I love the author Anne Lamott. There, I said it. I do. We have not met. She does not know I love her but love her I do. She’s my writer crush, the soul mate I’ve never met.
Many of us go through life with a person in mind that, should we end up single at a target age, we would marry them. There is a Friends episode about it, The One with the Proposal. The idea is that you pick someone in your life that you aren’t particularly attracted to (sexually), but that you love and share enough commonalities you think it could work (especially since nobody else seems to want you). Like Joey in that episode, I had two back-ups. The first was a boy from grade school that I have always loved as a brother-without-the-wedgies sort of way. That boy, now 57 years old, is still not married but all signs indicate he’s still not ready to commit, as I have not seen him in an exceptionally long time. To be fair, he had no idea he was one of my back-ups.
Add insult to injury, Anne, my second back-up, just got married at the age of 65. Had I known she was in such an all-fired hurry, I would have been more pro-active. Aside from her being married already, there are a few glitches in that plan, of course. The first is, we’ve never met, and she has no idea that she is my back-up. The second is geography, she lives nowhere near me; I won’t be running into her at the grocery store. The third, and most glaringly obvious glitch is that neither of us are lesbian. This is also tragic because as much work to the home and contribution to a marriage as the average wife does, I’ve often thought it would be nice to have one for myself. On the flip side, would we be lost in an unending cycle of coming behind the other and reloading the dishwasher or refolding the laundry?
All kidding aside (well most of it), I do love Anne’s writing. I have everything she has ever written, and those books will one day be willed to absolutely no one after I die, because I’m taking the entire collection with me.
I imagine myself at the Pearly Gates, “Sorry, St. Peter, God created me with baggage, and me and my baggage are coming in.”
Anne’s words have reassured me over and over again (because I’m the type for whom reassurance has a shelf-life, and I need it on auto-ship) that I am indeed weird and that is OK because everyone is weird. I don’t look like the model woman, I don’t think like the model woman, I don’t behave like the model woman. Notice I didn’t say average. I don’t think there is an average for women. We are all so different and wonderful and weird, finding an average would be next to impossible (or at least take more math than I’m willing to do).
Her most recent book Dusk Night Dawn, was written during what she calls “Covid College;” this learning experience of being in a pandemic. I just finished reading it for the second time and am starting a third run. It is my current bedside book. It comforts and soothes me in so many ways; most prominently that we are all in this separately, together (my words not hers). “This” being life itself.
In the book’s second chapter, The Kitten, she speaks to me and my anxieties so well. As a sort of extra incentive for Anne accepting his marriage proposal, her husband Neal promised they could also get a kitten; an especially generous thing since Neal is allergic to cats. One morning they couldn’t find the kitten. They looked everywhere. Anne theorized that she had accidentally let the kitten out that night when she opened the door for the dog. Without any evidence of a crime even being committed, Anne immediately charged herself with that crime, pulling all blame on herself. She also decided immediately that the kitten was dead, instead of hiding or closed in a closet or engaged in other kitten shenanigans. She theorized that the kitten had frozen to death outside, if she hadn’t first been eaten coyotes. She imagined the judgment and ridicule of friends and neighbors about her worthiness as a pet owner, and the black cloud this would place on her and Neal’s marriage, with her having killed his kitten and all. Then out of the blue, the kitten appeared from under the couch. She had simply been off doing kitten things. Anne states that now, when either she or Neal are in a downward slide into worst-case scenario, the other of them will say simply, “The Kitten is not dead. The kitten is in the living room.” What a sweet thing to say to the person you love.
Once my dog, Side Kick Rudy, took an opportunity to go exploring when someone left the gate open and someone else didn’t know that the gate was open and let Rudy into the yard. I watched the whole thing unfold a few minutes later on our outdoor cameras. I panicked. I went immediately to worst-case scenario. First, I assumed he was dead. Then I thought he was been picked up by one of those trucks we hear about, that drive through neighborhoods and pick up stray dogs and sell them to dog fighters or cosmetic testing facilities. Maybe, I reasoned, a wealthy woman was driving through, noticed his exceptional purebred beauty, pulled up and stealthily lifted him into her Mercedes Benz and sped off to Edmond. In this scenario, I assumed she had a lawyer on retainer and would price me out of getting Rudy back. But then when she realized how much Rudy sheds, she would send him “away” and I would never see him again. Never once did I think he’d just gone across the street, caught the scent of chickens and found a back way into another neighborhood a quarter mile down the street and I would have him home within the hour. That logical scenario never occurred to me. But, yet that is what happened. Perhaps I should adopt the mantra, “Rudy is not dead. He’s at the neighbor’s house.”
When my daughter got her driver’s license and was able to venture out of the neighborhood without me riding shotgun, she was given a cell phone. She was instructed to always answer my call. When she didn’t, I couldn’t imagine that my normally obedient child had left the phone in the car, or silenced it, or (out of the question) was simply ignoring me. No, no. Those things were not possible. My scenario included a car wreck, her body being tossed from the vehicle I gave her (thus all blame being mine), laying alongside Johnson Ferry Road until some jogger found her among the crepe myrtles. I imagined the funeral service and the roadside memorial I would spend the rest of my life tending with fresh flowers on her birthday. Despite my imagining their deaths so many times, both of my children are gloriously still alive and raising children of their own.
Why did I do this? Because for some reason, imaging worst-case scenario was so much easier than believing my teenagers were just doing what teenagers do best – ignoring their mother.
Being on alert status and itemizing all the worst-case scenarios means I will never be surprised by them. It is a weird way of trying to control the situation by inventorying all the bad things, instead of all the good things. Does it make things better? Well, no. But it keeps me, in my mind, from looking foolish like all those bright side looking people who think positively all the time. Fools!!! I won’t be duped by an unexpected tragedy! No sir, not me. I will be prepared for all of it and will not be brought to my knees by the surprise of a tragedy.
I am a card-carrying member of the Anxiety Chapter of nervous disorders, ever alert, every vigilant, ever exhausted. I appreciate Anne’s reassurance that I am not alone in this.