Anne Lamott on coping with “existential exhaustion,” from the healing power of Target to forgiveness

Mary Elizabeth William in Salon:

“That’s really all I write about, is hope and despair,” says Anne Lamott. Clearly, she was born into the era she was meant for. The bestselling author of durable classics like “Bird by Bird” and “Operating Instructions” is back once more with a new book, a new(ish) marriage and very much the same curiosity, humanity and sense of humor that been her brand for nearly 30 years. “Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage” considers friendship, forgiveness, aging and the collective “existential exhaustion” that haunts us. Salon spoke to Lamott recently about what’s changed since she wrote prophetically about “stockpiling for the apocalypse,” and finding grace in a big box store run.

Now it is coming out into the world when we are one year into this very strange and deeply sad time. How do you approach this book in particular now? 

…I’ve just been enraged since February of 2020, when the first cases surfaced and it was clearly not going to be addressed, even recognized, like the U.S. recognizes nations. We weren’t going to recognize it as a reality and there was going to be no real help. There was only going to be propaganda. I’ve been so angry for so long. But I’ll tell you I’m less angry this year. I am a lot less angry.

What’s that great line of Martin Luther King’s? Don’t let them get you to hate them. Even though I did hate them and kept going into that rabbit hole all through 2020, I kept remembering that line, and how it really destroys your center of gravity. It destroys yourself. I do have an inner Donald Trump, this petty, narcissistic blowhard, but to hate him took away my mostly “me” self, which is really decent and loving and caring, and mostly compassionate and mostly tenderhearted.

When I go into the hate, it’s like this cold sheet metal heart that I operate from and then I’m of no good to anyone. Probably every book I’ve written has had a great sorrow in it. My dad, and then my friend Pammy in “Operating Instructions,” I’ve just been a person who’s had a lot of death in her life and also I’m a person who doesn’t run from people when they are experiencing death. My best friend’s child just died. He was 23. She’s who said she had to keep changing the goalposts on “okay.” All of the books have been about that mixed grill, and that it’s devastating to be here on earth and to have had children and to not be able to save them from really much of anything.

More here.