I woke up this morning in a mild panic. My month at the beach is exactly half over today. How can that be? It seems like I just got here—like I just exhaled. My writing projects are in full swing, and I’d love nothing more than to spend another month here. But I’m trying to learn to be present in the moment. So I said Anne Lamott’s second prayer as my feet hit the floor this morning: “Thanks.” It took me a while to get to that one (having spent a good while on prayer number one—“Help.”)
Going through my morning routine—prayer (sometimes), Metamucil in a tall glass of grape-flavored Propel water (don’t ask), meds, and finally, coffee—I struggled not to let my “list” overwhelm my soul. My husband is flying in for the weekend tonight, so I’m washing the sheets and towels, taking out the trash, picking up some food, wine and Vodka, and washing my hair. And it’s Friday, so there’s a blog post to write. And when I walked away from my computer last night, I was near the end of the next chapter in my novel, so I want to get back to that thread as soon as possible.
But first I spent a few minutes reading the next part of Lamott’s book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. I finally made it to “Wow.” Perfect timing, since the storm that blew through here the last couple of days is gone and the sun is shining so brightly on the calm, blue-green ocean and the powdered-sugar sand that I need my sunglasses just to look out through the sliding glass doors. Two kids are building a mammoth sand castle and the sea gulls are circling, hoping for more hand-outs. I can’t wait to get out there with them and walk in the sunshine and breathe in the crisp, clear air. It’s pretty magical here today. Wow.
I think I’ve mostly written about Lamott’s book in my Mental Health Monday posts. And her wisdom definitely fits in that category. But this week I’m including her in Faith on Friday. Because I think God has had a hand in helping me move from help to thanks and finally to wow. Just making it through my weekend at The Shoe Burnin’ without getting drunk, lost or sick was nothing but God’s grace. And although I had a short “fall” towards an eating binge one night this week (and I drank 3 glasses of wine at our condo’s happy hour gathering yesterday afternoon) neither of these events sent me into a funk or a slide towards more destructive behavior. I just said sorry, and moved on.
Lamott says that spring is the main reason for Wow:
Spring is crazy, being all hope and beauty and glory. She is the resurrection. Spring is Gerald Manley Hopkins, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. / It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”… Poetry is the official palace language of Wow…. In spring, we expand and stretch in all directions. It’s green exuberance and giddiness, bright clown colors and Easter colors, too; the rebirth of the tender growing soul.
I know it’s not really spring yet. Pious Christians—both Eastern and Western—are hunkering down for Lent, with Pascha/Easter way off in their distant spiritual horizons. Massive snow storms are smothering folks up in the northeast. A devastating tornado touched down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, destroying several hundred homes, just this last Sunday as I was driving back to Seagrove from Fairhope. My Jackson friends drove (safely, thank God) through Hattiesburg 7 minutes after the tornado touched down there. So how do we continue to say “thanks” and “wow” in light of these tragedies? Back to Lamott:
Nature explodes in winter and even more people die than in other seasons. The poor freeze and starve. It absolutely blows your mind how cruel nature and poverty can be…. We see the brutality of life and nature, and also of what lives inside us…. We try to do our best, and then a whole snowy hillside buries a thousand people. Life is eruptions, spasms, just as in our families. If you keep your heart open, these traumas beat you down. But against all odds, something emerges from the wreckage in our hearts, so we can bear witness: collect donations for the families, or the town where the fire broke out; to childhoods destroyed by charming tyrants; to miners trapped two thousand feet down.
Childhoods destroyed by charming tyrants. Lamott gets it. She gets that storms don’t just happen in nature. They happen in the human heart. The psyche. The soul. We can’t figure them out. We can’t control them. We can only remember the three essential prayers and look for wonder where we can find it. I agree with Lamott that we can find it in nature, and also (and for me, more so) in art:
What can we say beyond Wow, in the presence of glorious art, in music so magnificent that it can’t have originated solely on this side of things? Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath. That’s why the call it breathtaking…. In art, we feel the breath of the invisible, of the eternal…. In paintings, music, poetry, architecture, we feel the elusive energy that moves through us and the air and the ground all the time, that usually disperses and turns chaotic in our busy-ness and distractedness and moodiness. Artists channel it, corral it, make it visible to the rest of us. The best works of art are like semaphores of our experience, signaling what we didn’t know was true, but do now…. We see in art a moment in time, an instant, and this is holy.
Lamott’s writing is holy to me. She helps me believe that my writing is also holy. That it can make the eternal visible to others. That it can help someone else make sense of the storms that blow through their lives, often leaving destruction in their wake. My editor, Joe Formichella, wants me to polish my essay for The Shoe Burnin’ Anthology so that it shines brightly enough to cast some healing light into the dark corners of the lives of others who have been sexually abused. I hope I can do that. As I sit down to do more revisions on that piece, I will say “help,” and I will try to create holy art. And I hope—no, I pray—that someone will read it one day and say, Wow.