In Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is the story of the woman mauled by a gorilla. “Pain,” she says. “You don’t know pain.” The “story” is a joke, actually, with the punchline, “He doesn’t write. He doesn’t call.” Annie tells it much better.
For me, I don’t need the whole telling, just the punchline. It’s the line I repeat to myself when I realize that I am taking someone’s abuse and coming back for more. Yes, I do that, and it’s good to have the gorilla hyperbole handy to help me resist.
Even better is to have my Bird by Bird handy to read Annie’s recasting of the moral:
This woman may get to wake up. And then she will have something to give. A song to sing. Maybe it won’t be a song exactly, but maybe just a little tune, a calliope tune, the tune of survival.
The tune of survival. May it crescendo.