Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets
“But there was not such a day in school. No one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise, you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others, so no one will know that you weren’t there the day the instructions were passed out.” – Anne Lamott from Some Assembly Required
How often have you heard people say that they felt they weren’t there the day the instructions were given out? For me the most recent instance was yesterday. And I have sure felt it. From the most practical of skills (oh! if the door is sagging and won’t close you just tighten the hinges? Got it…) to the deeper wisdom of the advanced courses in the School of Life (that would be relationships).
I’ve surely thought that myself – “I wasn’t there the day the instruction manual was passed out” and I’ve even noticed that I am NOT unique in this regard. What I had NOT done was to tie that feeling to being a birthplace of compassion.
See? This is why I love Anne Lamott!
I should put this on my refrigerator and in my phone – maybe as an appointment with a reminder that goes off once a day:
“This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free.”
From October 2010 through February 2011 I found myself on a very unexpected trajectory. My beloved friend Becky was abruptly diagnosed with liver cancer and 111 days after the diagnosis, she died. Maybe you got the instruction manual on walking a 46-year-old friend Home, but I did not. Neither did her partner, her mom and sister, her best friends, or the kids in her daycare, Huggy House. We made it up as we went along. I can’t speak for the others, but I know for me that amidst the shock and grief, I found a deep wellspring of purpose, love, compassion, and, oddly, joy. No, I was not joyous about losing an amazing woman. Or watching those even closer to her than I suffer so intensely. Of course not. But the joy in service, the joy in compassion and love, the joy in being fully present to each moment – even the truly awful ones – that joy was very real and abiding.
It is when we give that we truly receive. It is when I can step outside of my insane, selfish I-want-what-I-want-when-I-want-it Ego and really get that we are all one and that the Universe is held together with love – and I can be part of the whole teeming, wild stir fry of life that I feel most alive (well, that is tied with riding my motorcycle – I’m committed to telling you the truth).
How about you? Do you feel like you were missing school the day they gave out the Life Instruction Book? And what do you make of this idea of showing up, caring, helping and serving being the only true, predictable way to lasting happiness? I really want to know!
And — buy Some Assembly Required. You’re gonna love it!