Need hope? Anne Lamott ditches despair, redirects focus in new book

WASHINGTON — Anne Lamott has a go-to fix for frozen or broken electronics — and if you’ve ever dialed an 800 number for technical assistance, chances are you’ve heard it.

“Let’s begin by unplugging it,” said Lamott, a New York Times best-selling novelist and nonfiction writer.

In her latest book, “Almost Everything: Notes on Hope,” Lamott shares the same advice with readers. Only this time, the recommendation isn’t for phones and computers. It’s for humans.

“It turns out that when I unplug from my telecommunications device, I feel better,” said Lamott, adding that even a cup of tea or a short walk can do wonders when things start to stall or shut down.

“That, to me, is just about the most important thing in the whole book: Everything works again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Throughout her career, Lamott, 64, has written about everything from parenting, to faith, to recovery (she is 32 years sober). Now, her 18th book hits on something everyone needs at one time or another: hope.

About a year ago, the author found herself “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of her own judgment, hatred and “victimized self-righteousness.” She could see it in others around her too, noting loved ones who felt “hopeless and doomed” by the current political climate and societal divisiveness.

“So I knew that if I changed me, if I found the tools that have always worked before to help lift me out of being immobilized and defeated, that this would be really great medicine to offer to everyone I love and to myself,” Lamott said.

A whole chapter in “Almost Everything” is dedicated to overcoming hate, which Lamott writes weighed her down and muddled her thinking. There’s also a section that focuses on food, where the author, who struggled with eating disorders into her 30s, takes an anti-diet stance on a topic that’s guided by societal norms, rather than nutrition and nourishment.

Lamott had a few working titles for the heartfelt, yet humorous, book before settling on “Almost Everything.” She wanted to call it “Doomed,” but thought too many people were already overcome by that feeling.

“Dearest” was another consideration, since a lot a lot of the advice in the book is directed at, and dedicated to, her 9-year-old grandson and her 15-year-old niece.

“I wanted them to know everything that I think is true, which is that everybody feels different and isolated and like a fraud,” Lamott said.

But she kept coming back to “Almost Everything.”

“I realized I could change, and that gave me a lot of hope,” Lamott said.

“Almost everything can give you hope if you realize that all truth is paradox, so that’s where the title came from.”

Lamott’s advice for friends, family and readers? Even when life feels messy, doomed or dark, things will get better if you just take a second to unplug, reflect and focus on the good.

“We’re going to be OK; we are OK,” Lamott said.

“What worked before will work again: community, faith, breath, short walks, dogs and cats. It will work. It’s working even as we speak.”

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