4 Secrets That Can Lead to Self-Acceptance
3. I Think My Dogs Are the Two People to Whom I Am Closest
That's not entirely true: I know they are. They make it possible for me to bear life. (I believe I first experienced anxiety and dismay an hour or so after implantation.) People have really, really hurt my feelings, betrayed me or died. One ex-boyfriend wrote a novel about what it had been like to be in bed with me. This was exhilarating. Three close friends have told me that they don't love my nonfiction. But dogs? Dogs are the closest we come to knowing the divine love of God on this side of eternity. They love me all the time, no matter what. And they love my nonfiction.
Don't get me wrong. I adore my friends and my two brothers. Their love, companionship and loyalty are why I have such deep faith in God. They are God's love in cute, chubby bodies. But dogs are like oxygen masks on airplanes. Dogs are umbilical. Dogs are first responders. Dogs never betray you or hurt your feelings, like certain people I could mention if I weren't so polite.
Okay, maybe I'll just mention one.
4. I've Been Quite Mad at My Dad Lately, Who Was the Person Closest to Me in My Life, and Who Has Been Dead for 34 Years
He was handsome as a Kennedy, brilliant, funny. He adored me. I was his ideal daughter. I got perfect grades for him. I rubbed his feet, and read way beyond my years, like a cross between a geisha, and Hannah Arendt. I overlooked his character defects, and the destruction he wrought on our family, like so many fathers in the 1960's did. I became who I am—a writer, storyteller, great conversationalist and listener and black-belt co-dependent, to please him.
When he got sick with brain cancer, at 54, when I was 23, I devoted my life to his care. I hung out with him every day—took him to chemo and radiation, bookstores, beaches, bakeries—because his girlfriend had a job, and my younger brother was in high school.
I missed him beyond words. However, a few years ago I came upon journals he kept the last two years of his life. He wrote about how unpleasant it was that I was sometimes so emotional. Along those lines he wrote, "Annie came to the hospital, full of the usual false good cheer and bad jokes." It stung me to my core.
You would think I could cut him some slack, because a) he had brain cancer, and b) it was 30 years ago.
Anger and grief are the way home to ourselves. So I stopped speaking to him. Recently, after many prayers and long conversations with friends, I have felt the first stirrings of forgiveness. I'm glad. And I'm sorry it took so long. But my work has been to become friends with my own heart, and he hurt that heart. I like starting to miss him again. It is both painful and lovely. I mean, he was my dad.
Anne Lamott is the author of Stitches, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, Bird By Bird and 12 other books.
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