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Author Anne Lamott at 70: ‘I Know What Life Has to Offer’

The famed writer tells Julia Louis-Dreyfus about the aches and joys of her age and a life in recovery

spinner image Anne Lamott and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
(Left to right) Anne Lamott and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Amy Harrity/The New York Times/Redux; Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Despite all the physical pains she’s experiencing with age (her feet, her hips), best-selling novelist and essayist Anne Lamott says she feels 47 and trusts her “inside age” more than the physical. Nothing eludes her anymore.

“One of the things about being 70 is that everything has happened at least once,” she says on the latest episode of the Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus podcast. “By a certain age, we have all had unsurvivable losses, and I know how you come through them. I know what helps, and I know what doesn’t help.”

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Lamott has woven this sort of wisdom about addiction, life, love, loss and faith throughout her writing — seven novels, several best-selling nonfiction books and multiple collections of biographical essays. Dreyfus, 63, calls Lamott a sage who is “perfect for this show” — the award-winning podcast from Lemonada Media in which Dreyfus interviews notable women 70 and older. (Previous guests have included Debbie Allen and Sally Field.)

In the eighth episode of Season 2 of the podcast, Lamott shares her experience dating and marrying at 65; it was author Neal Allen’s profound spirituality and knowledge of inner critic work (a concept in psychology in which automatic negative thoughts can be quieted through therapy) that made her fall in love with him, she says — much different from the adrenaline and endorphin rush of falling in love in her 20s.

“I thought, I’ve been clean and sober 37 years and I don’t want to get stoned on anything anymore, except for maybe nature,” she said about deciding to take a slower approach to love. “And so we did. We got to know each other for a few weeks and it was very different, and it was really fun.”

Lamott has been transparent about her addiction and recovery journey, and many of the lessons she learned through Alcoholics Anonymous are what have informed her parenting, writing and spiritual paths. She says that as a “black-belt codependent” she’s had to learn to loosen the reins on her son Sam, 34, as he became a teen parent and faced a similar road in addiction recovery.

“Without my recovery program and a lot of therapy, I would be running alongside him on his hero’s journey with Capri-Sun and lip balm and sunscreen,” said Lamott. “That’s disrespectful and it injures him, and it injures me. It injures our children to try to control them.”

Lamott’s sobriety also brought new life into her writing. All New People, published in 1989, is the first novel she wrote sober, she told Dreyfus.

“I felt that it had come and was tugging on the sleeve of my sweater. And it was trusting me to get it right, finally, because I wasn’t drunk,” she said about the writing process for that book.

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Lamott tells Dreyfus that she learned to be comfortable with letting go of control — not only with her son and for her sobriety but also when caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s. And that loss of control has led to a more peaceful, quieter life that she’s come to enjoy.

“Before I got older, it’s like I had this cup, this chalice, and I ran around trying to get everybody’s overflow. Because I had such shaky self-esteem and such a raging ego,” she says. “As you get older, you stop running around trying to get other people’s leftovers, and you start letting your own cup be filled up with that that really hydrates and nurtures you, and fills your cup with love and memories.”

Episodes of the Wiser Than Me podcast are released every Wednesday. Season 2 will include conversations with iconic, award-winning women such as Julie Andrews, 88, and Gloria Steinem, 90. The podcast is available on all major platforms.​​

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