Reprinted with permission from Clarity magazine.

An interview with Anne Lamott, by Mary Ann O'Roark

I was raised to keep all the family secrets and present myself in such a way that people would be either envious or approving. But keeping up a façade like that takes so much energy.

When my friend Pammy was going through chemotherapy, and I asked her if the dress I was wearing made me look fat, I was making a fuss about the dumbest things, and Pammy looked at me and said, "Annie, you just don't have that kind of time." It was so profound, it was like I was in a cartoon and somebody conked me over the head. I got it.

Pammy died seven years ago. But I still live by her words: You don't have time to live a lie. You don't have time to get the world to approve of you. You only have the time to become the person you dream of being. You only have the time to clean out your mean and ugly spots, areas that drag you down and hurt other people. You only have the time to accept yourself as you are and start getting a little bit healthier so you can be who God needs you to be.

In a way, it's exhilarating to say, "This is really who I am, and I'm not going to pretend just because I have the sneaking suspicion I'm not good enough." God meets you where you are.

I was doing a book tour in San Diego, where it's sunny all the time, which makes me nervous and cranky because I look bad in shorts. Then I saw a picture of Koko the gorilla, who lives at the San Diego Zoo, and over the picture it said something like, "Mantra for the American Jungle: Remain calm and share your bananas." I loved that saying so much that every day for the rest of that tour, I wrote "RCSB" in ink on my hand, in that place between my forefinger and thumb, so when I started to get nervous or upset, I'd see those letters, and it would put things into perspective.

It reminded me of Mother Teresa, talking about how in America we have this terrible spiritual poverty. In India, she said, you'll see somebody in the gutter with a banana, and he'll break it into thirds to share it with other people. In America, though, we stockpile our bananas so we have a bunch of them, and stuff them in our mouths as fast as we can, and come up with ways to make them ripen faster so we have more, more, more.

That's what the devil's about, the lie that if we get more fame, more money, more attention, more things, we'll be OK. It speaks of this mangy, gringy tightness instead of the joy of God that makes you want to share with others.

We live the most when we're giving. That's why Jesus was such a radical. He says that everything in the world is going to tell you to grab onto as much as you can, then get more and more, and don't let anybody else have it. But none of that's true. Jesus says that where your treasure is, your heart will be, too. Don't bank on the stuff that's going to rot and get moldy and dusty and turn to ashes. What's going to last is what you give away.

When you do God's work, you just show up and love and serve. In the Bible, it says something like, "Go in peace to love and serve the world." It doesn't say, "Stay here, get some more room service, and try to drum up a lot more sales for your book." That sort of greedy thinking doesn't really lead to a lot of spiritual happiness. Get calm--and go take care of God's other children. Share your bananas. That's where you're going to get happy.
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