HomeQuotes240 Anne Lamott Quotes on Life and Writing

240 Anne Lamott Quotes on Life and Writing

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1. “Love is so much bigger than our ignorance.” 

2. “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” 

3. “Joy is the best makeup.” 

4. “It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.”

5. “The opposite of faith is not doubt. It is certainty. It is madness. You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do.”

6. “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” 

7. “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you will never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

8. “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

9. “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

10. “Rest and laughter are the most spiritual and subversive acts of all. Laugh, rest, slow down.”

11. “Nothing heals us like letting people know our scariest parts. When people listen to you cry and lament, and look at you with love, it’s like they are holding the baby of you.” 

12. “They show us what community and friendship mean, they show us how to live and die.”

13. “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.”

14. “The reason ‘help’ is such a great prayer is that God is the gift of desperation. When you’re in despair, you’re teachable.”


15. “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.”

16. “You can either practice being right or practice being kind.”

17. “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

18. “Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives when we are paying attention—mangoes, grandnieces, bach, ponds. This happens more often when we have as little expectation as possible.”

19. “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave.” 

20. “I am skittish about relationships, as most of the marriages I’ve seen up close have been ruinous for one or both parties.”

21. “Every woman’s path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers. I say that without judgment, it is, sadly, true. An unhealthy mother’s love is withering.”

22. “Your unconscious can’t work when you are breathing down its neck.”

23. “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life, they feed the soul.”

24. “This is a very violent place to live, the Earth, and we’re a very violent species. Cain is still killing Abel. We see that every day.”

25. “You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.”

26. “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

27. “If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.”

28. “All freedom comes from discipline.”

29. “One thing I know for sure about raising children is that every single day a kid needs discipline. But also every single day a kid needs a break.”


30. “I believe that discipline and self-love are the total secrets to freedom.”

31. “Expectations are resentments under construction.”

32. “The truth of my experience is that we are all a lot more alike than we are different.”

33. “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

34. “It’s better to be kind than to be right.”

35. “I feel incredibly successful. I make a living as a writer and am able to help support a big family, my church, my bleeding-heart causes.”

36. “We are not here to see through one another, but to see one another through.”

37. “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.”

38. “Maybe all we can do is make our remaining time here full of gentleness and good humor.”

39. “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”

40. “Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, ‘We told you not to tell.’ But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.”

41. “There is nothing as sweet as a comeback—when you are down and out, about to lose, and out of time.”

42. “Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.”

43. “I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”

44. “Gratitude, not understanding, is the secret to joy and equanimity.”


45. “Life is really pretty tricky, and there’s a lot of loss, and the longer you stay alive, the more people you lose whom you actually couldn’t live without.”

46. “I am the woman I grew to be partly in spite of my mother, and partly because of the extraordinary love of her best friends, and my own best friends’ mothers, and from surrogates, many of whom were not women at all but gay men. I have loved them my entire life, even after their passing.”

47. “We are who we love, we are one, and we are autonomous.”

48. “When we’re dealing with the people in our family, no matter how annoying or gross they may be, no matter how self-inflicted their suffering may appear, no matter how afflicted they are with ignorance, prejudice or nose hairs, we give from the deepest parts of ourselves.”

49. “Part of me loves and respects men so desperately, and part of me thinks they are so embarrassingly incompetent at life and in love. You have to teach them the very basics of emotional literacy. You have to teach them how to be there for you, and part of me feels tender toward them and gentle, and part of me is so afraid of them, afraid of any more violation.”

50. “I don’t have any romantic views of parenting. Every step of the way it’s really hard. It’s a dangerous world, physically and psychologically.”

51. “Sometimes I think God loves the ones who most desperately ache and are most desperately lost—his or her wildest, most messed-up children—the way you’d ache and love a screwed-up rebel in juvenile hall.”

52. “I just try to love and serve everyone, and bring everyone water, and lend an ear, that’s what Jesus said to do.”

53. “It is unearned love—the love that goes before, that greets us on the way. It’s the help you receive when you have no bright ideas left, when you are empty and desperate and have discovered that your best thinking and most charming charm have failed you. Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there.”

