The title is from my favorite Anne Lamott book, "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life". I first read this book in the mid-nineties when it was first published. This book, along with "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg, served as my writing bible when I was in graduate school. This was the first time I remember thinking, "I love writing." And wondering, "Could I be a writer?"
Her story, her words...changed my life. As she wrote, I read and read. I shared. I listened. It was a relationship between me and the story. Her storytelling is brilliant, funny, real, and powerful. I can't stay away, so when I heard that she was speaking thirty miles away from me, I HAD to go.
Tickets purchased. Directions scouted. Plans made. I attended alone. It's how one should always meet a hero. The drive, though only thirty miles, took almost two hours...DC traffic! I could hardly wait!
The venue was beautiful. I grabbed a bottle of water and a chocolate chip cookie to nibble on as I waited. I sat next to a woman who was sitting on the floor, alone. We chatted for a couple of moments and agreed that these nights, listening to our favorite authors, were our rock concerts.
Finally, we were being seated. LOOK at my seat! I knew it was going to be a good seat when the usher said, "Wow!"
Yes, I took a picture of my seat!
LOOK at all of the leg room. I had lots of space and I was very comfortable! About ten minutes after I took my seat, she quietly and with no introduction or fanfare walked onto the stage. I confess, I had tears in my eyes. I've been reading her stories for more than twenty years and now I'm in the same room as she is...it was a moment for me.
Her talk was entertaining. I love how she kept waving to the people sitting all the way at the top! I love how she kept losing her place and moving on to something else! I love how she connected with the audience.
My hand rarely stopped moving. I took pages and pages of notes. I didn't want to miss anything. Here are some of my favorite lines,
"Where I first found salvation was in the written word," in talking about reading as a child.
"Seek truth. Go outside! Talk to others who need to talk. Listen."
"Mercy is grace in action. It means having a heart for other people's trouble."
Over and over again she repeated, "Show yourself mercy. That means radical self-care."
"Buy yourself beautiful socks. These are desperate times."
After her talk, she was signing books. It was already close to ten o'clock and I had to teach the next day...but once in a lifetime. I was four from the end of the line. As I waited, I reminded myself to breathe. I reminded myself to say, "Thank you." As the line moved, I got so excited.
She signed my book! She signed MY book. I said, "Thank you." And other silliness.
The moment I'll take with me is this...I asked, "How are you?" She stopped. That startled me a bit. She looked at me. She looked me in the eyes and said, "I'm fine," she paused and then asked, "How are you?" Those words felt like they were spoken in slow motion. It felt like the world stopped and she really saw me and heard me.
I met Anne Lamott.
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