Words

Notes on Hope

An evening with Anne Lamott

Attend

What: An Evening with Anne Lamott

When: 7 pm Thu., Nov. 15

Where: Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.

Cost: $25 (includes a copy of the book)

Info: 734-6080 or http://www.mountbakertheatre.com

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

“I wake up not knowing if our leader has bombed North Korea. And still, this past year has been just about the happiest of my life,” bestselling novelist and essayist Anne Lamott writes in the prelude to her newest tome, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope.

The dichotomies of these disparate emotions—gut-churning fear for the future of our country and our world, along with the mind-altering joy that can be found if only you know where to look—form the basis for the ruminations Lamott enters into during the course of the 12-chapter tome that reads like the most interesting diary ever.

In advance of Lamott’s talk happening Thurs., Nov. 15 at the Mount Baker Theatre, I consumed most of Almost Everything during a rainy spell last Saturday. It was just a few days before the midterm elections, and I was feeling queasy about the outcome. Would we as a country elect people who would help propel a more progressive agenda forward, or remain stuck with the current presidential administration’s divisive rhetoric on everything from climate change to race relations to health care?

I write these words still not knowing what Wednesday morning’s news cycle will bring. But I’m not lying when I say that consuming Lamott’s wise and often hilarious words have me realizing that if the news is less than ideal come Nov. 7, it won’t be the end of the world—well, unless Trump gets his pointer finger on the big red button.

“How can we celebrate paradox, let alone manage at all, knowing how scary the future may be—that the baby brother will grow, and ignore you or hurt you or break your heart?” Lamott writes in her first chapter, “Puzzles.” “Or that we may die, after an unattractive decline, or bomb North Korea later today? We remember that because truth is paradox, something beautiful is also going on. So while trusting that and waiting for revelation, we do the next right thing. We tell the truth. We march, make dinner, have rummage sales to raise relief funds.

“Whoever arranges such things keeps distracting us and shifting things around so we don’t get stuck in hopelessness: we can take one loud sucking disengaging step back into hope.”

What I’ve always loved about Lamott’s writing is that although there’s typically a silver lining or three in everything she has to say, she doesn’t shy away from the uglier things in her life. For example, readers of this latest memoir will discover that although she’s not suicidal, Lamott has spent much of her life wanting toss herself off of tall cliffs she encounters. She also talks frankly about her struggles with alcoholism and shares that when her son reached the lowest point of his own addiction is the point she chose to practice tough love.

Past issues with family, spiritual squabbles, burying people she loves and loving people she’s trying her best not to detest all make appearances. But so, too, does the urge to rise above hate. She finds inspiration in the act of writing, in a new relationship, in the ongoing exhilaration to be found by observing nature, and in the growing list of things her fellow humans are doing to make a positive difference in the world.

“Some days there seems to be little reason for hope in our families, cities and the world,” Lamott writes. “Well, except for almost everything. The seasons change, a bone mends, Santa Rosa rebuilds after the fire. In the days after a cataclysmic school shooting, thousands of students took to the streets and the public squares. They got us back up onto our feet and changed the world.

“Still, we hold our breath. In times of rational and primitive fear, hope has to do push-ups out in the parking lot to stay pumped—and it does.”

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