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Ordinary Life-Anne Lamott and the Secret of a Happy Marriage
10/28/2008 - Jan  Bridgeford-Smith

This is why I threw a book at my husband, Roger, while he was reading Journal for Preachers.


I was sitting on the ocean front balcony of the hotel room where we had come to celebrate our anniversary, reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird The problem with reading books by writers about how to write is that they already write and there you are-reading and absorbing and feeling worse than when you opened the book.  Why?  Because you’re reading about what you want to do by someone who is doing it and you see why they have been successful at doing what you want and you have been a loser. 


Okay maybe not a complete a loser but pretty close.  Thinking about being a loser, reminded me of a radio story about a woman who got published in Real Simple Magazine for answering a question that plagues everyone who is married or single-What is the secret of a good marriage?  Hey, I could write an interesting paragraph or two on that topic.  Did a reader just write a wonderful answer to that question and bingo! Published?  Is this what I’m up against in the competition for ink space? Doomed, I’m doomed.


After allowing these whiney thoughts to gallop around in my brain for a few minutes, I continued reading. Annie’s so skilled and funny (I wonder if she minds that I call her Annie instead of Anne?).  With envy creeping over me like a poisonous rash, my mind skittered off again on a snarl of tangential paths.  Oh! I want to be Annie.  I long to trade places with Annie. 


I wonder if Roger would like being married to Annie.  I bet he thinks it would be way cool to be involved with a real writer.  Roger probably thinks she would be oh-so interesting, oh-so smart, oh-so witty.  Annie I hope you’re prepared for his snoring because that sound is a real humdinger.  I once wrote a poem about the snoring. Maybe I’ll share it with you, Annie, right after Roger divorces me and marries you.


Sure, that’s it, all so sordid and predictable. Roger goes to an Anne Lamott book event. He invites her out for coffee so they can discuss her latest work and religion and spiritual issues and relationships and famous authors. They’ll fall for each other over lattes and brioche with hummus.  He’ll come home a changed man. I’ll be brave and cheerful even though I suspect an affair.  He’ll start going on longer and longer “spiritual retreats” in places like San Francisco and Omaha and New York City, neglecting his duties as a pastor. I’ll start getting strange, funny postcards from different motels that he’s at while “strengthening his prayer life”.


Then, one day in the grocery line my worst fear stares at me--Annie and Roger on the cover of People Magazine announcing their love like Madonna and A-Rod. On the other hand, if I’m divorced I might be a much better writer than I am now because I’ll have something totally personal and tragic and interesting to write about.

Oooooooh yes, this could be BIG.  Divorce could be a great career move.


Wait a minute, Miss Loser No-Writer, Anne Lamott will have your husband, she’ll still be a famous author and you could end up laboring for months on a book about the whole squalid affair that even if it gets published no one will buy because everyone knows and loves Anne Lamott but no one knows you.


Of course, that’s what will happen—I’ll be alone, broke and shuffling toward my golden years depressed and still unpublished. My children will forget me because they’ll love being around Annie since she’s so creative, funny and cool.  How could a pastor be so deceptive?  Men can’t be trusted…ever…period…especially men that make their living using words!”


I left the balcony taking Bird by Bird with me.  Roger was in the sitting room quietly reading his journal, enjoying a late afternoon cocktail.  That did it.  I looked at his serene face, hurled the book and growled, “Don’t think for one minute I’m going to divorce you so you can marry a famous author.” 


Missing his head and drink, the book landed harmlessly with a paperback thud, further evidence of my ineptness. Roger got up from his chair, calmly I thought for someone who just seconds before escaped head trauma.  He went to the small, room refrigerator, got out the Pinot Grigio, poured a glass, handed it to me and calmly asked, “Have you been reading Anne Lamott again?”  


Now, that’s the secret of a happy marriage. A partner who can read your mind and--though you have just mentally divorced him, blamed him for the break-up and tried to inflict bodily harm on him for his virtual transgressions--loves you anyway. Thanks, Annie, for not breaking-up my marriage even if you haven’t improved my writing.

10 Comments From Other Members
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10/28/2008 Michele Moore from New Port Richey FL wrote:
Jan, you made me laugh out loud. Thank you!!! I do the very same thing. My mind begins to wander down one rabbit trail and before long life as we know it has ceased to exist! Delightful! How could Roger EVER leave you for a trollop like Annie?
10/28/2008 CJ Golden from Newtown CT wrote:
I'm totally in love with Anne Lamott. My husband had better be careful for I'd be the one to run away with her if the chance arrived. Of course, my taste doesn't usually swing that way. Don't know about Anne. But she sure is compelling, intriguing and, oh, so great at her craft. Shame that merely reading her books doesn't translate into writting like she does.
10/28/2008 Jan Bridgeford-Smith from Newark NY wrote:
Anne Lamott is a treat! It's my mind I'm wondering about...I agree with you CJ, Anne is marvelous at her craft. Michele, I knew you would get the mind maze part of this! And you are so right...that Anne, what a trollop...that Roger, what a lucky guy. :)
10/29/2008 Suzanne Caplan from PA wrote:
The most liberating thing about being a writer is getting away with a certain amount of benign mental illness. It is expected and I try not to disappoint. My former fiancee used to explain me to his more mundane friends with "she's a writer, you know" I have revelled in this for years, come join me.
10/29/2008 Suzanne Caplan from PA wrote:
BTW, you should see what effect Natalie Goldbergs "Writing Down the Bones" has on me.
10/29/2008 Susan Terbay from Dayton OH wrote:
Oh Jan you have so made my day - thank you for your delightful way of writing a moment and touching so many. You also reminded me when a 'lover' left me for another and during our conversations about the ending of our relationship and his new 'love' and about how she ended a relationship herself because of the guy's bad habits. My 'lover' wanted both of us - I don't share very well! Anyway I just smiled and thought- well - does she know your bad habits - she will soon! (still smiling)
10/29/2008 Jan Bridgeford-Smith from Newark NY wrote:
Suzanne-I'll have to try Natalie's book. I started one by her on writing memoir and scared myself...hmmm. Your line about benign mental illness is on the mark-I'm honored to be in such great company! Susan-Aren't men a hoot? I'm convinced it's the result of testosterone bathed brains-I think it may be like a pickling solution. Sometimes, when I'm talking with a man, that's what happens to me-I see them as a big dill pickle with a mouth-talk about having to stifle a guffaw...or yawn.
10/29/2008 Mary Allan Mill from St. Petersburg FL wrote:
I am so relieved to know that being a bit unhinged is almost a prerequisite for a writer. I've been published here and abroad, so I've had that satisfaction. With my husbands it was usually, "You want him? You take him." But you really should keep your husband, Jan...he understands.
10/29/2008 Suzanne Caplan from PA wrote:
Jan, I have been to the Maui Writers Conference a number of times and have heard Natalie and Dorothy Allison and a number of brilliant writers. We are different, we are the people who need to know why things are the way they are. Like a third eye or an extra cortex. A gift and a burden.
10/29/2008 Jan Bridgeford-Smith from Newark NY wrote:
Mary-i suspect if anyone runs off, i will be the culprit-the good news is, i have all i can do to run around the corner...the idea of starting again with another human being as a partner is about as exciting to me as wearing tight high heels to a wedding reception...besides, now that my sisters in print have offered permission to be unhinged, my imagination will go far beyond where my body and running shoes could take me. Suzanne-Maui? Girl, I'd go there for a conference even if the presenters were seahorses!

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