54. “Your experiences will be yours alone. But truth and best friendship will rarely if ever disappoint you.”

55. “The American way is to not need help, but to help.”

56. “Pay attention to the beauty surrounding you.”

57. “I was raised in a family where none of us ever raised a voice, so there was no room to express feelings of rage or even unabashed joy—a little bashed joy, here or there, or being mildly disgruntled.”

58. “I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.”

59. “The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given—that you are not in a productive creative period—you free yourself to begin filling up again.”

60. “Bananas are great, as I believe them to be the only known cure for existential dread. Also, said that in India, a woman dying in the street will share her banana with anyone who needs it, whereas in America, people amass and hoard as many bananas as they can to sell for an exorbitant profit. So half of them go bad, anyway.”

61. “Sometimes, grace is a ribbon of mountain air that gets in through the cracks.”

62. “The three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you.”

63. “I can tell you that what you’re looking for is already inside you.”

64. “I believe in listening to what calls you from your heart and your spirit and if you do it badly, like learning to dance, you do it badly or you’re going to kick yourself when you grow old and you meant to do it.”

65. “I’m much calmer as I get older, but I’m still just as capable of getting that strung-out stressed-out feeling of mental and spiritual unwellness.”

66. “Age has given me the gift of me—it just gave me what I was always longing for, which was to get to be the woman I’ve already dreamt of being. Which is somebody who can do rest and do hard work and be a really constant companion, a constant, tender-hearted wife to myself.”

67. “I try to write the books I would love to come upon that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness and that can make me laugh.”

68. “I’ve known for years that resentments don’t hurt the person we resent, but they do hurt us.”

69. “My idea of absolute happiness is to be in bed on a rainy day, with my blankie, my cat, and my dog.”

70. “And she is going to dance, dance hungry, dance full, dance each cold astonishing moment, now when she is young and again when she is old.”

71. “It’s a great time to be alive.”

72. “Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.”

73. “These days cry out, as never before, for us to pay attention, so we can move through them and get our joy and pride back.”

74. “I am all the ages I’ve ever been.”

75. “Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

76. “Laughter is carbonated holiness.”

77. “Radical is what we’ve been longing for, desperate for, our entire lives-friendship with our own hearts.”

78. “Dogs are the closest we come to knowing the divine love of God on this side of eternity.”

79. “I love silence. I seek and create it at every opportunity. I need it to work.” 

80. “Evangelical Christians and I can sit down and talk one on one about how much we love Jesus, and yet I’m not carried in Christian bookstores.”

81. “A whole lot of us believers, of all different religions, are ready to turn back the tide of madness by walking together, in both the dark and the light—in other words, through life—registering voters as we go, and keeping the faith.”

82. “We’re often ashamed of asking for so much help because it seems selfish or petty or narcissistic, but I think, if there’s a God—and I believe there is—that God is there to help. That’s what God’s job is.”

83. “No one can appropriate God, goodness, the bible, or Jesus. It just seems that way.”

84. “Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”

85. “If our lives are made up of a string of a thousand moments, at some of those moments, we look a lot more spiritually evolved than at others.”

86. “I loved every second of Catholic church. I loved the sickly sweet rotting-pomegranate smells of the incense. I loved the overwrought altar, the birdbath of holy water, the votive candles. I loved that there was a poor box, the stations of the cross rendered in stained glass on the windows.”

87. “I was raised with no religious training or influence. Except the influence was to be a moral and ethical person at the secular level. And to be a peace marcher, an activist for civil rights, peace and justice.”

88. “I’ve heard that our greatest cross to carry is ourselves—how gravely we fall short.”

89. “For me, Jesus is my cleft in the rock. He is my safest friend, my safe, totally loving accepting big brother.”

90. “I think Jesus’ divine love manifests on earth, as it comes through the community of Christians.”

91. “I’m a terrible Christian and meditating is very hard for me, and I do it. I do it badly, like I do a lot of things. I believe in doing things badly.”

92. “I go to church every Sunday, which is like going to the gas station once a week and really, really filling up.”

