How is it that Anne Lamott comes into my life at just the right moments?
She must be my professional, spiritual, and emotional muse. Through Lamott’s book, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, my whole being got an adjustment, like tuning up a car before a road trip. After reading this book, I’m good to go for 3,000 miles.
“Pay attention, take notes, give yourself short assignments, let yourself write shitty first drafts, ask people for help, and you own what happens to you.”
Earlier this school year, I was working in isolation and frustration–and not getting the best results because of it. I had, for the sake of my schedule, stopped blogging which meant I stopped getting reflective. I wrote shitty first drafts of my lesson plans, but then I didn’t improve on them. I didn’t ask for help from the people around me who so clearly knew what they were doing. Now, I’m firing on all cylinders. I’m sharing more. I’m asking for more help. I’m still writing shitty first drafts of lesson plans, but then I make them better. I need to own both versions of myself as an educator and keep pushing for improvement–just as I ask my students to do.
Truly, if we all do this in our careers, we’re going to act out of difference-making, not out of fear or efficiency. We must knock off manageable bits at a time, allowing for those bits to first look like trash. Then, through our notes, through paying attention, through the goodness of the people around us, we’ll make a better product.
“On Sundays, Veronica [Lamott’s pastor] kept repeating what Paul and Jesus always said: Don’t worry! Don’t be so anxious. In dark times, give off light. Care for the least of God’s people. She quoted the Reverend James Forbes as saying, ‘Nobody gets into heaven without a letter of reference from the poor.'”
It’s been a solid year and a half since our family stopped going to church consistently. I miss the people. The people of St. John’s Episcopal in Grand Haven, Michigan are good people. It’s not them. It’s just–we’ve fallen out of routine. We even like being at home together on Sunday mornings.
But Lamott’s book has allowed me to see an important part of spirituality: the poor. And we’re not just talking financially. Perhaps the poorest people have money, but don’t have self-love or the love of others near them. The poor might be my students who hate school. Are we serving them appropriately? Are they getting treated with the care they deserve? How about the bullied? Are we paying attention? While work must be always be done, I’m so glad to know that many do care, that educators and students are making efforts to have a culture of encouragement: Spreading a Little Kindness in Spring Lake.
Students and community members, alike: we must take care of the poor; it’s a prerequisite to personal or heavenly salvation.
“…from the sixth chapter of Luke: ‘Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.’ Now try as I might, I cannot find a loophole in that. It does not say, ‘Forgive everyone, unless they’ve said something rude about your child.’ And it doesn’t say, ‘Just try.’ It says, if you want to be forgiven, if you want to experience that kind of love, you have to forgive everyone in your life–everyone, even the very worst boyfriend you ever had–even, for God’s sake, yourself.”
I have an easy time forgiving others.
I have a near-impossible time forgiving myself. I’ve always felt I had to be the best person for my family, my employers, my colleagues, and–well–just about everyone. Being perfect is tiring and–let’s face it–impossible. It’s time to admit it and embrace it. I just couldn’t handle people seeing me struggle. But, I do.
I struggle at balancing job and family.
I struggle at balancing a friggin’ diet.
I struggle at balancing what I want to be with what others want me to be.
Often, I end up at a version of myself that is not quite what I want. But I’m working on that. And the work starts by forgiving myself of the past and then aggressively moving on to the present and the future.
Thank you, Anne Lamott, for the lessons.
Thank you for being my muse.