I waddled down to the beach. I was not wearing a cover-up, not even a T-shirt. I had decided I was going to take my thighs and butt with me proudly wherever I went. I decided to treat them as if they were beloved elderly aunties, who did embarrassing things like roll their stockings into tubes around their ankles at the beach, but who I was proud of because they were so great in every important way… I could feel the aunties beaming. They had been in the dark too long. It did not trouble me that parts of my body–the auntie parts–kept moving even after I had come to a full halt. Who cares? People just need to be soft and clean.
This idea of the beaming “aunties” came to mind on my recent vacation, spent with my family at a cabin on a lake with dear friends. A cocoon of friendship and love… leisure and camaraderie… punctuated by the laughter of splashing kids, this vacation allowed us all to unabashedly be ourselves, free of self-consciousness. So I walked to the beach thinking of Anne Lamott and her “aunties.”
I don’t remember when I first heard of Anne Lamott, but I do remember that when I first read one of her books, I felt as though she pulled a cord on a particular lightbulb in my head for the first time. That lightbulb meant things like this: it is possible to stand in awe of a well-observed moment. It is possible to acknowledge one’s own neurosis and show compassion for that which mars the perfection of others. It is possible to show compassion to yourself. It is possible to find delight in thoughts that come from a yet-untraveled path on the ideological spectrum. It is possible to hold faith and irreverence together in one hand.
It was a growing-up point for me, possibly, this reading of an Anne Lamott book.
Lamott is a writer of novels and essays. She writes of real life, family, transformation, faith, and humanness with an air of sharp honesty and humor that absolutely captivates. I am a fan of her essay-memoir-non-fiction books (this is a category, yes?), which drift effortlessly between the mundane and profound, much like everyday life, but with greater depth and greater freedom than most of us allow ourselves to have. She writes from a perspective of Christian faith, but not the flavor of faith one might expect. There are more questions than answers, and faith is simply faith. It is not a brand.
Lamott has lived most of her life in the San Francisco area, thus the ocean and the beach are characters present in all her books. This backdrop, and the essay format, make her writing perfect for the hit-and-miss summer reader who might enjoy being inspired to laugh, cry, wonder, and delight in the beauty and truth found in all parts of life. Even… the “aunties.”
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith
Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (specifically about the art and act of writing)