93. “My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear.”

94. “I’m one of those religious people who are afraid of everything. I’m instantly worried about everything that could go wrong.”

95. “The reason I never give up hope is because everything is so basically hopeless.”

96. “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it, and find out the truth about who you are.”

97. “If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is , and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young.”

98. “When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens.”

99. “Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.”

100. “It’s incredibly touching when someone who seems so hopeless finds a few inches of light to stand in and makes everything work as well as possible. All of us lurch and fall, sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving, feel like idiots, lose our balance, gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going.”

101. “I’m here to be me, which is taking a great deal longer than I had hoped.”

102. “‘Help’ is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn’t matter how you pray with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing. Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors. Years ago I wrote an essay that began, ‘Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom.’”

103. “Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper.”

104. “All those years, I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately. But, what I’ve discovered is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place, and that only grieving can heal grief. The passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it.”

105. “The earth is rocky and full of roots, it’s clay, and it seems doomed and polluted, but you dig little holes for the ugly shriveled bulbs, throw in a handful of poppy seeds, and cover it all over, and you know you’ll never see it again, it’s death and clay and shrivel, and your hands are nicked from the rocks, your nails black with soil.”

106. “Sometimes, this human stuff is slimy and pathetic, but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it than to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.”

107. “The miracle is that we are here, that no matter how undone we’ve been the night before, we wake up every morning and are still here. It is phenomenal just to be.”

108. “Your inside person doesn’t age. Your inside person is soul, is heart, in the eternal now, the ageless, the old, the young, all the ages you’ve ever been.”

109. “When everything starts going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born.”

110. “I’m probably just as good a mother as the next repressed, obsessive-compulsive paranoiac.”

111. “I did not raise my , Sam, to celebrate Mother’s Day. I didn’t want him to feel some obligation to buy me pricey lunches or flowers, some annual display of gratitude that you have to grit your teeth and endure.”

112. “I was raised by my parents to believe that you had a moral obligation to try and help save the world.”

113. “I was the angriest daughter on earth, and also, one of the most devoted.”

114. “I think we’re all pretty crazy on this bus. I’m not sure I know anyone who’s got all the dots on his or her dice.”

115. “I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.”

116. “And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.”

117. “Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path.”

118. “We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society.”

119. “Oh, but my stomach, she is like a waterbed covered in flannel. When I lie on my side in bed, my stomach lies politely beside me, like a puppy.”

120. “Having a baby is like suddenly getting the world’s worst roommate.”

121. “It’s intrusive for to think they’re in charge. It’s manipulative. Also, it’s self-destructive, since if the parents have to resist you, you won’t get your mitts on the kid as often.”

122. “More in a life-threatening way, that had caused me a long time ago to give up all hope of ever feeling good about having had her as a mother.”

123. “Mothering has been the richest experience of my life, but I am still opposed to Mother’s Day. It perpetuates the dangerous idea that all parents are somehow superior to non-parents.”

124. “No matter what circumstances, it’s hard to be a parent and maintain a sense of self and identity in the world.”

125. “When God is going to do something wonderful, He or She always starts with a hardship, when God is going to do something amazing, He or s=She starts with an impossibility.”

126. “The difference between you and God is that God doesn’t think He’s you.”

127. “I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right.”

128. “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.”

129. “I do not have a deep theological understanding or opinion, but I do not read the Bible as the literal word of God.”

130. “I happen to be a Christian, but I know that there is one God. People worshipping goodness and love and kindness and truth are worshipping the same God.”

131. “I’ve heard people say that God is the gift of desperation, and there’s a lot to be said for having really reached a bottom where you’ve run out of any more good ideas or plans for everybody else’s behavior or how to save and fix and rescue or just get out of a huge mess, possibly of your own creation.”

132. “I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this.”

133. “I have a very dark sense of humor. I swear. I have a very playful relationship with Jesus.”

134. “The first holy truth in God 101 is that men and women of true faith have always had to accept the mystery of God’s identity and love and ways. I hate that, but it’s the truth.”

