Paul L. Caron

Sunday, May 19, 2024

WaPo Op-Ed: Lifelong Lessons In Coping With Fear And Humiliation

Washington Post Op-Ed:  Lifelong Lessons in Coping With Fear and Humiliation, by Anne Lamott (Author, Somehow: Thoughts on Love (2024)):

Somehow 2As a woman of faith and cranky optimism, I am usually afraid of only a dozen or so things at any given time, which is a major improvement since childhood. I was the single most scared child on Earth in the 1950s. For instance, I was habitually afraid of being murdered while I slept, so I’d practice looking dead. Then the murderer would peek in my room and think, Hmmm, no one to kill in here; the little girl is already dead.

I don’t do that anymore (very often).

Now I am mostly afraid of my son and grandchild dying before me, beside which all other fears pale. I do worry about falling and breaking my hip. Gravity is a killer. I am, as we speak, on a long airplane flight, hearing a loud mechanical rattle, such as what a wing might make as it works itself off toward freedom. Also, I fear inheriting my mother’s Alzheimer’s, my father’s brain cancer, snakes, the election and the guy behind me coughing. ...

They say that babies are born cute so that their fathers won’t eat them, and I think a similar thing takes place when we age. As we look older and somewhat more frail, we have a last chance to coax forth compassion and kindness from the world. As we surrender to the reality that, as we age, most of the systems of body and mind start to go on the fritz, we invite humility into our lives. There is no greater strength.

I am definitely running out of time, and I have (mostly) made peace with that.

When I was a child, one of the most important events of the year was the county fair. My friends and I would go on all the carnival rides and eat all the carnival food. But around 10 p.m., someone would notice the time. We’d have only an hour until our parents arrived. Suddenly we had a new clarity of purpose. We stopped wanting to ride the Gravitron or eat more cotton candy. We wanted to get one more funnel cake and then head for the Ferris wheel. This is what aging feels like. You suddenly realize you’ve got one hour left at the fair, and you get serious about how you are going to live. ...

You get away with this manic, burdened way of living for the first two-thirds of life, but as you transition to the third third, you start to wonder whether this pattern argues a wasted life. You slow down. You start to actually be here for your life. What a concept.

After all the losses, disappointments and deaths that every older person has experienced, we usually discover how life miraculously goes on, reshapes itself toward homeostasis and more grace than we could have imagined. We learn to look beyond our dire imaginings and trust that this miracle might just happen again. I once heard someone say that hope is faith with a track record. ...

Age and time usually offer us the gift of learning to take ourselves a lot less seriously. We smile ruefully at ourselves more often. And laughter is the Dippity-Do of the spiritual life, jiggly at first and then holding us firmly. The wiggle and jiggle play with your toxic internal attempts to control life, loosening the membrane between you and the moment, you and the ocean, you and your armored intellectual head; you and me. The hold held me like a rock.

Other op-eds by Anne Lamott:

Editor's Note:  If you would like to receive a weekly email each Sunday with links to the faith posts on TaxProf Blog, email me here.

Faith, Legal Education | Permalink