Thursday, December 22, 2011

Girl Crush

“Holiness has most often been revealed to me in the exquisite pun of the first syllable, in holes—in not enough help, in brokenness, mess… in holes and lostness I can pick up the light of small ordinary progress, newly made moments flecked like pepper into the slog and the disruptions.” –Anne Lamott

My latest girl crush is writer Anne Lamott. My feelings toward Anne are part crush, part hero worship, part “she would totally get me if we met” awe.

I’m reading Lamott’s 2005 book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. After my dad died four weeks ago, I did what some readers/writers/overthinkers might do (perhaps especially if they have a touch of religious belief)—I went to Barnes and Noble and bought books about grieving, death, faith, and comfort.

That first week I was still numb, but I knew the numbness would wear off, and I wanted to be prepared. The way I saw it, $80.00 worth of books would be well worthwhile if I could avoid costly professional grief therapy. Yes, I’m a real DIY kind of sufferer.

So I’ve dipped into four of the books, but Annie’s is the one I’m reading the most. I was a little worried, since she started right off damning George Bush to hell for starting the war in Iraq. While I may tend to agree with her, the constant damning to hell of George Bush was not helping me move forward in my grieving process.

But I trusted, kept reading. 

What I love about my Anne is that she is so messed up and sarcastic, and she knows it. So self-deprecating, yet she’s unwilling to take shit from anyone, including God. She talks about Jesus and God in the most intimate and sometimes bitchy ways.

A recovering alcoholic, now in her fifties, at the time Plan B was written she is both a mother to a teenage boy and going through menopause, an incendiary situation. Summing her life experience up, she’s a survivor.

She overthinks, as well, a trait we share. Lamott admits to wrongheadedness, uncharitable thoughts, and murderous impulses. She’s not afraid to pray the one-word prayer: HELP!

In short, she’s exactly the kind of Christian I need right now. I don’t need platitudes, and my Annie doesn’t do platitudes. She’s had to do lots of inner work to get to where she is, a place where she is mostly (or at least sometimes) content with her life.

For instance, she admits that she’d rather be celibate than get into another toxic relationship. Of course, in the funny way life goes, a while after she came to that conclusion, she found a boyfriend.

She attends a racially diverse Presbyterian church in the Bay area, has a female pastor, and sometimes refers to God as “She.” I know this kind of new-agey feminist stuff drives some Christians over the edge, but me and Annie, we say, “Chill.” We don’t think God gets all excited about gender. Or about a lot of other stuff.

She says, “…we should try to stay on God’s good side. It’s not hard. God has extremely low standards. Pray, take care of people, be actively grateful for your blessings, give away your money—you’re cool. You’re in. Nice room in heaven, flossing no longer required—which is what will make it heaven for me. Oh, I mean that, and Jesus.”

Anne struggles with mid-life, admits she has a bit of flab, is creaky when she gets up in the morning, forgetful. She’s a white girl who gave up the struggle with her exceedingly curly, unruly hair a decade ago and now sports dreadlocks, feeling that dreadlocks are the equivalent of her hair finding its way home. She’s a blue jeans kind of girl; she’d never judge me for my general dishevelment.

If I lived near her, my friend Annie and I would go for hikes in the hills. She’d show me her favorite views, the trails she hiked with her dad as a girl. We’d talk about faith, and failure, and love.  I’d be sure she knew how much I valued our friendship, and she’d offer to read drafts of my historical novel. I might even admit that I’d had a girl crush on her. She’d be a little embarrassed, but mostly flattered.

She be kind, real, and she’d offer to watch my cats if I had to go out of town. We’d make each other laugh. I’d cook her some soup.

That’s my girl crush. Crazy Annie is helping me work through some of my grief, after all.

Have you ever had a girl crush on an author or famous person, living or dead? I challenge you to name your crush, and tell me about her.


  1. I am have to going to check Anne out! Anyone who believes God has low standards is very high in my books. Just because I always believe I will never live up to his expectations ;)

    I have so many that I admire but the ones that really impress me. Are the women in politics that break the barriers in the old boys club. It's a slow process but they are making a lot of headway.

  2. My crush on an author would have to be Janet Evanovich, hands-down! She is daring and bold and totally out there. I really believe that she is nothing like her now very famous character, Stephanie Plum, in real life, but would love to be. I know I would! :)

    LOVED this post, Amiga. I am so very glad I took the time to read it just before going to bed. I am heading there now with a big soft smile on my face.

    Tu amiga que te quiere mucho!!

  3. Ladies, thank you so much for commenting. I was afraid that I might offend some people with this post. Writing about an unconventional believer like Anne Lamott is sure to unintentionally offend some stricter Christians. It was not my intent to offend anyone, so I'm so happy that my two amigas understood and had kind comments.

    I chuckle about Lamott's "low standards" because they really are "high standards" that we may make unnecessarily hard to follow. It's like telling children to "be good" when they don't understand what "being good" means, and they say "but I don't wanna!"

    V.V.-- I hope more women do get involved in politics!
    Nini-- I have to go back and read some more Janet E. I read one years ago, enjoyed it, and she must be great if you like her! I could use a little kick-butt kind of woman right now. :)

  4. Even my hubby has been keeping up with Janet E. books. He is actually ahead of me by a few. LOL! But don't let this leak out. :)

    Love you my Amiga!

