I have not, I must admit, recently walked with a friend who is close to death, but I could relate to what Lamott was saying. Lately I have been wallowing a bit too much in self-pity, for no reason whatsoever except perhaps because I have completed my novel and although I'm working on the next, I definitely feel a sense of loss. And, I must admit, although I never started on this journey for the accolades, (and most obviously not for the money) there are moments when I wish that everyone I meet at the coffee shop, or passing by on the street would just say to me: "Hey, I heard you wrote another book. Congratulations," even if they have never read any of my work.
I was at a picnic a few weeks ago and something like this happened and I was amazed at how much it lifted my spirits. A man came up to me, someone I know through my children, and he told me he had read one of my novels: Ephemeral Summer, and he loved it. I was a bit shocked. It is a coming of age story and the target audience would be his college-age daughters. "Everyone in the family has read it," he told me, "We loved it."
I'd like to believe I'm not vain. But maybe I am. Or maybe these feelings I'm experiencing are meant to teach me something. How often I have neglected to tell someone that what they did or are doing is worthy: my friend who spent a year volunteering on a political campaign for a candidate I didn't plan to vote for; or another, who spent 6 months learning to become a yoga instructor. And then there is my friend who opened her own shop; and another friend who drove almost every weekend this past spring, over 11 hours in the car, one way, to watch her daughter play college ball. Finally, there are more than a few, who have had to sit by the side of their loved ones while they undergo treatments, trying to keep the faith. What dedication.
My own family members have started new jobs, struck out on their own, or started up support groups. Congratulating them, or even making some commentary on their hard work is something I think, I should remember to do, if for no other reason than because they are trying. They are living life the way it was meant to be lived: with purpose.