Bird by Bird
Tuesday afternoon I opted for a cup of tea and reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, purchased for me by my husband on our most recent used bookstore adventure. I’ve thumbed through it before (cue the copyright-publisher-acknowledgements dance), but never read it cover to cover. It is marvelous. Lamott’s captured all the emotions writers feel—which is what good writers do. That’s what I want to do.
And when I had closed the book at page 38, the reality set in: per Anne, I was actually going to have to write. And then I did what most writers do when they are supposed to be writing: watered the plants (we’ve begun a container garden, but that’s a different post), prayed over them, loaded the dishes in that stupid old dishwasher I simultaneously loathe and love, cursed the refrigerator (the door closes too quickly and knocks against my limbs), and beat myself up over being the worse laundress in the world. Then I ruminated over the perpetual chaos of my bedroom closet, and how my boobs are sagging (welcome to 30) and that my hair is dull and lifeless.
After I working myself into a tizzy, I gave up folding the laundry washed with too much soap and took a shower. And then I visualized Jesus there with me in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet next to the shower (cover down, not doing his business, just sitting for company’s sake) giving me a pep talk.
I imagined Jesus was there, encouraging me about life just as my cousins and I had done for one another so often on hot Indiana summer afternoons in the upstairs bathroom of their 19th century home. It’s comforting when a loved one keeps you company while you bathe (remember how our mothers used to do this for us when we were tiny humans?). Bath time is usually when your best insights come into focus–and it’s just awful when there’s no one there to share it with.
So, it was me and Jesus, in the bathroom, discussing life. Now before you think I’ve cracked up please remember that I am Protestant (Baptist) and that I still have a small colony of evangelical cells leftover from childhood inhabiting my body.
Visualizing the pep talk, Jesus said something like,
“Dana, you’re doing important work.”
“Yes. You opted out of the rat race in order to really look at your life and help others do the same. You embarked on a journey of service–praying, examining, sharing, and holding suffering with love. Now you’re going to write about it so that others can benefit.”
Jesus, not bothered by the shower steam, goes on:
“Use your God-given gifts. I love you. I’m proud of you.”
“Thank you, Jesus.”
And then the “miracle” (as Lamott describes it on page 9) happened. I finished my shower/Jesus pep talk and my anxiety was calmed. I rushed into the kitchen, no longer mad at the dishwasher and refrigerator and the laundry, sat at my Grandmother’s antique dining room table, and wrote. I took it “bird by bird.” The censor (the logical voice that blocks creativity) had vanished and I wrote two vignettes on vegetarianism and our sexless Indian ashram honeymoon (sounds intriguing, no?) for the interfaith marriage book.
Thank you, Jesus and Anne Lamott.