135. “My gratitude for good writing is unbounded. I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.”

136. “You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

137. “My parents, and librarians along the way, taught me about the space between words; about the margins, where so many juicy moments of life and spirit and friendship could be found. In a library, you could find miracles and truth and you might find something that would make you laugh so hard that you get shushed, in the friendliest way.”

138. “Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader.”

139. “I’m drawn to almost any piece of writing with the words ‘divine love’ and ‘impeachment’ in the first sentence. But I know the word ‘divine’ makes many progressive people run screaming for their cute little lives, and so one hesitates to use it.”

140. “I write because writing is the gift God has given me to help people in the world.”

141. “We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. The writer’s job is to turn the unspeakable into words—not just into any words, but if we can, into rhythm and blues.”

142. “I am not writing to try and convert people to fundamental Christianity. I am just trying to share my experience, strength and hope, that someone who is as messed up and neurotic and scarred and scared can be fully accepted by our dear Lord, no questions asked.”

143. “I used to tell my writing students that they must write the books they wished they could come upon because then the books they hungered and thirst for would exist.”

144. “Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, how alive am I willing to be?”

145. “My mother was a not-too-devoted atheist. She went to Episcopal church on Christmas Eve every year, and that was mostly it.”

146. “All parents are an embarrassment to their kids. Often, grandparents are the relief. Kids don’t have to resist you.”

147. “My mother’s eyes were large and brown, like my son’s, but unlike Sam’s, they were always frantic, like a who can’t quite find the flower but keeps jabbing around.”

148. “I didn’t write about my mother much in the third year after she died. I was still trying to get my argument straight. When her friends or our relatives wondered why I was still so hard on her, I could really lay out the case for what it had been like to be raised by someone who had loathed herself, her husband, even her own name.”

149. “Most of me was glad when my mother died. She was a handful, but not in a , festive way.”

150. “My mother might find a thin gold chain at the back of a drawer, wadded into an impossibly tight knot, and give it to me to untangle. It would have a shiny, sweaty smell, and excite me. Gold chains linked you to the great fairy tales and myths, to Arabia, and India—to the great weight of the world, but lighter than a feather.”

151. “My family tends to be pretty alcoholic and drug-addicted.”

152. “When I was a kid, our family used to watch ‘Bonanza.’ I really liked having a Sunday night TV ritual.”

153. “Left to my own devices, my first inclination is to mess up other people’s lives. I secretly believe my whole family, and really the whole world, is my responsibility.”

154. “Mothers are supposed to listen and, afterward, to respond with some wisdom and perspective, but these things were not my mother’s strong suit.”

155. “I like to read away as much of the afternoon as possible, until real life rears its ugly head.”

156. “I woke up full of hate and fear the day before the most recent peace march in San Francisco.” 

157. “I love reading and my readers, but the din of voices of the audience gives me stage fright, and the din of voices inside whisper that I am a fraud, and that the jig is up. Surely someone will rise up from the audience and say out loud that not only am I not funny and helpful, but I’m annoying, and a phony.”

158. “I spent my whole life helping my mother carry around her psychic trunks like a bitter bellhop. So a great load was lifted when she died, and my life was much easier.”

159. “Seeing yourself in print is such an amazing concept—you can get so much attention without having to actually show up somewhere. You don’t have to dress up, for instance, and you can’t hear them boo you right away.”

160. “I got a lot of things that society had promised would make me whole and fulfilled, all the things that the culture tells you from preschool on will quiet the throbbing anxiety inside you—stature, the respect of colleagues, maybe even a kind of low-grade fame.”

161. “I don’t have a very sophisticated taste in music. I listen to a lot of folk music. I like reggae.”

162. “I am an Aries. Although I do not believe in astrology, I think this is exactly the right sign to have been born under.”

163. “I quit my last real job, as a writer at a magazine, when I was twenty-one. That was the moment when I lost my place of prestige on the fast track, and slowly, millimeter by millimeter, I started to get found, to discover who I had been born to be, instead of the impossibly small package, all tied up tightly in myself, that I had agreed to be.”

