Dec 20

Spirituality Quotes: Anne Lamott Books

Spirituality is the focus on many of Anne Lamott‘s books, which differ in that way from such works of hers as Bird By Bird (see this previous post as well as this one on perfectionism).

The following are selected spirituality quotes from her writings, ordered here chronologically.

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (1999)

Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (2005)

I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.

Grace  (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (2007)

Sometimes grace works like water wings when you feel you are sinking.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (2012)

People always told me, “You’ve got to get a thicker skin,” like now they might say, jovially, “Let go and let God.” Believe me, if I could, I would, and in the meantime I feel like stabbing you in the forehead.

 Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair (2013)

Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace (2014)

The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends. They will ruin everything for you. First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can. They ruin your multitasking high, the bath of agitation, rumination, and judgment you wallow in, without the decency to come out and just say anything. They bust you by being grateful for the day, while you are obsessed with how thin your lashes have become and how wide your bottom.

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy (2017)

Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. It involves absolving the unabsolvable, forgiving the unforgivable. Mercy brings us to the miracle of apology, given and accepted, to unashamed humility when we have erred or forgotten.

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope (2018)

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage (2021)

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.

Dec 14

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

“People suffer,” states the first line of a seminal work on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) by psychologist Steven C. Hayes and Spencer Smith.

Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy advocates a scientifically based treatment approach that “is not about fighting your pain; it’s about developing a willingness to embrace every experience life has to offer. It’s not about resisting your emotions; it’s about feeling them completely and yet not turning your choices over to them. ACT offers you a path out of suffering by helping you choose to live your life based on what matters to you most.”

Emphasis is placed on such factors as language as a cause of suffering, the trap of avoidance, learning to accept pain, practicing mindfulness, being in the present, and recognizing your values.

Although seemingly related to various types of cognitive behavioral therapy, ACT is actually quite different. Instead of working on changing one’s damaging thoughts, the ACT follower is working on embracing them to a certain extent.

Adherents of ACT say that FEAR is what causes many of our problems.

  • Fusion with your thoughts
  • Evaluation of experience
  • Avoidance of your experience
  • Reason-giving for your behavior

The ACT treatment model involves the following steps:

  • Accept your reactions and be present
  • Choose a valued direction
  • Take action

ACT, Hayes believes, is helpful for a wide variety of problems, including anxiety and depression, substance abuse, and physical health concerns. In fact, how he learned to deal with his own past panic disorder influenced many of the theories underlying ACT.

The video below is meant to be a metaphor illustrating some concepts of ACT found in Get Out of Your Mind.

Russ Harris‘s workbook ACT Made Simple came a little later, and he’s been given many kudos for making this therapy approach more accessible.

Other pertinent books by Harris include the 2008 The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living (A Guide to ACT), its counterpart called The Illustrated Happiness Trap, Getting Unstuck in ACT (2013), and ACT with Love: Stop Struggling, Reconcile Differences, and Strengthen Your Relationship with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

The following are selected quotes from The Happiness Trap and ACT with Love:

A = Accept your thoughts and feelings and be present. C = Connect with your values. T = Take effective action.

Psychological flexibility is the ability to adapt to a situation with awareness, openness, and focus and to take effective action, guided by your values.

Mindfulness + Values + Action = Psychological Flexibility.

Stop trying to control how you feel, and instead take control of what you do.

Develop the courage to solve those problems that can be solved, the serenity to accept those problems that can’t be solved, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Harris also offers many free resources (worksheets, handouts, and book chapters) on his website.

Dec 07

Chronic Illness: Writings About Coping

Chronic illness is the topic of three important works of writing by three different women.

I. Esmé Weijun Wang’s article “Chronic Uncertainty: Lessons for a global pandemic, from a permanently sick person” (The Cut).

Wang has suffered with chronic illness since 2013. “I half-joke,” says the writer, “that I’ve been preparing for a moment like this for years — remaining at home, in bed, for days or weeks at a time was my way of being. Often, I wouldn’t see my friends for months.”

Selected quote: “In the worst times, we can try to find stability in the smallest things. My therapist once advised me to search my body, when I was experiencing chronic pain, from head to toe. I was to look for one inch that was not hurting and focus on that.”