  5. What book should I start with? The first Stephanie Plum?
    Love you back, my Nini!

  6. I've been crushin' on Anne Lamott for YEARS. If you enjoyed "Plan B," you would probably like some of the other non-fiction stuff as well. ("Traveling Mercies" is the other primarily "faith" centered collection and "Bird by Bird" is FANTASTIC--it's like a bible for writing AND life, and in fact, I am featuring a quote from that in the post I'm working on for today.) I am not particularly religious or even spiritual in any Christian-based sense, but I do believe the Sacred is all around us in ways many of us overlook and I thoroughly embrace Lamott's hard-earned, non-sugar-coated faith and wisdom.

    I once attended a chat room "interview" with her on iVillage (I think) shortly after the release of "Traveling Mercies." Each participant was asked to submit a question for Lamott to answer. My question was something along the lines of whether she sees the opportunity to share her faith through her writing as an obligation or as a blessing. Her answer was basically "both," but more eloquently put than that, of course. The primary thing I remember though was how giddy I was when the beginning of her response was "Good question." It was probably just an offhand remark, but I took it as a high compliment and basked in the glory for an afternoon. :)

  7. That is so great that you were able to ask Anne a question and she ANSWERED, and said it was a good question! Bask in the glory, indeed-- I would have basked for at least a week.
    I have read Traveling Mercies and Bird by Bird-- they caused my girl crush part one. I am in girl crush part two due to Plan B.
    Anne has a new book coming out in 2012 that she wrote with her son Sam about him becoming a dad at 19.
    Thanks for the comments, Masked Mom! Glad to know I am not alone in my Anne-Awe!

  8. Thanks for the heads-up on the new book--greatly looking forward to it!

  9. First of all, I'm sorry you lost your dad. There really aren't any words that I could offer that would make a difference, but I'm sorry that you're hurting.

    I love Anne Lamott. I hadn't really considered it a girl crush, but yeah, that pretty much describes it. Now you've got me thinking--I tend to get excited about finding bloggers that I feel immediately connected to, too. There have been a few lately.

    Stuff to ponder. Thanks. :O)

  10. So appreciate your condolences.
    I so know what you mean about finding a blogger that you click with!;)
    Thanks for the kind words-- I'm coming over to your blog and read soon, oh Word Nerdess.

  11. I'm a little late to this girl crush party but now I know what book I'm going to read next.

    Anne Lamott sounds like my kind of woman. As are you :).

  12. Don't take this the wrong way, Janey, but when I saw my can of Crisco today, I thought of you. I need to make a pie soon! I am still incredibly impressed about your pie making from scratch skills.
    Aw, thanks. If you don't like Anne's book, please don't tell me, okay? :-)
    You are so sweet to stop by on this day when I have a stupid migraine and needed all the kind words I can get!

  13. Beloved Melanie! Crisco is the nectar of the gods...I mean, well, besides coffee. I haven't taken it the wrong way.

    I hope you are feeling better. Please? Feel better. You are constantly in my thoughts.

  14. I love Anne LaMott. I've read everything she's ever written. I admire her strength, her honesty, and her commitment to her faith. I am fascinated by her ability to find so much comfort in her church and her strong beliefs. Most of all, I love how genuine her voice is.

    On another note, I too get terrible headaches, and sympathize with you so very much!

    Come visit at my blog - I believe we have much to talk about :)

  15. She's great, isn't she? Genuine describes her voice so well.

    I appreciate the comment very much and will stop in at your blog soon!

  16. I caught Anne Lamott's name out of the corner of my eye while flipping through some of your earlier posts (is going backwards against the rules? hell, I don't know). Anne and I have been LIKE THAT for years and years. She rings so true for me. Growing up in a way Catholic household, I steer clear now of all things churchy but Anne? Anne speaks to me. I have even thought of finding the church to which she goes just to be part of that community.
    On another note, I did exactly as you did when my dad died completely unexpectedly. I took myself to the bookstore and plunked down about $40 in books on grief and, especially books about losing a parent. They really helped me as they gave me a focus. Thats the way I am.
    Okay, and on to girl crushes - Do you know Adair Lara? She is (was?) a columnist with the SF Chronicle - has written several great collections of essays. I could be her friend. ANd there is , of course, the one and only Barbara Kingsolver - Bean Trees goes down as one of my all time favorite novels. Anna Quindlen too -- One True Thing - an excellent novel -- and others -- we need more discussion on this topic!

  17. Ooh, another Anne admirer! Anne is true for me, too.
    Funny, but I grew up in a Catholic home, too. I have found a church home with the Methodists, but attend Mass every Saturday night so I can take my 82 year old mom. It's a challenge for me to do that in so many ways, but it makes Mom happy, so there I am. Sadly, I don't have whatever it takes to also go to the Methodist services on Sunday most weeks, although my heart is there.
    The grief books have helped, although I cry every time I read them. But that's okay. It's not like we can get through grief for a loved one without bawling occasionally.
    I don't know Adair Lara, but I will look her up! Love, love, love Barbara Kingsolver and Anna Quindlen. We should arrange a fantasy conference where all our favorites would attend... :) So many great women!
    Thanks for commenting-- work backwards all you want, and I plan to do the same on your blog!