Fucked Up Is The New Normal

17 Apr

“Each has to enter the nest made by the other imperfect bird.” – Rumi (inspiration for the title of Anne Lamott’s new novel Imperfect Birds)

Last week I went to a reading Anne Lamott did for her new novel, Imperfect Birds. I am a hyperactive note-taker and whenever I attend a class or lecture, I spend the whole time furiously scribbling down as much as I can.  But I decided that I was just going to enjoy Anne Lamott’s talk and sit back and soak it in.  That I was going to be present and absorb what I needed to without compulsively trying to capture every detail.  But then she started talking.  She was explaining why she became a “reading girl,” and why people become voracious readers.  “At five-years-old,” she said, “we looked out at our terrifying families and started reading instead.”  This was such a great quote!  But since I wasn’t taking notes, I just kept replaying it in my head so I could remember it.  Which had the effect of taking me out of the present and away from her talk.  So I snuck a scrap of paper out of my bag and scrawled it down so I could go back to paying attention.  But she kept saying more and more wonderful and insightful things, so finally, I had to give in and be the nerdy-furiously-taking-notes-girl.  I took out my notebook and felt such relief at no longer resisting my true nature.  I proceeded to write down some of the things she said, and I wanted to share them here…

Anne said that we are all covering our real selves – we’re all a mess and sad and lonely.  And that you can read something and recognize yourself in it and feel less alone.  The title of her novel is based on the Rumi poem that says, “Each of us has to enter the nest made by the other imperfect bird,” and she talked about how we’re all imperfect and that’s all we can hope for – to be welcomed in by another imperfect being – but how that can provide immense comfort and be exactly what we need.  She openly admitted to her own flaws and struggles and was so REAL, that even as she talked about her anxieties, it was calming.

This is one of the biggest reasons why I write and read – to connect with others in shared messed-up-ness.  I not-so-secretly suspect that we’re all secretly really messed up (not necessarily in a bad way, just in the normal way that people are messed up simply because we’re human), but no one is copping to it!  Everyone is acting like they all have it all together, which is distressing because then we all look at everyone else’s have-it-all-together facades and feel like we are the only one who doesn’t.  So there’s the pain of not having it together, and then scooped on top of that is the pain/shame of feeling like everyone else does.  But the not-having-it-together pain would be so much more bearable if at least we knew that we were all in it together.  I love reading books or essays or blogs where the writer cops to their vulnerabilities and the places where they are falling apart, and how I feel more understood and less alone as a result.  In my writing, I strive to expose the places where I am vulnerable and falling apart.  And I try to do this in life, too, although that can be a bit more challenging with actual people actually in front of you and staring back at you.

In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions About Writing and Life, Anne Lamott writes, “…good writing is about telling the truth.”  The truth is strong  and clear and cuts through all the bullshit, and we know it when we read it.  Telling the truth in writing, and reading someone else’s truth, can give us the courage to tell the truth in our lives.  There is such a frenetic energy around hiding the truth, around trying to pretend that you have it all together, around creating and maintaining a facade.  Once you let all this go, the truth can wash in, bringing calm and serenity.  The truth is, there is no Normal; there is no one person who has it all together, who has everything all figured out, who never feels fucked up and sad and lonely.  We’re all imperfect birds living in our imperfect nests.  And the more we can tell the truth about who we really are, the less sad and lonely we will be, and the more we will realize that fucked up is the new normal, and imperfect is absolutely perfect.

6 Responses to “Fucked Up Is The New Normal”

  1. Eleanor April 21, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    right on, jen!

  2. Nikki C April 28, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    Great post, Jen! I just read Anne’s interview in Writer’s Digest this past weekend. It really is a great inspiration to know that for the most part us creative types are pretty fragile individuals on the inside and our art(work)should reflect the struggle. That’s something we can all relate with! I haven’t read Bird by Bird but I instantly put it on hold at the library and am awaiting it’s arrival. Keep sharing! ~ Nikki


  3. Amanda June 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    Great post… I have been sitting here skimming through your blog(s) for the last couple hours! Yikes, I need to get some work done! Anyway, it’s crazy that this made me realize that I probably started reading so much when I was young because it took me other places! I still like to pick up some good fiction when I am anxious because I feel removed from whatever/whoever is on my mind but also a little less “different”… Awesome blog(s)– you are a truly gifted writer!

  4. Jennifer Garam June 3, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    Thanks so much Amanda, I’m so happy to hear you enjoy them!

  5. fearofwriting October 28, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    I came here straight from Twitter, after seeing @writeouschick on someone else’s Twitter stream. With such a smart, sassy Twitter ID, I just HAD to follow you – and felt like I was on an adventure. But as soon as I got to your Twitter page I started doing that familiar “blowing the image all out of proportion to myself” deal and feeling like a loser.

    (Which exactly proves your points about how we’re all sad and lonely but our worldly images belie that and keep us from connecting with others on a deeper level.)

    Fortunately, your Twitter bio kept me going. Being a recovering self-help addict myself, I resonated to the way you admit it right there in your bio.

    When I got to your blog, I panicked again. “Oh, no, she’s got the blog thing DOWN . . . and here I am still floundering.” But as I scrolled down your page, I came to exactly what I needed to hear right now. Thanks for being nerdy enough to scribble notes furiously that supposedly took you out of the moment. But how could that really be true? Because your post about what you learned has me so IN the moment; smiling hugely as I type this and feeling kindred with you and the others here. If that isn’t totally and utterly writeous (and in the moment), I don’t know what else is! ;~D

    ~ Milli

  6. Jennifer Garam November 10, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Hi Milli! Thanks so much for your lovely comment! So great to connect with you on Twitter and in the blogosphere! xoxo

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