II. Porochista Khakpour‘s Sick: A Memoir (2018)

Sick is largely about the author’s many years of struggle to get appropriate diagnosis and treatment for chronic Lyme disease, otherwise known as Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS).

But there’s also so much more than chronic Lyme. “I have been sick my whole life. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t in some sort of physical or mental pain, but usually both” (Nicole Clark, Vice).

Lidija Haas, New Yorker:

When doctors disbelieve her, or when her relapses reliably ‘coincide with global turmoil,’ she wonders whether her symptoms might indeed be psychosomatic, some form of P.T.S.D.; after she becomes addicted to the pills prescribed to treat her insomnia, she seems open to the suggestion that maybe her addiction is the main source of her problems. She cheerfully lists the ways in which she damages her own health, including by smoking cigarettes every day during the writing of her book.

A widely applauded memoir without a particularly uplifting ending, “…Sick is a bruising reminder and subtle revelation,” states Kiese Laymon, “that the lines between a sick human being and a sick nation are often not lines at all. The book boldly asserts that a nation wholly disinterested in what really constitutes ‘health’ will never tend the bodily and emotional needs of its sick and vulnerable.”

To read an excerpt, titled “Does My Disease Need a Name?,” click on this HuffPost link.

III. Sarah Ramey‘s The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness: A Memoir (2020)

From her publisher: “The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness is a memoir with a mission: to help the millions of (mostly) women who suffer from unnamed or misunderstood conditions–autoimmune illnesses, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic Lyme disease, chronic pain, and many more.” She calls her community WOMIs, standing for women with mysterious illnesses.

The eventual diagnosis of her own chronic illness: complex regional pain syndrome.

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, states in her interview with Ramey, “There’s a phrase you use — ‘the marginalization of mystery illness.’ It becomes, ‘We can’t figure it out, so you’re wrong. The disappointment is not on us, it’s on you.’

Nov 30

Gay Fatherhood Films: Stream at Home

Gay portrayed in the following “oldies” you can stream at home. (Check with Amazon Prime, among other sources.)

I. In the Family (2012)

From IMDB about Patrick Wang‘s In the Family:

In the town of Martin, Tennessee, Chip Hines, a precocious six year old, has only known life with his two dads, Cody and Joey. And a good life it is. When Cody dies suddenly in a car accident, Joey and Chip struggle to find their footing again. Just as they begin to, Cody’s will reveals that he named his sister as Chip’s guardian. The years of Joey’s acceptance into the family unravel as Chip is taken away from him. In his now solitary home life, Joey searches for a solution. The law is not on his side, but friends are. Armed with their comfort and inspired by memories of Cody, Joey finds a path to peace with the family and closer to his son.

In most of the following unusual trailer, while seeing the various characters interact, what we hear is a voiceover from Joey’s new lawyer:

Roger Ebert: “What a courageous first feature this is, a film that sidesteps shopworn stereotypes and tells a quiet, firm, deeply humanist story about doing the right thing. It is a film that avoids any message or statement and simply shows us, with infinite sympathy, how the life of a completely original character can help us lead our own.”

II. Any Day Now (2012)

Any Day Now, inspired by real events involving gay fatherhood, was written by director Travis Fine and George Arthur Bloom. From the website’s description:

Winner of 10 Audience Awards at film festivals around the country…ANY DAY NOW is a powerful tale of love, acceptance and family. When a teenager with Down syndrome (Isaac Leyva) is abandoned by his mother, a gay couple (Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt) takes him in and becomes the loving family he’s never had. But when their unconventional living arrangement is discovered by authorities, the men are forced to fight a biased legal system to save the life of the child they have come to love as their own.

Selected Reviews

Frank ScheckHollywood Reporter: “Powerful! Superb! Depictions of custody battles have become a cinematic staple, but few register with the heartfelt emotion of Any Day Now.”

Ella Taylor, NPR:

It would take a heart of stone — or zero tolerance for soap — to resist Any Day Now, a full-throttle weepie about a West Hollywood gay couple trying to adopt a neglected boy with Down syndrome.

