Super Soul Sunday
Sundays at 11 a.m. ET/PT
Posted: Thu 10/24/2013 12:00 AM
Illustration: Chris Silas Neal
By Anne Lamott
My parents were about the pursuit of the so-called good life. When they fell in love after the war it was as intellectuals. This meant that you got together with other couples like you—good-looking, highly educated, and amused folks who listened to Coltrane and Miles Davis and raised their kids to be extremely high achievers, drank a lot of wine, passed along great books, knew about the latest poets, and cooked Julia Child's recipes and cutting-edge ethnic food.
I still remember my mother fully engaged in a number of enlivening, centering pursuits—cooking, reading, baths, hanging out with her best women friends making marmalade and chutney (then trying to trick the poor children into liking it). And the figs my father and I devoured from our friends' backyards—how perfectly one fit into your mouth, the succulent flesh with just a little something to chew against, to keep you focused, the honey juice that didn't run down your chin but down your throat, bathing you in the exotic ancient pleasure of a most common fruit.
The food and life my parents created would have been delicious and nourishing, if it were not for one tiny problem—that they were so unhappy together. My brothers and I ate cassoulet at a table where our parents avoided making eye contact and, rather than shouting, which was considered déclassé, engaged in clipped conversation. It was the Joy of Cooking meets Harold Pinter. So the steamed persimmon pudding was easy on the taste buds but hard to swallow, because it came at such a cost: a lump in the throat, anxiety in our bellies.
What had happened that turned my parents from the bright young things who fell in love over literature and wine to a cheerless woman and man who after dinner took their books and glasses to opposite ends of the living room, connected only by a lily pad of children on the rug between them, lost in homework?
I think the answer is what didn't happen: They were not able to take their pleasures, their love of their children, out to the next concentric circle, where something bigger awaited. My mother and her women friends made not only vats of that world-class chutney but mole poblano and cakes from scratch, and yet because she was empty inside and stayed in a miserable marriage for 27 years, she who cooked like a dream could not ever feel satisfyingly filled, and got fat.
Next: Where she found the missing pieces
Posted: Wed 10/23/2013 12:00 AM
Illustration: Brian Cronin
Ever wonder how to become the person you were meant to be? Anne Lamott can help you figure out where to start. Read on, then tune in Sunday at 11 a.m. ET/PT for her "Super Soul Sunday" conversation with Oprah. (Watch on OWN or online!)
by Anne Lamott
We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren't? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?
Here's how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake's line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.
Oh, yeah, and whenever I could, for as long as I could, I threw away the scales and the sugar.
When I was a young writer, I was talking to an old painter one day about how he came to paint his canvases. He said that he never knew what the completed picture would look like, but he could usually see one quadrant. So he'd make a stab at capturing what he saw on the canvas of his mind, and when it turned out not to be even remotely what he'd imagined, he'd paint it over with white. And each time he figured out what the painting wasn't, he was one step closer to finding out what it was.
You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren't. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don't think your way into becoming yourself.
I can't tell you what your next action will be, but mine involved a full stop. I had to stop living unconsciously, as if I had all the time in the world. The love and good and the wild and the peace and creation that are you will reveal themselves, but it is harder when they have to catch up to you in roadrunner mode. So one day I did stop. I began consciously to break the rules I learned in childhood: I wasted more time, as a radical act. I stared off into space more, into the middle distance, like a cat. This is when I have my best ideas, my deepest insights. I wasted more paper, printing out instead of reading things on the computer screen. (Then I sent off more small checks to the Sierra Club.)
Every single day I try to figure out something I no longer agree to do. You get to change your mind—your parents may have accidentally forgotten to mention this to you. I cross one thing off the list of projects I mean to get done that day. I don't know all that many things that are positively true, but I do know two things for sure: first of all, that no woman over the age of 40 should ever help anyone move, ever again, under any circumstances. You have helped enough. You can say no. No is a complete sentence. Or you might say, "I can't help you move because of certain promises I have made to myself, but I would be glad to bring sandwiches and soda to everyone on your crew at noon." Obviously, it is in many people's best interest for you not to find yourself, but it only matters that it is in yours—and your back's—and the whole world's, to proceed.
Posted: Mon 10/21/2013 12:00 AM
Beloved writer and bestselling author Anne Lamott joins Oprah in Maui to talk about the three types of prayer that can help anyone through challenging times. Plus, she opens up about her own recovery from addiction, and her ongoing commitment to appreciate the sacred in everyday life.
Watch their full discussion Sunday at 11 a.m. ET/PT on OWN—or join our worldwide simulcast on Oprah.com, Facebook.com/owntv or Facebook.com/supesoulsunday.
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