Awareness dawned on me in these years that the values of my parents' lives, of the good life, were going to be part of my evolutionary journey—the marvelous food and storytelling, bookstores, hiking—along with what I found in the religious houses of my childhood friends and in churches, along with sharing the deepest truth with women, in profound and hilarious conversation, along with silence and meditation. God: This was so radical, and so delicious.
I am not saying that it became easy. Like learning the piano or Spanish, or meditation, I had to practice and do poorly—I had to read difficult material, and then stay with it, and talk to others, and slowly start to understand. Then I had to try something hard and worthy again. I had to seek wisdom, teachers. And oh, relationships—don't even get me started, unless I have all day to describe the total, almost-hilarious inappropriateness of every fixer-up—I mean man—I tried to get to love me. But as Rumi said, "Through love all pain will turn to medicine"—not most pain, or for other people; and all the pain and failures grew me, helped slowly restore me to the person I was born to be. I had to learn that life was not going to be filling if I tried to scrunch myself into somebody else's idea of me, i.e., someone sophisticated enough to prefer dark chocolate. I like milk chocolate, like M&M's: So sue me. But I no longer have to stuff myself to the gills.
I mean, not very often.
I learned from all my teachers that when I feel like shoveling in food, a man, or purchases, the emptiness can be filled only with love—a nap with the dogs, singing off-key with my church. Or maybe, perhaps, a fig.
I learned that opening myself to my own love and to life's tough loveliness was not only the most delicious, amazing thing on Earth but it was also quantum. It would radiate out to a cold, hungry world. Beautiful moments heal, as do real cocoa, Pete Seeger, a walk on old fire roads. All I ever wanted since I arrived here on Earth were the things that turned out to be within reach, the same things I needed as a baby—to go from cold to warm, lonely to held, the vessel to the giver, empty to full. You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you're dirty and rattled. Who knew?
Anne Lamott's most recent book is Some Assembly Required (Riverhead).
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