Tag Archives: Imperfect Birds

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.