“Dusk, Night, Dawn”: Anne Lamott Copes Some More

“Here we are, older, scared, numb on some days, enraged on others, with even less trust than we had a year ago,” Lamott writes of such challenges as the pandemic and threats to American democracy and to the planet in general. “Where on earth do we start to get our world and joy and hope and our faith in life itself back?” Kirkus Reviews regarding Dusk, Night, Dawn by Anne Lamott

As Hope Reese points out in her Boston Globe review of Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage, a collection of short essays, this is the 19th book by bestselling author Anne Lamott. Several have been previously covered on this site (see here for one of the all-around best).

Reese describes Dusk, Night, Dawn as “digestible and uplifting, conceived and packaged for the chaotic times we are facing. Although touching on a few broadly exterior topics (climate change), it mainly focuses on the human interior, Lamott’s specialty, with a particular emphasis on forgiveness of ourselves and others, acceptance, and unconditional love.”

An important aspect of coping is knowing what we can control and what we can’t. More from Reese:

What life throws at us remains very much out of our hands, Lamott reminds us. She cites a study showing that around 80 percent of people believe they are in control, while the truth is that we are only in control about three percent to seven percent of the time.

Some of Lamott’s tips, from the Publisher Weekly‘s review:

Concentrating on being more intentional and focusing on small changes in one’s personal life, she writes, allows hope to grow and to serve as the first step to larger societal changes. Lamott argues that people too often block themselves from love through perfectionism, self-loathing, cowardice, and the fear of being vulnerable with others. She also weighs in on domestic matters, including problems both weighty (alcoholism) and trivial (how one’s new spouse does the laundry). To her credit, Lamott turns a pessimistic mindset on its head with the difficult question: ‘What holds when you and your family are walking toward extinction?’ Her answer: kindness, humility, words of love, and stories of when the worst seemed possible, but it turned out okay.

Below are some quotes I culled from Goodreads reviewers who’ve posted their favorites:

My comedian friend Duncan Trussel once said nine words onstage that changed me. He said that when you first meet him, you’re meeting his bodyguard. I wrote it down and later taped it to my bathroom mirror, where all truth resides at least briefly. His bodyguard is smart and charming, and keeps people out. Deep inside, his true self is very human, which is to say beautiful and kind of a mess –needy, insecure, judgmental, like most of us. It is full of love, warmth, and rage.

Even now we aren’t in charge of much, and it is exhausting to believe or pretend we are.

We rise up to help the best we can, and we summon humor to amend ghastly behavior and dismal ongoing reality.

Kindness anywhere gives me hope; it changes us.

Seeing is a form of pure being, unlike watching or looking at. Seems why we’re here.

I know the secret of life. If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things.

Some poet once wrote that we think we are drops in the ocean, but that we are really the ocean in drops, both minute and everything there is.

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