Anne Lamott's Workshop - and How It Applies To Life

Anne Lamott’s Writer Workshop… and… How It Applies To Life

There is something about returning to Marin County that strikes a nerve, but this one trails from my head to my heart. Memories of my “old life” flood back when I was married with a beautiful baby girl, living in a house on stilts at the top of a steep hill, completely lost in a foggy haze of postpartum depression. Dark thoughts of flinging myself off the deck that cantilevered the house 30 feet from the ground, wondering if anyone would care when my head burst open on the large rock below. I was feeling empty, invisible, and depleted with my self-confidence cascading down a bottomless pit after quitting my job, sleepless nights and gaining 55 pounds. There were other factors too – I was a “black belt co-dependent” in those days striving for perfectionism. Marin still makes me a bit uncomfortable with their “casual attire” that costs more than my car payment. Unconsciously associating the environment with “failures” although I eventually course correct myself and recognize those karmic events lead me to where I am today becoming glorified “wins”.

We are all loaded with stories that are dying to be told. Anne mentioned that, “Writing is like driving at night with the headlights on, you only see a little bit in front of you, and you make the whole journey that way.” Life and relationships don’t even give you that much of a glimpse into where things will go. We have no flashlights to guide us other than our hearts, but we sometimes don’t follow the beautiful little divine light within. She would instruct us about writing from a place of truth using your own voice. “Ignore the voice of the ‘Inner Vile Bitch’ trying to strive for perfectionism. Perfectionism is the voice of the enemy for a writer.” Anne implored for us to write a beautiful novel that takes care of our soul.

Funny, I thought, shouldn’t we be living that way? Ignore that inner critical voice that makes us prisoners of our own minds. Live from a place of truth and not perfectionism, in all that we do, and take care of our shining soul. We have a choice to let our stories warp us or rise us up. Yes, I am talking about our own life epics. I am recognizing that our beginnings and endings can sometimes be very hard and that we usually have a long way to travel. I am learning to move forward in my life with an attitude of, “Take what you like from this experience and leave the rest.” Sometimes we make really “shitty first drafts”, refine the second one and finally get it polished the third or fourth time. Erasing the same line over and over again, striving for perfect, only causes a hole in the paper and leaves a void. 80% of anything is a miracle and sometimes we get a little bloodied along the way to our truth. I am taking life “bird by bird” and being true to making changes that take care of my soul, but perfect is not on my list these days. I am happy with my “third draft” ….and I expect that there may be a few more to go. I hope you recharge the batteries in your heart when things get dim and recognize that life is sometimes like writing a novel – just get out a clean sheet of paper and try it again with a few more tweaks or decide that you are content with you memoir as it is. More importantly, recognize that you are perfect the way you are no matter where you are at in the editing process!

The Fearless Heart

The Fearless Heart……

There is no way to assign an “allotted weight” to an experience that shapes an individual’s existence. I believe, regardless of life circumstances, we all have painful memories that can lead to self-discovery and greater understanding, if we so choose. We are bestowed “teachers” in the likeness of people and life events to encourage us for a “tune up” or higher purpose. These “karmic teachers” can be disguised in a black cloak of broken relationships,... death, illness, abuse, divorce, addiction, cheating – the list can be unabating and relentless. The difficult task is to remove the “dark hood” and uncover the lesson or “dharma” while staying detached and thankful to the Universe for whatever happens.

One of my karmic lessons happened when I was seven, my mother remarried brining exposure to foreign vernacular of dark colloquialisms such as, “prison time” “visiting hours” and “alcohol addiction”. Feelings of insecurity, lack of control, isolation, sadness and distrust of men became frequent emotions that would play havoc on my youthful heart, and eventually bleed into my adult relationships. I would escape darkness through friendships, fantasies, and reading about ‘unrealistic’ blissful endings through novels. I began to believe the only person I could count on was myself, having no faith that there was a God. Shadowy whispers would creep into my life, snakes of fear and anger wrapping around the heart like a vice, clogging the arteries with hurt, disappointment and sorrow, restricting the flow of compassion and love.

Fast forward 42 years and my arteries are clearing up. The difference now is that I have a strong faith in a Higher Power and striving to lead my life with compassion and love. I am learning to forgive myself and others, as we all should do. I read once that, “Each soul is working out what it must on its road back to Source. When you accept that you will never know the real story behind someone else’s karma, you can stop envying or pitying others. You can start paying attention to your own karma, your own actions. You are the agent of fate.” (Jivamukti Yoga).

I am writing this piece to encourage you to look at your past as a “heroic struggle” that can lead you to something bigger. “Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line, because healing has its own agenda, because healing is wise and wondrous when we give it space to be.” The bigger mission is to work on our collective karma. We, as a planet, need major healing. My hope is that we can strive for universal peace and harmony and work towards world consciousness. Please listen to your soul and recognize that you are not your doubts and fears – you are a HERO growing strong from your karmic battles……and don’t forget that! Love, Lisa