Melissa AndersonVillage Voice:

Straining for ‘teachable moments,’ the film has one noteworthy, unintentional function: to remind us that though LGBT rights are continually evolving, the laws of kitsch remain immutable.

So…Kitschy or not so kitschy? Here’s the trailer:

III. Beginners (2011)

The semi-autobiographical (written and directed by Mike Mills) and award-winning dramedy Beginners is the sweet story of a 38-year-old man named Oliver (Ewan McGregor) who’s dealing with both the recent death of his father (Christopher Plummer in a highly praised performance) and the difficulties of finding romantic love that lasts.


  • Oliver gets a fresh chance to try romance again when, dressed as a Freud lookalike at a costume party, he meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent), who becomes his mock “patient.”
  • Oliver takes in Arthur, his father’s adorable Jack Russell terrier who’s enchantingly capable of revealing some of his thoughts to us.
  • Hal, Oliver’s dad, is seen in flashbacks coming out as gay at the age of 75, after his wife has died. A restart of sorts for both him and his son.

Below, the trailer:

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: “Mike Mills’s marvelously inventive romantic comedy Beginners is pickled in sadness, loss, and the belief that humans (especially when they mate) are stunted by their parents’ buried secrets, their own genetic makeup, and our sometimes-sociopathic social norms.”

Nov 22

Thanksgiving Movie Choices: Three Oldies

The following are three Thanksgiving movie choices (to watch at home)—oldies but reliably good.

I. Pieces of April

The low-budget Pieces of April (2003) features April Burns (Katie Holmes), a 21-year-old with a new (African-American) boyfriend. She’s not only the “black sheep” of her white suburban family but also estranged from them. The film’s tagline: She’s the one in every family.

April tries to explain her place in the family to a couple of her new neighbors:

April: I’m the first pancake.
Evette: What do you mean?
Eugene: She’s the one you’re supposed to throw out.

Knowing that her mom is receiving treatment for late-stage breast cancer, April decides to ask her family to her little apartment—that happens to be in a poor neighborhood of New York—for Thanksgiving. Her parents (Oliver Platt and Patricia Clarkson), along with her brother, sister, and maternal grandmother drive from Pennsylvania, all the while regarding the pending reunion with suspicion and skepticism.

View the trailer below:

Film critic Roger Ebert: “‘Pieces of April’ has a lot of joy and quirkiness; it’s well-intentioned in its screwy way, with flashes of human insight, and actors who can take a moment and make it glow.”

II. Home for the Holidays

In Home for the Holidays (1995) adult daughter Claudia (Holly Hunter) comes home to a dysfunctional Thanksgiving gathering. Among the other guests are her brother Tommy (Robert Downey, Jr.) who’s with an apparently new boyfriend (Dylan McDermott), her conservative sister, a nutty aunt, and an old male friend her mom Adele (Anne Bancroft) wants her to get to know again.

Claudia on the true meaning of this holiday: “Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That’s what the day’s supposed to be all about, right? Torture.”

Directed by Jodie Foster, the film’s screenplay is adapted by W.D. Richter from Chris Radant‘s short story. Here’s the Home for the Holidays trailer:

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “Neither caustic nor sentimental, it’s a film that maybe half the people on Earth have at one time considered writing.” “…What Foster and Richter have created here is a film that understands the reality expressed by Robert Frost when he wrote, ‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in’.”

III. What’s Cooking?

The tagline of What’s Cooking? (2000): Thanksgiving. A celebration of food, tradition and relative insanity.

What’s Cooking? may best be seen on a full stomach. In this Thanksgiving movie four different ethnically diverse households in a Los Angeles neighborhood are celebrating. Represented in the film are Vietnamese, Latino, Jewish, and African American families.

Witness below:

As in Home for the Holidays, sexual orientation figures into the mix along with other themes of diversity and intergenerational struggles. Kyra Sedgwick plays a lesbian who’s with her lover (Julianna Margulies) on the holiday.

Critic Roger Ebert: “What’s strange is the spell the movie weaves. By its end, there is actually a sort of tingle of pleasure in seeing how this Thanksgiving ends, and how its stories are resolved….Here are four families that have, in one way or another, started peace talks.”