Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Especially on my lowest days

I go through Anne Lamott phases more than you might think.

She might just be my all time favourite writer. I've read most of her books a few times each and I can't say that I haven't loved every word she writes – she’s generous and the opposite of self-important, not smug, inclusive, human, relate-able, honest and incredibly funny – and she gets me.

Oh I know we've never met but I'm certain that we must be kindred spirits. 

I own Bird by Bird, her guide on writing. It’s easy and funny and so, so good - I've told you that before. I’ve read it at least half a dozen times and in the off time, when I need a little inspiration I open it to a random page and can always find something relevant. I’ve borrowed most of her other books from the library multiple times.  

She writes those kinds of books where only the paper copy will do. I'd like to own them all.

There are so many days each month where emotionally I feel like I’m barely surviving. The bickering between Shaune and me, the nagging feeling that I’m failing at something – work, parenting, marriage, friendships, my physical health.

Her words are a balm. Like I'm not the only one who has felt this way. 

Take last week when I fell off the wagon. I’d been eating really well for the past few months – eating “clean” as my friend Pam puts it. I’d cut out whole wheat and started eating sprouted grains and cereals without a trace of sugar. I tried only to eat lean cuts of meat, lots of green leafy vegetables and healthy nuts. I increased my water intake, started drinking almond milk, added green tea in the morning and cut out most sugar.

And you know what? I felt fantastic.

But then I came back from a week's vacation and well I was tired and sunburnt, overwhelmed at being behind. I didn’t exercise on my week off, ate steak and ribs and not enough salad, drank more wine than normal. It was the first week in over a year that I didn't didn't run or go to the gym. I felt like a failure. I felt afraid that I'd lost my momentum.  

She says of beauty: Sometimes in certain lights, I could see that I was beautiful, not in spite of but because of unusual features - funky teeth, wild hair, acne scars. My mother's nose, very English, with pinched indents at the tip and what she called horns - incredibly helpful to my self-esteem as a child...and my father's crooked teeth. Cellulite that would make Jesus weep...This culture's pursuit of beauty is a crazy, sick, losing game, for women, men teenagers, and with the need to increase advertising revenues, now for pre-adolescents, too. We're starting to see more and more anorexic eight  and nine-year olds. It's a game we cannot win. Every time we agree to play another round, and step out onto the court to try again, we've already lost...

I decided to be gentler on myself and begin again. 

Every year during a certain month - I honestly can't recall which one it is - there are Pro-life picketers outside of the hospital on my way to work. A lot of older men with thinning hair and beer-bellies, little old ladies, presumably their wives, walking up and down the paths surrounding the hospital holding their anti-abortion signs. 

I find it an offensive time-waster to even read their messages. 

When my sister was pregnant at 15, a lot of people had strong opinions when she was given the option to abort the baby. She didn't go that route, her daughter is now close to 30, but those people, the ones who made it clear there was only one choice, life, well they never once came by her tiny apartment, with so much as a casserole, where she struggled as a single teenage mother day in and day out. 

Not once. 

When I read this a few years ago in Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith, well I realized this was exactly what I'd always wanted to say to those people: 

I also wanted to wave a gun around, to show what a real murder looks like...I could not believe that [people] committed to equality and civil rights were still challenging the basic rights of women...Most women like me would much rather use our time and energy fighting to make the world safe and just and fair for the children we do have and do love not to mention the children of New Orleans and Darfur. I am tired and menopausal and would like to be left alone: I have had my abortions, and I have had a child. But as a Christian and a feminist, the most important message I can carry and fight for is the sacredness of each human life, and reproductive rights for all women are a crucial part of that. It is a moral necessity that we not be forced to bring children into the world for whom we cannot be responsible and adoring and present. We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society.

I know this is a controversial topic for some of you who drop by here. If you have something to share please, please be respectful. 


  1. We all "fall of the wagon" occasionally, don't let it get you down. I always find it funny when men protest against abortions, who are they to have an opinion on the matter?

  2. I had a friend in high school who did a lot of scary damage giving herself an abortion, and after that I've always felt like women need the right to choose.

    Yes, be easy on yourself. You do so much Kim.

  3. Kim, you can really tell (by your last post's picture of you) that you are taking great care of yourself...eating "clean" and such...so focus on THAT and not the one or two weeks you fell off the wagon. Easier said than done, I know. I also know that "nagging feeling of failing at something"...it sucks and if I focus on it for too long it gets me REALLY crabby.

  4. it is so important to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings as it is to forgive others. I say leave the judgements to the higher power.

    p.s. I think of Anne Lamott as my sister in Christ so I now how you feel!

  5. Oh, I'm so happy to hear you are being gentle with yourself. I have struggled for so many years with the wagon of health. We will get there. I have decided that if it doesn't feed my spirit in a helpful, uplifting, and positive way, I let it go. I don't even go there anymore with people. I avoid politics because some people's views feel like drinking poison to me. xxO

  6. First of all, slacking up on vacation (and in the immediate aftermath) is not falling off the wagon. It's a vacation, for heaven's sake. You don't even want to know how much fried seafood, beer and wine I ate while I was at the beach this summer. You go, you indulge, and then you take a breath and go back to healthier eating and moving again. It's all okay.

    And don't even get me started on the anti-choice yahoos. Those of us who have been through pregnancy and childbirth are the ones who know what's at stake. I can't even imagine being forced to continue a pregnancy against my will.

  7. I agree with Lisa-be easy on yourself. You do the best you can-don't let anyone make you feel otherwise. Actually, reading through the comments I am impressed with all of the wonderful words of wisdom here-that I plan to take to heart as well. I love you just as you are, and that quote you posted is so true, it just makes me cry.

    I own Bird by Bird because of you, my friend.



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