and mostly accept your life, inside and out and around your body, is to be halfway home.”
How do we cultivate this love of the quotidian? Through play, observing the world around you, through helping others, and, of course, through reading:
“Books! To fling myself into a book, to be carried away to another world while being at my most grounded, on my butt or in my bed or favorite chair, is literally how I have survived being here at all. Someone else is doing the living for me, and all I have to do is let their stories, humor, knowledge, and images – some of which I’ll never forget – flow through me, even as I forget to turn off the car when I arrive at my destination.”
As always, Lamott also has some brilliant things to say about writing:
“Write because you have to, because the process brings great satisfaction. Write because you have a story to tell, not because you think publishing will make you the person you always wanted to be. There is approximately zero chance of that happening.”
“We have to cultivate the habits of curiosity and paying attention, which are essential to living rich lives and writing. You raise your eyes out of the pit, which is so miserable and stifling to be in and which tried to grab you and keep you there, until something sneaky hauled you out and changed you.”
Lamott won’t give you easy answers about life in this book, but she will give you a lot to chew on. She challenges you to be reflexive, to examine what’s holding you back in life and what you need to move forward – that these things are not a one size fits all sort of solution. We need to dig deep and find that with which we struggle: confront it and learn to live with it the best we can.
Above all else, she asks her reader to sit with the world: watch it, learn from it, listen to it, breathe it in. For “God is often in solitude and quiet, through the still, small voice – in the breeze, not the thunder.”
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I loved this book. I love nearly everything Lamott writes (Bird by Bird is one of my all-time favorite books!). Thank you to Edelweiss, Anne Lamott, and Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House for an advanced reader copy of Almost Everything.