I read over 50 books every year, so I feel like I have some sort of authority on what’s good and what isn’t. So I’m going to share with you that one of my favorites from 2013 was this one: ‘Help, Thanks, Wow': The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott. Because I started 2013 looking to simplify. My mantra was two simple steps: identify the essential, eliminate the rest.
I prayed daily for a sign and some guidance and some patience and a pinch of all of the other virtues as well.
Soon I got an answer and I started by moving. I left my cushy midtown apartment and moved to a building in the ‘burbs that was much closer to my office, and much smaller.
Somewhere along the way I picked up Anne Lamott’s book and she told me that I could be big in prayer. That helped.
Anne says that there are only 3 essential prayers; ones where you ask for help, others where you are saying thanks, and lastly those where you are in awe.
It’s like a spiritual matryoshka — you know, a MATRYOSHKA, those Russian nesting dolls?
After I moved, I consoled my best friend as she said her goodbye to her father. This is something I’ve done before and it really just does not get any easier. There are no words to say to some one whose heart is breaking in front of you. All you can do is rely on your thereness and the belief that time heals all things.
But still, in the quiet times, I asked God wtf was He thinking putting me in this situation; and Lord, please just help me respond. Even if it’s with something terrible like, “dawg, you gave the shit out of that eulogy.”
“oh! and your hair looked fantastic projected on the jumbotron.”
I started to think that’s no way to talk to God. Anne disagrees. She says “God can handle honesty and prayer begins an honest conversation.”
Right. Most things do. Especially relationships…so 2013 was the year that my boyfriend and I had several of those – about family, about children, about goals and yes, about money. I realized that it’s hard not to be haunted by past choices when you are still paying for them. I remember crying at his kitchen table about my credit card debt. I was so embarrassed. It was like a scene from a bad informercial. My cards were literally cut up on the table and the scrap paper we were drawing equations on was tear-stained.
I remember him hugging me tightly and saying, “one day, you are going to look back and laugh at the fact that you were crying over such an insignificant amount of money.”
He was right. It was an insignificant amount in the grand scheme of things, and I do get a good chuckle about how I sat there with crocodile tears feeling defeated.
But it made me realize that I am so grateful that in my world, it’s not an anomaly to see good men being good men. Good boyfriends, good husbands, good sons, good brothers, good fathers, good friends, good employers and good employees. There is something so incredibly special about this kind of support. I’m so thankful for God’s grace.
“Grace,” Anne says, “can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.”
I needed that stamina as I traveled throughout the year from Salt Lake City, to Los Angeles, to Buenos Aires, to Mexico, to Thailand and many more places in between. I saw over and over that the world is so big and so beautiful and I am such a small but significant part of it.
The parallels between my life and the majestic structures were astonishing. As I stared at the temples in Bangkok and climbed the Uxmal pyramids outside of Mérida, I felt this sense of reverence for the way that ancient civilizations honored their miracles. Nothing beats travel’s capacity to inspire.
Naturally, I started asking myself, what are the African-American versions of this? Where are our “pyramids” here in the United States? And then I looked in the mirror and answered my own question: I am my parents’ pyramid. I am my ancestors’ temple. I stand on the shoulders of giants.
Anne says that “gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior”. It is with this acknowledgment that I enter into 2014 – ready for the challenges, ready to launch a new business, and ready to be a better me.
Happy New Year.