Wednesday, September 28, 2005

She Got to Me.

I've heard Philip Yancey and fellow blogger Ninjanun rave about her, but until just now I passed on giving Annie Lamott a try. I read some of her Salon commentary and her blog at TPM Cafe, and it struck me as just a left-wing version of the same kind of Christian punditry that we get from right-wingers Chuck Colson, David Limbaugh, or Cal Thomas. Don't take my word for it, just go read for yourself. More stupid-Bush-lied-blood for oil-Halliburton vitriole that I can get from just about any left-of-center politics blog or the opinion page of 95% of U.S. newspapers.

But I knew, from Yancey in particular, that she had a real Christian testimony. Given that one of the areas of growth that I have taken on in my life is to try better to understand my brothers and sisters on the Christian left, I decided to just grow a thick skin and let the bad-stupid-evil-Bush stuff just roll off me.

So, flush with book credits from Audible.com I downloaded Annie's latest non-fiction work, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Right off the start she began laying into Bush. Groan.

Fortunately it didn't last long and she settled into a narrative that was real to me in a way that I could truly relate to. Honest, heartfelt, vulnerable, loving... I felt as if I was having a conversation with a woman from my own congregation. She could have been in the car with me, just sharing from her soul. Yes, I thought, this is what Yancey was talking about. I was moved as she wrote about her only son, his struggle to find his father, and the death of her invalid mother. And then she started talking about Sadie, her beloved labrador retriever.

Now, let me digress for a second here. I've been writing about the Spider lately (how I refer to a depressive episode), and one of the things that I've noted is that when the spider has lingered for several days and/or I am going through a particularly tough episode, I get... well, weepy. No other way to put it. I just get rubbed raw, and the junk comes up.

This makes me angry too. Nothing like being angry and weepy at the same time. This is when my language--which I try to keep under wraps--goes hogwild.

So, when Annie described the loss from lymphoma of her 13-year-old pooch Sadie, of course I immediately recalled having to put down Gigi, our beloved golden retriever, my constant companion when I lived in the hills above Hollywood, with the family since Missy was two, a dog of such a gentle spirit and giver of such joy. I remembered the reluctant family decision, when she lost her bladder control, eyesight and hearing, to end her discomfort... being in the vet's office, my arms wrapped around her neck as the vet inserted the syringe with the life-ending brew, apologizing to her for bringing it all to an end, reduced to a blubbering fool in front of my teenage daughter.

And then I started swearing and weeping at the same time.

"Sh**! F***! I miss you... g****mnit! Sh**!... Aw, f***!"

So Annie got to me, despite the (frankly, kind of embarassing) anti-Bush talk. On Interstate 15 on the way to a business meeting in Las Vegas, I might add. Blowing snot out of my nose while I made sure not to run off the road.

Some say it's good writing, and I'd have to agree... but more than that, it's a woman's ability to be real and touch the heart of another believer in a chamber we share in common. Well done, and much recommended.

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