Anne Lamott: 'God's in the Struggle With Us'
Best-selling author Anne Lamott on growing up atheist, being a left-wing Jesus-lover, and what she's learned at 50.
BY: Interview by Wendy Schuman
No, not at all. I'm amazed that he didn't figure out earlier that he really didn't have to come and that if he had pushed it and been impossible about it, I probably at some point would have caved. I'm glad I didn't have to because he was never that adamant. He would always have preferred not being in church, but he came along. And at 15 he was very surprised to find me say to him, "I love that you have come all along and obviously you're always welcome"-and there's a youth group that he really loves. He came on Easter really willingly and gladly and he loved it, but I don't know how many months it will be until he comes again. He's a big guy now. It doesn't bother me.
You talk about his spirituality as his own thing. Were you given a spiritual upbringing?
No, my father was a very staunch atheist. My mother was a not-too-devoted atheist. She went to Episcopal church on Christmas Eve every year, and that was mostly it. But I was raised with no religious training or influence. Except the influence was to be a moral and ethical person at the secular level. And to be a peace marcher, an activist for civil rights, peace and justice.
I always secretly believed that there was a God-I always secretly prayed. I always found these religious kids. I was really drawn to Christian Science, my best friend was a Christian Scientist. I always had a special place in my heart for them because I feel like Mary Baker Eddy, who's basically seen by most non-Scientists to be just a nut bag, is really certainly the mother of the New Age. And a lot of her deepest beliefs were later rewritten with a much hipper tone and voice and approach to be the profound stuff of Marianne Williamson or way before that of Emmet Fox and his great deep wisdom. I read him every day, I read a book called "Around the Year With Emmet Fox" as my daily spiritual reader.
I love the pageantry of the Catholics, but Catholic girls would always let you know just howdoomed
you were that you weren't Catholic, so I'd go to get the ritual, which I've always been moved by tribally. But I always prayed and I always knew someone was listening.
I feel close to a Christian Science practitioner who comes to our church, who is extremely Jesus-y and hilarious. And I call her often when I'm on tour because I get so drunk on the wine of the world, that is to say on all the addictive, ambitious, beckoning fingers of doing better and becoming more famous and making more money and trying to fill the spiritual holes with something beside Spirit.
It never occurred to me that fame and success could be a problem or at odds with who you are.
Oh, very addictive, it's like cocaine. One kind of stupid example might be that all writers I know log onto Amazon.com when their books are out-if you're not careful it's like online gambling. Which is to say, if you're not really working on your spiritual fitness you can be there like every hour seeing if your book has moved up or down. And last time with "Blue Shoe," I really felt strung out, I was really checking a lot. This time for whatever reason I'm not, maybe because this book is doing so well.
You're turning fifty and seem to be in a much calmer place.
I'm much calmer as I get older, but I'm still just as capable of getting that strung-out stressed-out feeling of mental and spiritual unwellness. But for the most part every year has brought with it a little bit more wisdom or a willingness to throw out the trunks and brown boxes I've been lugging around psychically all my life. I want to throw that stuff out of the plane that keeps me flying too low. And really getting more comfortable with my body and really going easier on myself.
Age has given me the gift of me, it just gave me what I was always longing for, which was to get to be the woman I've already dreamt of being. Which is somebody who can do rest and do hard work and be a really constant companion, a constant tender-hearted wife to myself. It's given me more patience, though I'm not a patient person. Age sort of forces you into loving and accepting yourself, because what are the options? I'm not a Hollywood type, and I don't have any judgments-not very much-about people getting cosmetic surgery or Botox or liposuction, but it's not my style, it's not going to happen.
I want to bring people hope and laughter and a ferocious commitment to self-love. And I also really noticed my age. My body's much less forgiving than it was three years ago when I was out on the tour of "Blue Shoe." [This time] I really arranged every hotel as a little cruise ship or a little nest and did a lot of spiritual work and lit candles and created beautiful scents in my hotel rooms and ate the most nourishing, medicinal comfort food I could, but now I need to do that in a deeper and ongoing way.
After my interview with you, which I think is the last one, which is why I'm in such a good mood, I'm going to be doing many silent retreats and taking two and three hours off the phone, off the world.