164. “I used to love to untangle chains when I was a child. I had thin, busy fingers, and I never gave up. Perhaps there was a psychiatric component to my concentration but like much of my psychic damage, this worked to everyone’s advantage.”

165. “I hate the summer.”

166. “I am going to notice the lights of the earth, the sun and the moon and the stars, the lights of our candles as we march, the lights with which spring teases us, the light that is already present.”

167. “My main problem is that over and over again, I try to get all my characters to say stuff that I think is so witty or erudite you know, so that everybody will go.”

168. “I’ve given guys blow jobs just because I’ve run out of things to talk about.”

169. “I accidentally forgot to graduate from college.”

170. “I’ve written six novels and four pieces of nonfiction, so I don’t really have a genre these days.”

171. “I’m kind of a gossip hound, but watching the media whip the small fires into giant forest fires so that they can cover the result is infuriating.”

172. “I don’t want something special. I want something beautifully plain.”

173. “Honesty is not necessarily interesting. I don’t want to hear about your dreams or your acid trips, probably unless you make them really interesting.”

174. “It’s funny, I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools, the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools of friendship, prayer, conscience, honesty and said, ‘Do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”

175. “I like the desert for short periods of time, from inside a car, with the windows rolled up, and the doors locked. I prefer with room service.”

176. “I would seriously rather be in a long line at the DMV than eat with people I don’t know.”

177. “My best teachers were mess, failure, death, mistakes, and the people I hated, including myself.”

178. “Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”

179. “I am drawn to people that are not going to shy away from the very dark, scary stuff of the human condition and in a lot of cases people need alcohol or drugs to create poetry and poetic pose that can take you so far out there where you are still able to recognize yourself and then to bring you back home where you’re not the same person you were when you left.”

180. “You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.”

181. “You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town.”

182. “I was reminded of the Four Immutable Laws of the Spirit. Whoever is present are the right people. Whenever it begins is the right time. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened. And when it’s over, it’s over.”

183. “The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.”

184. “Summer nearly every year. It’s too hot and the light is unforgiving and the days go on way too long.”

185. “Drugs took me to places, they were like portals. It’s kind of a cliche, but they were like portals to altered states of consciousness into ways of imagining the world, or seeing a world beyond this world, or seeing a world beyond this world that I might not have gotten to unless I discovered meditation and a very deep, intense spiritual path based on contemplation and meditation.”

186. “‘No’ is a complete sentence.”

187. “The worst part about celebrating another birthday is the shock that you’re only as well as you are.”

188. “But you can’t get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go into. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in—then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.”

189. “She said to go ahead and feel the feelings. I did. They felt like shit.”

190. “Because when people have seen you at their worst, you don’t have to put on the mask as much.”

191. “Everyone is flailing through this life without an owner’s manual, with whatever modicum of grace and good humor we can manage.”

192. “My heart was broken and my head was just barely inhabitable.”

193. “Jealousy always has been my cross, the weakness and woundedness in me that has most often caused me to feel ugly and unlovable, like the Bad Seed. I’ve had many years of recovery and therapy, years filled with intimate and devoted friendships, yet I still struggle. I know that when someone gets a big slice of pie, it doesn’t mean there’s less for me. In fact, I know that there isn’t even a pie, that there’s plenty to go around, enough food and love and air.”

194. “Butterflies and birds are like one perfect teaspoon of creation.”

195. “It was not facing what life dealt that made you crazy, but rather trying to set life straight where it was unstraightened.”

196. “But it was the singing that pulled me in and split me wide open.”

197. “Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting.”

198. “The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it. I would discover that it hadn’t washed me away.”

199. “The reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day.”

200. “You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible.”

201. “Sometimes, grace works like water wings when you feel you are sinking.”

202. “The Giants are usually described as rag tag, kind of a great garage sale team, and the Democrats are described as the Mommies to the Republican Daddies and everyone hates the mommies, but wait, wait—I didn’t intend to get into the pathos and thrill of being a Democratic Giants fan.”

203. “I see that children fill the existential hollowness many people feel; that when we have children, we know they will need us, and maybe love us, but we don’t have a clue how hard it is going to be.”

