I first read Anne Lamott as a 19-year-old. Leaving my first “real” job as a community reporter at a small-town daily newspaper for a big city and work at a major paper, I received her Bird by bird as a going-away present.
I thoroughly enjoyed that little book of instructions on life and writing. Lamott’s advice to just take each new project “bird by bird,” step by step, has no doubt resonated in my mind dozens of times and kept me sane in hectic times. Lamott’s work has held a special place in my heart these 15 years since. While I haven’t sought her out, her name and essays in various magazines have greeted me with warmth and familiarity from time to time.
Lamott’s piece on wonder in Good Housekeeping recently was especially poignant since I have been cultivating my own sense of wonder in the last few years.
Lamott says, “‘Wow’ means we are not dulled to wonder.” I know that I go dull at times, worn down by my frenetic life. I have to quell my internal desire for absolutism and certainty, two urges that leave me too often fearful and anxious. Lamott acknowledges this tendency when she writes, “It is so much more comfortable to think that we know what it all means, what to expect, and how it all hangs together.”
I don’t like surprises, disorder or the unknowable. I yearn for control and security. I like to believe that having the data gives me the power.
Lamott reminds me that the immense, the incredible, the indescribable is also pretty cool. The things that make us say “wow” slow us down and give us perspective on what really matters.
When I become so focused on knowing and calculating, I lose sight of my true priorities and the joy in simple moments. If all is predictable and safe, what is wondrous? If I am in charge, where is God’s place in my life?
The wonder of wow recharges me while also settling me. Thanks to Lamott for reminding me to pay attention to the beauty and the specialness all around me. Thanks to Lamott helping me to find my wow.