Last week on Facebook, a dear friend* posted the link to Anne Lamott’s amazing “Wisdom of Ages” and I’ve been haunted by parts of it ever since. There is so much good in this piece of hers—how tough we women are on ourselves and the way we view our bodies, how age and experience deliver wisdom along with wrinkles, how some days that wisdom still isn’t enough to enable us to be gentle with ourselves, and how that’s ok, too, because at least those days come fewer and farther between.
My favorite part? This:
Eleven years ago, when my friend Pammy was dying at the age of 37 we went shopping at Macy’s. She was in a wheelchair, with a wig and three weeks to live. I tried on a short dress and came out to model it for Pammy. I asked if she thought it made me look big in the thighs, and she said, so kindly, “Annie? You just don’t have that kind of time.”
We don’t have that kind of time. I don’t have that kind of time. None of us does. If tomorrow were my last, would the things I’m worrying about today be all that important? Probably not. I’ve spent a lot of time these past few weeks worrying about things that are outside my control. I can’t ignore those things—they exist and they must be addressed. The crappy parts of life have to be dealt with … but they don’t have to be fretted over so strenuously. Starting today (yesterday, actually), I’m going to try to box those things up. I will fix what I can fix (dryers and faucets), deal with what I must (work and kids’ schedules and The Ex issues), and dig for the extra patience to wait out the resolution of things that are beyond my control (WHEN, not if, my house sells). And I’m going to be gentler with myself on the body image issues, too, because self-berating for that chocolate indulgence or that missed workout(s) really doesn’t do anyone any good.
My next favorite part? This:
I became more successful in my mid-40s, but this pales compared to the other gifts of this decade—how kind to myself I have become, what a wonderful, tender wife I am to myself, what a loving companion. I get myself tubs of hot salty water at the end of the day in which to soak my tired feet. I run interference for myself when I am working, like the wife of a great artist would: “No, I’m sorry, she can’t come. She’s working hard these days and needs a lot of downtime.” I live by the truth that No is a complete sentence. I rest as a spiritual act.
This, too, rings true. I may not be mid-40s yet (although I see it on the horizon), but I know that post-divorce, I take care of ME more. I pamper myself as often as I can, I entertain myself frequently and make sure I have plenty of fun, and I force myself to relax and get as much sleep as I can fit in my schedule. I know that I should forgive myself for that chocolate or that missed workout, but I also know I can’t let that happen too often because I need to stay healthy and fit for my kids and for myself. These days, I try really hard to take care of ME, because I must. I’m the only one who will.
Anne Lamott is a wonderful writer. She is unbelievably gifted at turning a phrase that makes me cry and makes me think and makes me nod my head in agreement and understanding. This piece is no exception—it’s chock full of those juicy bits. As much as I appreciated the portions discussed above, however, I’m not sure I’ve ever read something of hers that rang more loudly or more true for me than this:
Rubble is the ground on which our deepest friendships are built. If you haven’t already, you will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of a beloved person. But this is also the good news.
They live forever, in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather is cold—but you learn to dance with the limp.
This one made me stop breathing for a minute. And when I started breathing again, I cried. Hard.
It’s coming up on two years since my heart was so badly broken and since the life I knew crumbled to piles of rubble around me. The friendships I hold most dear today are built upon that rubble—the women to whom I now turn when I want to celebrate, scream, cry, or question are women whose friendships arose from or were permanently strengthened by those desolate days. It’s been almost two years, and I am fine. Most days, in fact, I am so much more than fine. But you know what? It still fucking hurts, and on occasion that has panicked me a bit.
When I read that last passage, though, it was as if a fog lifted. I realized that maybe it will just always hurt. I’ve been watching the weeks and months pass and waiting for that pain to go completely away … and is hasn’t. Maybe it just doesn’t. Oddly enough, I think I’m ok with that. I think it’s ok that I miss what The Ex used to be (or what I thought he was), even though what he is now is so far removed from that as to be almost unrecognizable as the same person. Maybe I’m becoming unrecognizable, too. I like The Ex less, but I like myself more. Learning to dance with the limp is tough. It’s awkward and painful and just sort of weird sometimes, but it’s still dancing.
And I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.
*Thanks for the continued inspiration, JHS.