"It turned out that this man worked for the Dalai Lama. And he said - gently - that they believe when a lot of things start going wrong all at one, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born - and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible." - Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott
I’m reading Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. It’s part of my required reading for my book - reading other memoirs, or memoir-type books that might be kind of like mine. Of course we are all unique and different and individuals and all that jazz, but still, we are links in a chain. Maybe it’s odd to be a secular, mostly atheist Jew with Buddhist tendencies who relates to Anne Lamott. Anne Lamott is a born-again Christian with neurotic tendencies and a sense of humor. Well, then I’m odd. So there you go. She’s funny and honest and upfront about her shortcomings and in that way I think the Venn Diagram of our writing overlaps.
If that is not being too bold.
Which it is not, I hasten to add.
Although I don’t exactly believe my own words.
And so it goes. Welcome to the mind of moi, Hope Perlman.
So what I wanted to say was, Hello, Readers, I am just coming off the two week visit of our French “exchange” student. The visit involved so much more field tripping and spending time around other humans than I usually want that upon delivering her to the grotty and miserable bus station in Albany at 4 a.m. Tuesday morning - yes, the 4 a.m. that is before the crack of dawn; the four a.m. that is the time of infinite night terrors; the 4 a.m. of insomnia — and then finding that the bus had been overbooked, and then standing around with fifteen or was it twenty or was it two hundred other bleary and annoyed parents delivering other visiting French students, and also with our own children, who promptly passed the ensuing hour sitting on the filthy floor of the station and playing hand games with their friends and crying and hugging until the new bus arrived at 5:15 am - I promptly came down with a fever, aches, weird stomach pains and postnasal drip. I had so very much else to do that day of the 4 a.m. delivery that I didn’t really admit to illness until it was all done and night had come. One of the first things, by the way, that I did, was to instruct the 9th grader to deposit the clothes she had been wearing when sitting upon the station floor into the laundry. Then I was on to other fry.
But yesterday there was no denying the illness, and so I spent a day doing what my body needed. It was a wonderful relief, Readers. I recommend it.
One of the benefits of having our “exchange” student (please see previous post to understand why I use quotation marks) was that I finally had that coffee with a mom friend that we’d been planning for a long time. I hadn’t seen her since before the election, and in fact, I was kind of afraid to. Not because we are on different political sides, but because I was afraid the thin gauze of optimism I have managed to enshroud myself with would disintegrate with a good old political discussion. But we had more immediate things to discuss, like how in hell to entertain French teenagers in Albany for two weeks. So we met and brainstormed, and my mom friend, who is more pessimistic than I am, even though my thin gauze of optimism is so very thin and gauzy, and I came up with some good activities.
I felt a little like country mouse and city mouse with my mom friend, by the way, since she’s a leggy ectomorph who dresses entirely in fleece and hiking gear and, well, I am not. But anyway, that was fun. But one of the ways our conversation got a little sharp and threatening to my gauzy wrap was our discussion of incivility and how rampant it is and how awful the things we hear on the news are that people say about one another and the partisan divide and the gap between the blah and the blah. And so on. And it was distressing to go over it all. And it is distressing.
And so I was distressed when I left our coffee. But then later I thought about this incivility, and I thought about where I see it. On Facebook, on Twitter, on snippets of the news that I watch on Facebook and Twitter. Of course on comments in the failing New York Times, but everyone knows better than to read those. And then I thought about my regular life, and I thought about incivility there, and you know what? I didn’t find a lot. I found mostly people being nice. Even the ones that might have voted for You Know Who. Like the retired guy down the street who mows his not very big lawn on a riding mower in a sleeveless undershirt. Always been downright civil to me, obviously a liberal feminist with a fancy dog. He’s the guy who once suggested that I “get a couple a frozen meatballs, put ‘em in a dog bag, throw ‘em in the freezer. When you go for your walk, take the bag out of the freezer, and there you go. Cop sees you. You got a bag. Smells a lot better.” See what I mean? Civil. And probably votes for You Know Who.
And then there’s me. I mentioned this before, but it remains true. I still feel this gentle little careful spot inside me that I am tending. It’s me being nice to people I encounter. Nicer, I should say. And it’s a result of the hammering my guts took by the election. It’s an awareness there are a lot of angry, miserable people out there, and I might as well try to not increase their reasons for their anger and misery. I’m thinking if I feel that way, a lot of other people feel that way, too, because I’m not so special or different. I’m not particularly mean or kind. And so that makes a lot of us trying to be nicer to everyone, and therefore increasing civility.
Today I came across this little nugget in Anne Lamott’s book. According to a guy she met who worked for the Dalai Lama, the Buddhists - or maybe the Dalai Lama and his workers - believe that when lots of things are going wrong all around us, it’s to make room for something beautiful to be born.