Anne Lamott on Time Lost and Found

By Alison July 26, 2010 1 Comment 3 Min Read

Alongside Sarah Ban Breathnachs “Simple Abundance” it is Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” that I most commonly credit with shaping the way I live my creative life.
I read both books when I was around twenty three and in the process of setting up the scrumptious little interiors shop I ran for three years: a period when I was both fired up with the kind of enthusiasm I have never been able to conjure up since and yet desperately un-formed in terms of authenticity and creative direction.  And then there was Sarah and Anne. Voices that resound in my head daily. Voices that even now I refer to when I’m feeling a little lost. Reminders that life doesn’t have to be complicated by the constant urge for more and that progress is made not by huge leaps towards success but moment by moment if you are commited to your chosen path…
Fifteen years later I am different. I know who I am and I know what I am. And more than that thanks to Sarah Ban Breathnach and Anne Lamott I am committed to  career I adore, unafraid of the knocks and the fallow times, grateful for the journey and willing and able to live life bird by bird. But life isn’t without frustration. Sometimes it feels as though I am breast crawling through mud. One eye on my goals and my heart, soul and stomach more interested in chocolate and soap opera’s. Piles of un-read magazines I call “inspiration”. Hindered by the sludge that is envy, and a shovelful of resentment. And willing to crawl into bed the minute the sun goes down because occasionally all focus is lost to achy bones caused by time wasted on much that didn’t need doing. Stuff that leaves me empty.
Then this morning I discovered another piece of writing by Anne Lamott that resounded with me: a piece that says life is short, stop wasting it! Because we do, don’t we? We fritter it away on all manner of stuff and twittery nonsense: we lose sight of our chosen creative path and kid ourselves that all this busyness represents important stops along the path towards our destination. We fail, so often, to prioritise what actually matters and exhaust ourselves in the process. We cheat ourselves daily and more than that we justify our own actions by telling ourselves that the relentless housework, social networking, exercising etc, are what keep us alive: what make us part of a society that won’t frown upon our essential, eccentric urge to be more than who we are…
And yet…
“If they want much more for their kids, lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely, why are they living this manic way?
I ask them, is there a eucalyptus grove at the end of their street, or a new exhibit at the art museum? An upcoming minus tide at the beach where the agates and tidepools are, or a great poet coming to the library soon? A pond where you can see so many turtles? A journal to fill?
If so, what manic or compulsive hours will they give up in trade for the equivalent time to write, or meander? Time is not free—that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for.
Will they give me one hour of housecleaning in exchange for the poetry reading? Or wash the car just one time a month, for the turtles? No? I understand. But at 80, will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else in the family did, except for mad Aunt Beth, who had the vapors? Or that they kept their car polished to a high sheen that made the neighbors quiver with jealousy? Or worked their fingers to the bone providing a high quality of life, but maybe accidentally forgot to be deeply and truly present for their kids, and now their grandchildren?
I think it’s going to hurt. What fills us is real, sweet, dopey, funny life.”
Go read the entire article at Sunset. Let it give you the kick up the bum you need to make today the day you get back on your horse and ride towards a more authentic, fulfilling way of life.
It’s yours for the taking m’lady: you just have to choose it.

1 Comment

  1. Valerie says:

    Thanks for sharing this article! This one hits very close to home for me since it's about writing and something I consider precious – time. I've been considering shutting down my Twitter account for awhile now (which I'm hardly active on anyway). This might be what pushes me over the edge. I work in an environment that's very big on social networking (ala continual status updates et al) and yet it doesn't feel authentic for me as a person and it's a real struggle. I feel as if I'm copping out if I just shut it all down and yet somehow I need to get in touch with what's right for me as an individual. Love the inspiration…

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