Anne Lamott has often been called the “People’s Author” because of the homespun honesty dripping from the pages of her books. Recently, the perennial bestseller began experimenting with short-form spiritual reflections with the release of Help, Thanks, Wow in 2012 and Stitches in 2013. Anne’s experiment will become a trilogy on November 10 with the release of Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. The New York Times once declared, “a minute with Anne Lamott is like a week with anyone else,” and these bite-sized books contain at least a week’s worth of wisdom each.
The contents of the Small Victories have been kept under wraps by the publisher–there’s not even a “Look Inside” feature available on Amazon–so this curious journalist began to dig around for information. I decided to go straight to the source herself, and Anne was gracious enough to answer a few questions and offer us a sneak peek.
RNS: A TV preacher might promise tips for “spiritual breakthroughs” or big moments of transformation. Instead you focus on “small victories.” Why do you think people want or need something small?
AL: [tweetable]Small is how blessings, healing, progress and increase occur.[/tweetable] Not on the fantasy, magic wand realm of televangelists. In my experience, all you ever need is a little bit of this or that—a spritz of spiritual WD-40, five minutes of someone’s time—for there to be a significant shift in perception. Which is what most miracles look like.
RNS: Part of achieving small victories involves forgiveness, which you call “the hardest work we do.” Why is forgiveness so darn difficult?
AL: Half of Small Victories is about forgiveness, so it’s hard to answer in a line or two. [tweetable]Forgiveness is difficult–it just is![/tweetable] It’s a natural response to avoid more pain, rather than confronting it, breathing right into it, which is how forgiveness takes place. For you to forgive something awful I did to you means that you have to re-experience the pain, in your heart and gut. That’s so brave. When we are taught to move on with our lives “forgive and forget” is a very nice thought but, in my experience, it does not lead to deep healing.
RNS: What do you say to readers who feel they’ve been wronged so badly they can’t or won’t offer forgiveness?
AL: I’d say that I sure understand. But the willingness to change in any real way usually comes from the pain of not forgiving. You have to ask yourself, “Would I rather be right or happy?” [tweetable]Life is incredibly short, and a lack of forgiveness makes us toxic.[/tweetable] So we lurch along for awhile in this toxic state, until we are desperate for restoration and mental health and a new Life.
RNS: You’re talking about small victories but some people would say their lives feel mostly made up of defeats. Any encouragement for the serial failure?
AL: I don’t know people who would say that, as most of the people I know are people who’ve recovered from alcoholism or eating disorders. So they know they’ve had a victory.
RNS: You draw lessons about this from an experience where you joined Match.com as a grandmother. Why did you do that and what did you learn?
AL: It took an essay to capture all that, but the main thing is simple: I learned how to date. I learned how to meet men, have a cup of coffee, plan to meet again, or not, deal with my feelings of attraction, aversion, rejection, excitement—the whole enchilada.
RNS: You talk about receiving the “Ham of God.” Explain.
AL: This is my favorite essay in the whole book, and I don’t want to wreck the story for anyone!
RNS: You seem to have a knack for making conservative Christians uncomfortable. Which ideas in this book do you expect will make more conservative readers squirm in their seats?
AL: There are a couple of old pieces about the horrible pain of watching Bush and Cheney lead this country into an immoral war, based totally on lies and fear-mongering, that will take this country and world decades to bounce back from. Also, I express a belief that God adores and is there for each and every one of us, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, straight, gay—and this tends to make fundamentalists apoplectic. Oh well.