Tag Archive for: Anne Lamott

I just finished reading Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, for BookPleasures. You can find my review here. It is a quick read, but frightening in the way psychological thrillers can be – that is, if you’re prone to being a tad bit of a hypochondriac when it comes to your own mental health.

I have also read several other good books lately that I thought I’d pass along in case anyone is looking for something to give to themselves this holiday season.  I generally read more than one book at a time, one on my iPad, one from the library, and one I couldn’t resist buying from the used bookstore.  In addition to that, there are always magazines lying around in different places, propped open to various pages, that I can pick up and peruse when I only have 15 minutes or so before dashing off to do something.  My favorite magazines are The Sun and Natural Health, but my new favorite is a literary magazine out of Portland, Oregon called Stealing Time. It is geared towards all things parenting and may be a new place for all you writers out there to send submissions. It is truly fantastic, with poetry and photographs and essays both fictional and non-fiction.  
The books I have read most recently on my iPad, in no particular order, are:
  •  Louise Erdrich’s “The Round House” (she is a wonder, this one – I love everything she writes), 
  • Alex Mitchell’s “All Gone” – a memoir about her mother’s memory loss/dementia and how the author copes by cooking up memories of her childhood dishes. I enjoyed this one, but am glad I didn’t spend the money for the hard copy because it was such a quick read.
  • Karen Thompson Walker’s “The Age of Miracles” – I am sad that this one is on my iPad because I know both of my girls would LOVE this book, but they have Kindles, so I may need to buy it again for them.  The premise is incredibly unique and the story was fascinating, especially to someone who tends to get lost in philosophical reverie. I didn’t even know it was supposed to be a teen book until after I read it. Loved this one!
  • Amanda Coplin’s “The Orchardist” – this one felt like a Pacific Northwest, caucasian “Roots” in a way. It was epic, spanned generations, and completely sucked me in with the imagery and the fact that I live not far from where it was set.  Tremendous read. 
  • M.L. Stedman’s “The Light Between Oceans” – this book made me cry in a good way. Again, the premise was unique and made me think well beyond the pages of the book. Loved it.
  • Darcy Lockman’s ” Brooklyn Zoo: The Education of a Psychotherapist” – a memoir of Lockman’s residence in a Brooklyn psych hospital. Well-written, quick read. Mostly it made me sad about the state of our healthcare system (especially as it relates to mental illness) and how we train our physicians. 
  • Sarina Berman’s “Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World” – Amazing story! Amazing. I devoured this book and was so sad when it was over. One of my favorite works of fiction this year.
  • Laura Moriarty’s “The Chaperone” – fun, light read that I would recommend for summer vacation.
  • John Irving’s “In One Person” – I had to work to finish this one.  Actually, it was the first third of the book that was work. The rest was pleasurable, but I only kept reading it because I heard Irving interviewed on a local public radio station and I find him so fascinating.  Ultimately, I enjoyed it, but felt like it could have used some editing. (Look at me – novice writer saying that about John Irving! Ha! Who do I think I am?)
  • Liz Moore’s “Heft” – My friend Carrie raved about this book, and I trust her taste, so I downloaded it. What a beautiful story! Another favorite fictional work, for sure.
  • Tupelo Hassman’s “girlchild” – I think I wrote about this book earlier this year, but I have to say it again – I think it’s brilliant.
  • Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” – this one made me grieve so much for the folks fighting wars all over the planet. It also made me wish they could all unburden themselves of their stories and see them in a different light.
I just gifted myself Anne Lamott’s new book “Help Thanks Wow” and Brene Brown’s newest, “Daring Greatly.” I can’t wait to start them, but first I have a teen fiction book to review that I have to finish because Eve read the back the other day and is chomping at the bit to read it when I’m done.  
Happy reading!

And so, despite the fact that I am seated in a cushy lounge chair near the pool at a lovely resort in Kauai, life is still upon me.  I had no illusions that time would stop or there would be a brief window of ultimate peace while I went away and, to be honest, I am relieved to be contemplating my challenges in such a glorious place.  During my younger years, I would have been honestly surprised that coming to such a place for a vacation wouldn’t instantly put on hold any angst or difficulties I was experiencing, but I know better now.

Lola, despite the sun and relaxation and pretty much 24/7 access to a body of water in which to swim, is struggling mightily with her SPD symptoms.  Transitions are hard for her and this absurd cliff-dive from regimented school days to completely structure-free summer days leaves her adrift every year.  No matter how much I try to impose predictable mealtimes or down-time in the middle of the afternoon it seems that the lack of scheduled activity pushes Lola to a place of discomfort in her own skin. She fights to put a name to what she is feeling, unsure of what it would take to make her comfortable. She doesn’t acknowledge hunger or thirst until it is far past the point of no-return, she flits from activity to activity, immersing herself in one or the other at some point in an effort to simply shut out the entire world around her.  
Yesterday she sat by the pool playing games on her iTouch until the battery died. I sat nearby chewing in the inside of my lips in an effort to leave her be, hating the glow of the screen on her face on such a glorious day. I wanted to ply her with a beach walk or a dip in the pool or a shopping adventure and couldn’t seem to discern whether it was because I thought it would be better for her to get up and do something or because I hate the notion of her sitting still playing video games on a sunny day in Hawaii.  Predictably, she melted down in the afternoon, hot, thirsty, hungry and weepy and I berated myself yet again for not knowing how to help her navigate this move from school to summer.  I feel as though it surprises me anew every year and I have yet to feel like I am surmounting a learning curve. Instead it looks like a series of dashed lines all on the same plane, interrupted by the blank space of the school year.  But the transition from summer to school is just as difficult and disruptive, the Monday mornings fraught with tears and hysterical pleadings to help get SOMEthing right – her hair, her shoes, the seam on her jeans – me knowing it isn’t those things at all but unable to convince Lola.  
And yet, the vacation is giving me some solace as well, if only in its distance from ‘home.’  My mother’s husband has been in the hospital since before we left, first fighting a severe infection and then undergoing two surgeries with prospects for a third today.  The solace is that, for me, setting boundaries with others who are struggling has never been easy but this, the fact that I am a five or six hour flight away from sitting by her side and the knowledge that both of my siblings are close by, means that I have artificially imposed boundaries.  I am learning to empathize and have compassion and hold space in my heart for her as she deals with her fear and the logistical challenges of running his business and their life without dashing in to fix things like I normally would.  
The first book I read on this trip was Anne Lamott’s “Some Assembly Required” and while I highlighted many, many astonishing bits of wisdom in it, one keeps coming back to me as I check in with my mother via phone every day.  “If it isn’t my problem, I don’t have the solution.”  While that may sound callous, the truth is that I don’t have the solution. I could run around giving advice, searching for answers, talking to doctors and nurses, holding my mom’s hand and generally making myself feel better because I have the illusion of “doing something,” but in the end, what is going to happen is going to happen regardless of whether I am there or not.  I know that offering my mother love and comfort over the phone is better for both of us – we will end up not resenting each other’s lack of boundaries – and the outcome will be the same.  
And so here I am.  In this lovely, lovely place with my family, warts and all.  And I shall rub sunscreen on those warts and go forth to enjoy the day, knowing that what happens is all part and parcel of this life of mine and I feel pretty damn lucky.