March 30, 2008

Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert

from the airplane, Virgin Islands Canon Rebel Xti

I had the pleasure last night of seeing two of my most favorite authors on one stage. If you are familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Lamott you know what a thrill this was! I was first amazed at how big the theater was, packed to the gills with three thousand women. (A male friend of mine would remark, Dude, you could smell the estrogen!) But really, it was so wonderful to be in such a big room with so many women... sharing something so difficult to put into words, an invisible something that connected all of us about the experience of being women and human and wanting to be connected to something spiritual/creative/bigger than us.

Everything they said was wise, moving, funny and smart... and I devoured every single word, listening for that one thing that I came for, what I needed to hear.

And there were a few stories that stuck. One was a story that Elizabeth Gilbert paraphrased from a book she had read recently. The question posed was about living in the now and this writer responded that living in the now is overrated and unless you're a yogi or a monk, pretty much impossible for us regular folk. He said that possibly, the key to a happy life is about having great memories to look back on and great things to look forward to. So take lots of pictures and make lots of plans!

This is how I've tried to live for some time, but hadn't put it into words quite so well. I've always believed that we need beautiful images of our lives because it helps us to craft the story of our lives. When I look at my photos, I see that I have had amazing adventures, that I live in a world of color, that there is beauty everywhere, that my dreams are coming true, that I am loved. My photographs reflect back a story that inspires me.

Making plans for the future gives you a different quality of life in the present. When I know I am going on a trip next week or next month I feel so differently about today. Having something to look forward to gives you a giddiness about life, an excitement about what's to come, and can shift our experience of the now. I have a few fun travel adventures planned for this year, and just knowing they are coming gives me a joy right now that is such a gift. (Hello Squam!)

Take lots of pictures and make lots of plans. This is so doable, right?

(As I type this I just saw that Tracey posted about exactly this on Shutter Sisters! Great minds... and by the way, the new Superhero Photo Challenge is up and don't miss the beautiful photo and essay by Jen Lemen)

Posted on March 30, 2008 12:46 PM

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Posted by: Jennifaer at April 11, 2008 02:53 AM

Alana below sounds terribly pretentious and is horribly insulting out of nowhere. Sounds like one of those ridiculous people that's either jealous of something or is so unhappy that the only way she's going to make herself feel better is to be ugly to other people. Such a shame you have to do that here....

Posted by: Jennifer at April 4, 2008 07:14 AM

A positively vibrant, soul food post- thank you! I am so glad I visited your site today-- your message is very relevant to my current circumstances. Taking lots of pictures to craft beautiful memories and planning for the future are both at the top of my agenda at the moment. I gave up my apartment and quit my job a couple of months ago to travel South East Asia (right now I'm Dalat, Vietnam-- photographing this trip is like bottling part of the journey to take back home), and yesterday I formally declined, via email, the offer of a PhD scholarship at my university back home.

I wrote to my supervisors last night and afterwards was left so weightless and stunned I immediately left the internet cafe to go and have a beer. My boyfriend looked sympathetically at me and gently asked, "feeling a bit un-anchored?" You bet. I have no apartment, no job and no scholarship.

But I'm actually not in a bad position-- I have work to go back to if I want it, I have the exciting prospect of making a new home and I'm ending my studies (at least temporarily) after 6 years to find full-time work that hopefully, I will enjoy.

Thank you for this post, and for reminding me of the pleasure in planning the future, the immenseness of possibility and the capacity that such creation has for shifting "..our experience of the now." And yeah, I think this is doable :)

Posted by: laura at April 2, 2008 09:41 PM

Two amazing women! How lucky you are! I would love to see either one of them...

Posted by: Lianne at April 2, 2008 03:29 PM

Good evening, Andrea - I was just introduced to you by my son, Andrew (from Pedal Rev) - on the day after I had seen one of my heroes, Mary Oliver. (It's clear to me that he knew this all would strike a simpatico chord in me.) You are so right about the impossibility of putting into words the experience. Even after a heavy day at my office, I'm still in Mary's 'spell' - a dreamy mood that all is well in the world because she's in it! - much like you all were as you floated from the theatre the other night. Visiting your site, seeing your work, and now reading your blog and others' responses adds to my sense that there is much that IS well in the world where young people are living intentionally and passionately, sharing it so artfully and generously. Fondly, Celeste in Duluth, MN

Posted by: celeste at April 1, 2008 07:38 PM

This is the first time I have actually seen commenters ignore a troll ... and here I am ruining the streak. Sorry. But I think it speaks very highly of you and your readers. Way to go positive people!

Posted by: junewell at April 1, 2008 02:32 PM

I am terribly jealous that you had a chance to see Anne on stage. She has been a favorite author of mine for many, many years. This is a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Em at April 1, 2008 07:35 AM

I too wondered if the reference to the NOW is a jab at Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now. (?) But, based on what you've written, I would guess that the person who originated the remark has not read his work as it's not at all your typical "live in a vacuum" fare (as someone else so aptly put it in the comments already). Tolle's ideas support any kind of life you want to live, not the old idea of meditating on a rock in isolation with hopes of enlightenment. Just in case it helps someone else, this was a lightbulb moment for me in the Power of Now: anxiety and fear can only occur when we dwell in thoughts of the past or future (because the present moment is rarely, if ever, ever as horrid as our feelings about other times, in the past or how we might imagine some event in the future). One can still (and of course will) have memories of the past, and one can still plan and look forward to the future, but when that looking outside _now_ brings with it fear or anxiety, learning to dwell deeper in the now is a huge relief. For this reason, reading and listening to Tolle's books and recordings gave me the key to ending years of panic attacks (deep anxiety about something that isn't happening at the present moment). It has also opened up an acceptance for the present moment that I didn't have previously (life/the now is what happens when you're busy making other plans). And as you know, letting go of resistance tends to change things in a great way. For me, too much looking forward was a mental way of resisting my present moment, an ongoing moment which is quite lovely when I allow myself to experience it. I could write volumes! His books were not at all what I expected. They have really changed me, but enough of that. Glad to hear you enjoyed such a wonderful dynamic duo at the talk. I love the colours in the photo. :-)

