The Banana Peel Awaits

“the cosmic banana peel awaits.”  — Anne Lamott, Notes on Hope

“Anything can happen.  The great banana peel of existence is always on the floor somewhere.”  — Robert Fulghum

You cannot predict the future.  Plans go awry.  But the upside is that too much planning might narrow your experiences in life.  It’s good to stay open to opportunities that pop up unexpectedly along the way.

Perhaps the most important thing is resilience — knowing that you will find a way to cope, no matter what banana peels trip you up along the way.

 

 

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Refraining from Helping as a Spiritual Practice

“Help is the sunny side of control.”  — Anne Lamott

Watercolor painting of sunflowers

One of my particular challenges over the past few years has been finding a place of acceptance, rest, happiness when someone I love is suffering.  How can I be happy when a beloved friend or family member is unhappy?  It has been a struggle for me to let go of my distress and accept that I cannot solve another person’s problems.

Once again, Anne Lamott’s words on this subject resonated with me.  Maybe you will find them helpful, too.  She says, “There is almost nothing outside you that will help in any kind of lasting way . . . You can’t buy, achieve, or date serenity.  Peace of mind is an inside job, unrelated to fame, fortune, or whether your partner loves you.  Horribly, what this means is that it is also an inside job for the people you love most desperately in the world.  We cannot arrange lasting safety or happiness for our most beloved people.  They have to find their own way, their own answers.” (from Almost Everything: Notes on Hope)

Your life would certainly be easier if everyone around you followed your suggestions and advice and demands(!) and made healthy choices.  But adults get to live their own lives and make their own choices.  It’s hard to refrain from giving advice or “helping.” But you really need to step back and respect their own ways of navigating their lives.   “The harm is in the unwanted help or helping them when they need to figure things out for themselves.  Help is the sunny side of control.”  (Anne Lamott, from Almost Everything)

Adult problems are so often big problems — finding and keeping a partner, extended family relationships, big-ticket financial issues, taking care of frail parents, finding satisfying work, etc.  And each can be a minefield for misunderstandings, grief, loss.  And much is outside of our control.  “It’s the hardest work we ever do, forgiving our circumstances, our families, and ourselves.” (Anne Lamott, from Almost Everything) 

But as Lamott says, “Most of my spiritual breakthroughs have been against my will. . . If the earth is forgiveness school, family is your postdoctoral fellowship.  Family is hard hard hard, a crucible . . . great pain from which great transformation arises.”

I’m still working through strategies for maintaining my equilibrium and happiness when loved ones are unhappy.  Lamott reminds me to have faith and keep going.

 

Where There Is Hatred

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”  — Francis of Assisi

Watercolor painting of sunflower

Yesterday’s post was about nurturing hope through connections with people, nature,  play, books, art, meditation. . . Today’s post offers reflections from another message in Anne Lamott’s Almost Everything: Notes on Hope — how to keep from damaging yourself by hatred.

I bet that we all aspire to incarnate these words by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  But time and time again, our emotional and intellectual response to the onslaught of vitriol, greed, racism, and divisiveness in the world is to despair and lash out in kind with negative criticism and condemnation against the person(s) spewing this hatred.

Lamott says, “Haters want us to hate them, because hate is incapacitating.  When we hate, we can’t operate from our real selves, which is our strength.”

How do we break this dysfunctional pattern of taunt and response?  It’s difficult.  Certainly we continue to stand up against evil and hatred.  We do what we can to stand with the victims, to provide assistance, to listen, and to connect in all the small but important ways that show our love for our neighbors and ourselves.

One of the things about Lamott is that she puts her struggles out there  – her imperfections, her failures.  She has an irreverent style of writing, quirkiness, that delivers her reverence and deep faith in a very palatable way.  I admire her resilience in this difficult world:  “[L]ife just damages people.  There is no way around this.  Not all the glitter and concealer in the world can cover it up.  We may have been raised in the illusion that if we played our cards right, life would work out.  But it didn’t, it doesn’t.”  Life is tough.  But Lamott reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles.  And that helps.

 

 

Sufficient Unto the Day

Watercolor painting of sunflower

“We have all we need to come through.  Against all odds, no matter what we’ve lost, no matter what messes we’ve made over time, no matter how dark the night, we offer and are offered kindness, soul, light, and food, which create breath and spaciousness, which create hope, sufficient unto the day.”
— Anne Lamott, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

I just read an advance reader copy of Anne Lamott’s newest book, Almost Everything.  I like the messages in her books; they are a form of bibliotherapy.  This one offers insights about sustaining hope in tough times.

Here is one passage that lists some remedies for navigating life’s challenges and losses:  “Some of us periodically need to repeat the joy training, rehabilitate the part of us that naturally dims or gets injured by busyness, or just by too much bad news to bear.  Adults rarely have the imagination or energy of children, but we do have one another, and nature, and old black-and-white movies, and the other secret weapon, books. Books!  To fling myself into a book, to be carried away to another world while being at my most grounded, on my butt or in my bed or favorite chair, is literally how I have survived being here at all.”

What are your secret weapons for sustaining hope?

 

 

September’s Book Cover from Favorite Books

Blind Spot by Teju Cole

This book drew me in because of its lyrical writing and powerful photographs.  It is a book about photography, and it was revealing to read how a good photographer interprets his work.

Cole says, “This project came about when I began to match words to these interconnected images.”  He goes on, “In each place I have traveled, I have used my camera as an extension of my memory.  The images are a tourist’s pictures in this sense.  But they also have an inquiring feeling to them, and in some cases, showed me more about the place than I might have seen otherwise.”  The commonalities among the photos are glimpsed in layers, fragments, or fleeting intuitions.   “I am intrigued by the continuity of places, by the singing line that connects them all. . .” Cole says, “Human experience varies greatly in its externals, but on the emotional and psychological level, we have a great deal of similarity with one another.”

Take cities, for example.  Cole says, “All cities are one city.  What is interesting to find, in this continuity of cities, the less obvious differences of texture:  the signs, the markings, the assemblages, the things hiding in plain sight in each cityscape or landscape:  the way streetlights and traffic signs vary, the most common fonts, the slight variations in building codes, the fleeting ads, the way walls are painted, the noticeable shift in the range of hues that people wear, the color of human absence, the balance of industrial product versus what has been made by hand, greater or lesser degrees of finish, the visual melody of infrastructure as it interacts with terrain: wall, roof, plant, wire, gutter: what is everywhere but is slightly different.”

Some of the photographs, especially those of signs, juxtapose words and images in echoing layers.  For example, “a sign saying ‘cars’ bearing an image of a car above a car.”  Other images are metaphors for ideas that are reinforced by the accompanying text.  “More than the work itself, its form, its genre, its existence in tangible form, what interests me is the secret channel that connects the work to other works.  Tarkovsky calls it ‘poetry.’ . . . When I make a work, no matter how small, its poetic possibility interests me, those moments in which it escapes into some new being.”

Like me, Cole is drawn to themes that make their appearance again and again.  One of these themes is blind spots.  Cole says, “To look is to see only a fraction of what one is looking at.  Even in the most vigilant eye, there is a blind spot.  What is missing?”