204. “Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation.”

205. “I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kind of things. Also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace’s arrival. But no, it’s clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in the silence, in the dark.”

206. “I went to Goucher College in Maryland for the best possible reasons—to learn—but then I dropped out at 19 for the best possible reasons—to become a writer.”

207. “But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.”

208. “It was simple reality, most competitive tennis players in my day were privileged, spoiled, entitled and white. Also, many of them were beautiful, fit, tan and of good stock—great big hair and white teeth and long legs. Then there were the rest of us.”

209. “If you have a body, you are entitled to the full range of feelings. It comes with the package.”

210. “We all know we’re going to die, what’s important is the kind of men and women we are in the face of this.”

211. “Since you can’t heal your own sick mind with your own sick mind, I needed to consult somebody else’s sick mind.”

212. “Most of the time, all you have is the moment, and the imperfect love of the people around you.”

213. “Being on a book tour is like being on the seesaw when you’re a little kid. The excitement is in having someone to play with, and in rising up in the air, but then you’re at the mercy of those holding you down, and if it’s your older brother, or Paul Wolfowitz, they leap up, so that you crash down and get hurt.”

214. “Write regularly, whether you feel like writing or not, and whether you think what you’re writing is any good or not.”

215. “If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”

216. “This is one thing they forget to mention in most child-rearing books, that at times you will just lose your mind. Period.”

217. “My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone.”

218. “I’d like to learn to meditate with more enthusiasm. I can sit down and get quiet for 20 minutes, but it just has not been a part of my Christianity at all.”

219. “Some people won’t go the extra mile, and then on their birthday, when no one makes a fuss, they feel neglected and bitter.”

220. “Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides.”

221. “Some people seem to understand this—that life and change take time, but I am not one of those people.”

222. “Presents can make up for some of the disappointments that life doles out, such as it makes almost no sense and is coming to an end more quickly than ever.”

223. “If the present is really all we have, then the present lasts forever.”

224. “No one tells you that your life is effectively over when you have a child, that you’re never going to draw another complacent breath again or that whatever level of hypochondria and rage you’d learned to repress and live with is going to seem like the good old days.”

225. “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

226. “No one is more sentimentalized in America than mothers on Mother’s Day, but no one is more often blamed for the culture’s bad people and behavior.”

227. “The women’s movement burst forth when I was fifteen. That was when I began to believe that life might semi-work out after all. The cavalry had arrived. Women were starting to say that you got to tell the truth now, that you had to tell the truth if you were going to heal and have an authentic life.”

228. “The thing about light is that it really isn’t yours; it’s what you gather and shine back. And it gets more power from reflectiveness; if you sit still and take it in, it fills your cup, and then you can give it off yourself.”

229. “Alice Adams wrote a sweet note to me after my first novel came out when I was 26, and I was so blown away that I sent her a bunch of stamps by return mail. I have no idea what I was thinking. It was a star-struck impulse.”

230. “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”

231. “A good marriage is where both people feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal.”

230. “The society to which we belong seems to be dying or is already dead. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but clearly the dark side is rising.”

232. “We can’t understand when we’re pregnant, or when our siblings are expecting, how profound it is to have a shared history with a younger generation: blood, genes, humor. It means we were actually here, on Earth, for a time—like the Egyptians with their pyramids, only with children.”

234. “Radical self-care is quantum, and radiates out into the atmosphere, like a little fresh air.”

235. “If you asked me, parents were supposed to affect the life of their child in such a way that the child grows up to be responsible, able to participate in life and in community.”

236. “The whistle is always waiting to be blown, and in some ways, it gets me to do better work.”

237. “I wish I had thrown out the bathroom scale at age 16. Weighing yourself every morning is like waking up and asking Dick Cheney to validate your sense of inner worth.”

238. “You want to give me chocolate and flowers? That would be great. I love them both. I just don’t want them out of guilt, and I don’t want them if you’re not going to give them to all the people who helped mother our children.”

239. “I read the same amount of nonfiction and fiction.”



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