Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

I'm Book: Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace
Author: Anne Lamott
Edition: eBook, on OverDrive from Fresno Public Library
Read: December 17, 2014

256 pages
Rated: 4 1/2 out of 5

20+ essays, most of which have been previously published. They deal with Lamott's family, problems-both past and current, death, life, forgiveness, and an assortment of neurosis.

In the first chapter, she makes a statement about a couple of friends, one who was dying. She says they are willing to redefine themselves, and life, and okayness. This is an in-eloquent, but powerful statement. Not to lose who you are, but yet changing how you approach your life to meet the circumstances you are in. It is so easy to lose yourself when you get carried by the tides of what is around yourself. Also it is a bit harder to stand like a breakwall against the change-pounding tides without adapting. How to wisely adapt and not get out of sync with your world, that is a good trick.

Such a phrase, obseince of delight. Says to me we humble ourselves to that which resonates to our soul. It is not just for pleasure, but delight. Delight is such a different experience. Delight is like waking up in the mountains and enjoying the sunrise on distant peaks. Pleasure is more sensual than spiritual. Let me always strive for the spirit, mind and body experiences to build a total me.

Parental units were simply duplicating what they'd learn when they were small. That's the system. (Chp 2). How do you break that cycle? Lamott's books, at least the ones I have read are a result of dysfunction in her parents. She is striving to break that cycle and is dealing with the effects. Probably the first thing is to recognize where your background negatively affect you and your children.

Lamott takes a chapter to talk about forgiveness. She starts off a bit humorously by saying that she is not one of those Christians who is heavy into forgiveness. But then she talks about how heavy a burden not forgiving is. Her line is not forgiving is liking drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. She hits the nail on the head-exposing her own problem as a way of showing me the problem with my own actions. She admits that forgiveness is not easy, but it is essential. 

Just look whose the budgets are being cut-the old, the crazies, the young...-that is where Jesus will be.

The chapter on Matches is hilarious! She talks about how she needs a man in her life, not so much for sex, actually definitely not for sex, but to feel loved-you know the cuddly type of relationship. So she joins and goes through a list of dates. Some possibles, some improbables. Here, as in the rest of her writings, she reveals herself and the issues she has. In this case, just re-entering the dating world and the new types of connections. It is worth the read. The perspectives she faces-on her side-and the different personalities ranging from a person whom she really likes but which he has no emotional component to his personality, to a person way to the right of her who portrays himself as middle of the road.

This chapter ends with her talking about her family and how her Mom and Dad were in a relationship which was not where love was present. She notes that her parents could not take their pleasure in themselves to the next level of a deepening. Even them loving their children did not bring closeness to each other. Even with their own high level of intelligence, they could not see themselves as growing closer-two people whose orbits brought them close, but the gravitational pulls could not bring the, together. When she went to other families, even though the food was inferior, it tasted better due to the love which wax present. 
Gary's Note: If a relationship is not deepening, it stagnates.

 As was true with dating, it is true here-Lamott talks about her relationships. So a note to Gary-do not get into a relationship with her, or you end up in one of her books. As a note to readers: I am married and am not looking to change out my wife.

She says that Awareness dawned on me in these years that the values of my parents' lives, of the good life, were going to be part of an evolutionary journey-the marvelous food and story telling, bookstores, hiking... she also goes on and talks about the friends who had religion and the contribution they had on her life. This goes to point that we are not just ourselves, but are made up of both what we start with and the influences on our lives. Lamott recognizes this-we are not formed in a vacuum. Two important parts to this. First we are formed as well as created. The second, as I travel my life, my life has impact on others. Two simple, but important, truths.

Do not take Lamott as fact, but more as a person who thinks the best of things, unless you happen to be a right-winger. Her Christianity is more of  a humanistic bent than one based in the Bible. So there is very little Bible verse quoting. Also she probably cannot really support some of her thinking. So when reading her, I need to look more at the underling current and recognize what God is speaking through her rather reading for fact.

Silence of an ideal life.(Chp Voices) interesting phrase. How does silence and an ideal life mate? Probably because it give you space to listen to yourself, listen to the voice of God. But is that what she is saying? Upon contemplation, I think it means more like the ideal life will leave little behind, such as a wake behind a boat being non-existent. And that brings up the problem which i have with this phrase. I think a life well-lived will leave order and goodness in its wake, rather than emptiness. Why else does Lamott write if she did not want to leave something behind and that something being good?

My pastor Veronica(Goines), says that peace is joy at rest and joy is peace on its feet. (Chp Ham of God). Not sure that this is an exact formulation, but I think it is a good one.

The second best thing about reading an Anne Lamott book is her honesty concerning herself. But what makes her worthwhile reading is her insight and way she puts her insights. I could do without some of the rawness, but what I get for sticking with her is ways of looking at the small things of life in a broader picture.

Small Victories is a collection of Lamott's essays. At first I kept thinking, have I read this book already? Why does this story seem so familiar? It was because it was. If you have read Traveling Mercies, you have read about a third of the book already.

Is that a bad thing? At first it was disturbing. But then I started to understand some of what Lamott was doing. Life is not full of the BIG battles, but the everyday struggles we have, with some big battles interspersed between. How we fight these small battles is what shapes our lives. We get battered, we get thrown around.there are times we do not feel good about ourselves, but still we carry on. I think that is Lamott's message.

New Words:

  • Sanpaku (chp 2): originated from a Chinese term, as well as a Japanese term means “three whites” and is generally referred to in English as "Sanpaku eyes". The term refers to eyes in which the white space above or below the iris is visible.
  • Bruja (Chp 2): Brujería is the Spanish-language word for "witchcraft". Brujería also refers to witch-healers who did practice and do practice their craft throughout Latin America and the United States. Both men and women can be witches
  • Patchouli (csk 3): a species of plant from the genus Pogostemon. It is a bushy herb of the mint family, with erect stems, reaching two or three feet (about 0.75 metre) in height and bearing small, pale pink-white flowers.
  • noodge (chp 4): o be nosey, pushy and a general pain in the ass. It sometimes means having an attitude the size of montana on your shoulders and projecting that all over the place. Generally this is not a nice thing but can be used in a nice context.
  • Erudite (Chp Dad): having or showing great knowledge or learning
  • soupcon (Chp Dad): a very small quantity of something
Book References:
  • Rumi
  • Joy of Cooking- more like f comparison than anything else.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Virginia Wolf 

Good Quotes:

  • First Line: The worst possible thing you can do with you're down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends.
  • Last Line: Yet here we are in February, with war drums and daffodils everywhere and poppies waiting in the wings.
  •  If generosity is nothing, then what is anything? (Chp The Book of Welcome)
  • Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure. Rumi
  • not forgiving is liking drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. (Chp Forgiveness)
  • Getting found almost always means being lost for awhile. (Chp Tail Ducks)
  • Forgiveness is the hardest work we do. (Chp Dad)
  • Grace threatens all my normalities. Quoted from Gerald May
  • Through love all pain will turn to medicine. Rumi
  • The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship. Emerson
  • To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. Lewis Smedes
  • Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again. Dag Hammarskjold
  • It's because music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, your breath. We're walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn't get to any other way. Chp Knocking on Heavens Door
  •   No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden from te present little instant. Take peace! Fra Giovanna Giocondo
  • My pastor Veronica(Goines), says that peace is joy at rest and joy is peace on its feet. (Chp Ham of God)


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