Posted by: ~~Melissa at April 1, 2008 04:52 AM

You can certainly try to live somewhere else than now but no one has ever succeeded! In my experience, the two places that are guaranteed to be overrated are the past and the future. Good luck to all those who want to keep trying to make those two work.

Posted by: Karen at March 31, 2008 07:41 PM

Oh good-what a relief!

You, Anne Lamott, Elizabeth Gilbert are all some of my favorite writers! I love your writing--when is the Andrea book coming out? I'd buy it!

Posted by: simone at March 31, 2008 03:47 PM

Oooh I'm a little jealous. I just happened to finish reading Eat Pray Love last night. I bet your evening was magical!

Posted by: amber at March 31, 2008 03:40 PM

How amazing to see both these women in person! And I love what you write about Liz Gilbert saying, about taking pictures and making plans. That makes such perfect sense.

Posted by: Stephanie at March 31, 2008 02:09 PM

Get out! I'm soooo jealous! Oh, what a fantastic opportunity to see either one of them-----but *both* of them *together*----unbelievable!

I agree with you about the past/present/future thing. While is beneficial for me to be grounded in the Now, I am able to keep that in perspective only in the context of what came before and what will come after. Life is a journey and does not occur in a vacuum. Here's to great memories, wonderful photos, and joyous plans :-)

Posted by: Lisa at March 31, 2008 09:51 AM

I haven't read Elizabeth Gilbert ... now I'll have to give her work a try. Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies is a touchstone for attitude-checking for me. She's so real, so lovely in her imperfections.

I've seen Anne Lamott twice here in Portland, at our illustrious dream-bookstore, Powell's. Both times I've had the chance to chat briefly with her afterward and have been struck by how open, inquisitive and intense she is. And Bird by Bird is really an essential writer's companion.

So glad you enjoyed the double-whammy of incredible women writers!

Posted by: pamela at March 31, 2008 09:40 AM

oh i love these two amazing authors! what a lucky treat to hear them talk.. and yes your male pal would be right: the smell of estrogen!

by the way, ben is so adooooorable. xoxo

Posted by: muck at March 31, 2008 06:24 AM

Your life is truly blessed.
How amazing~
I love that book Eat Pray Love
Enchanted to read this post.

Much love and many blessings
Love Jeanne

Posted by: Jeanne at March 31, 2008 04:10 AM

You know what I just figured out?. You never travel in First Class! I travel most of the time in my dad's Gulf (5), but when I HAVE TO fly commercial, I always always do it in FIRST. Then again how can I blame you, your husband is a hobo scrap metal junkie and you sell beeds for a living.

Posted by: Alana at March 30, 2008 11:11 PM

Thank you so much for sharing this... What a great post!... "the key to a happy life is about having great memories to look back on and great things to look forward to" This is so true... and I have never heard it phrased so perfectly. Thanks ...

Posted by: Enyasi at March 30, 2008 10:03 PM

i love this post because it really captures the way i feel i live my life too. i know the whole in the moment thing has been hyped a bit and i breathe that when one of the boys is struggling to nap or sleep in the night (because really where else would i be able to be than in that moment). but overall i always feel that i live with the glances of the time past when scrolling through photos or memories of places we have been then go to the places we will be next time we travel. there is such loveliness in revisiting some of the past places and experiences and then imagining how the next trip will shape and change us as a family. the sierras and yosemite are the plan for the late spring and i look forward to it everyday. thanks for sharing this.

Posted by: mamie at March 30, 2008 08:49 PM

What venue were you seeing these two women at?? Iam so jealous and wondering if they are speaking anywhere on the East Coast sometime. I wonder how to find out..

Posted by: Lucille at March 30, 2008 06:31 PM

Of course living in the now is impossible. You've learned everything in the past, like reading, or that cars are dangerous when you walk in front of them, etc. When you're fully in the now, you won't know anything, you can't read for example. Becuase there's no past in the now. There's only something that sees, or maybe even less than that. So you won't survive very long. You need the past and the future.
But the practice of meditation (safe on a pillow for example, with no cars around ;), can make you aware. Of the Here and Now, this glorious world and our connection as being One.
So, there are two ways of seeing the same world. And that's perfectly okay.
Have a wonderful day. :)
Marloes (future monk ;)

Posted by: Marloes at March 30, 2008 05:23 PM

i was there!!! i wish we could have met up---i have loved your blog for so long!

and for the record, i thought they were both so amazing, i wanted to punch them both in the face :)

glad you got to share it---this post is such a lovely tribute to an amazing evening.


Posted by: amy at March 30, 2008 04:42 PM

You know you're killin' me with that photo, right? ;) Love Anne...sounds like it was great.

Posted by: Marilyn at March 30, 2008 04:21 PM

But what did Anne Lamott say?

Posted by: Meg at March 30, 2008 01:04 PM