Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: book review Page 1 of 3

Art: A Personal Expression of Passion

Are all of us compelled to express ourselves in some way? Do we all have that drive inside us, that passion to tell our story? Is every art a personal expression of passion?

art

Where do I even begin with this book? I don’t usually read a book so quickly but this one, I just couldn’t put it down. It was tragic and painful to read. I got angry with one character, and then another. Situations and choices pissed me off, and then they were perfectly reasonable. It was life.

I have so many notes about this book. The role of Asher’s mother was one that stuck with me, probably because I am a mother and I can be quite judgmental, unintentionally, but I am aware of my bias, and I try to take it into account and keep my opinions of actual people to myself. It may not seem like it, but I try.

My opinion of her changed over the course of the book. My first thoughts were, “Woman! Really! You have a child to take care of!” as she mourned the loss of her brother to the point of being non-functional. Then, as she stood between her son and her husband, attempting to support both, my heart hurt for her. As wife who loves her husband as much as her children, I can’t imagine the pain she went through trying to support her child (that piece of her heart walking in the world outside her body) as he grew into an adult capable of caring for himself, all the while longing to love and support her husband while he writhed anguish, unable to understand his own son, needing his wife with him.

I couldn’t say that I understood Asher’s passion for his art, until I started thinking about why I write here and what it would be like to be brave enough to say what I really want to say in clear and well-defined terms, with nothing to hide behind. I want to. I yearn to, but I know I may hurt the people I love most, so I don’t. I spend my time skirting around the edges instead and a part of me continues to fade away into the background.

Asher had something to say with his art and Jacob Kahn, his mentor, knew where it would ultimately take him. He tried to warn him. I think Asher did understand and went there of his own initiative. How could he not? His father and grandfather followed their passion to rescue their people and build new schools. His mother and her brother followed theirs to understand and explain the Russian language, culture, and politics. They, in their own way, hurt some people to do what they believed they had to do. Why would he not do the same?

Sitting here, explaining the story to my son, I thought, the reason people get so angry about what you are saying, doing, or pursuing, is because they wish you to be what they believe you should be. Your parents want you to be this. Your community wants you to be that. Even your children have an opinion as to how they want you to be. They all think they know what’s best for you, but they don’t. It isn’t malicious or mean, it’s just human nature. We all believe our point of view is the one the world should share. We want safety and security for ourselves and the people around us. Chaos is a bitch. Stay in line!

But we all see things differently. We all have different perspectives and needs. It reminds me of the Secular Buddhism podcast I listened to recently, about the six blind men describing an elephant from what they feel with their hands. They’ll fight to the death over what they believe is the whole truth. The reality is that we can’t know other people’s reality or how the future will play out for any of us. The best we can do is be flexible and lovingly supportive of the people around us and let go of expectations.

I read some great articles at Wheaton College’s website but this is definitely one of those times when I wish I could sit with a group of people that have read this and hear their insight.

If you’d like to read my initial thoughts about this book, go back to My Name is Asher Lev: A New Read and take a look. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Minimalism in Things AND Relationship: Final Thoughts

“They focused less about things and more about our relationship with things and people.” That was my final thought as I closed Love People Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. I was not disappointed by this book about minimalism; it just wasn’t what I had been expecting and I’m glad it wasn’t.

Minimalism

I believe the relationships we have with things reflect our relationship with people. A house crammed with stuff you don’t need or use, collections, castaways, bins of old things you no longer need, but…what if?! Your relationships people are probably similar. Old friends and new, people you’ve outgrown, people you thought were going to be great that turned out to be not so much. We keep them in our lives through social media contacts, email lists, and Christmas cards at the very least.

The opposite is just as unhealthy. The truth is we need some things, and we need some people. Finding out what is needed and what is not and crafting a healthy relationship with those things and people, is the key. And it’s complicated.

Love People Use Things isn’t just a self-help book of how to get rid of your excess stuff, it’s a personal story about how they got where they are. They don’t give a list of rules. They help you find your own principles of minimalism and then actively use them to build a life of intention.

“Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less; they focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more creativity, more experiences, more contribution, more contentment, more freedom.”

I think of it as having space to move.

“…we feel threatened by the freedom of others. So we protect our hoard, we question anyone who approaches life differently, and we cling tightly to the status quo because we’re scared that someone else’s nontraditional lifestyle is an affront to our own. If that person is free, then we are not. But we forget that freedom is not a zero-sum game.”

I’ve experienced this from people since the day we decided not to send our kids to school. And I still experience it every time I explain to someone that my sons never went to school as children and still have jobs, travel the world, and go to college. My choices are mine alone. They are the way I wish to live. They give me the kind of freedom that I feel comfortable with. It is not a condemnation of your choices. We can both be living the “right” way.

“Allowing others’ expectations to shape our desires and behavior and, ultimately, our lives, will always lead to guilt and shame because we’ll never be able to live up to everyone else’s conflicting values.”

Best to decide what’s best for you, what you personally need, and run with it. You’ll never win the “making other people happy” game. I’ve opted out of that game for a long time now. I will admit, though, it’s very hard. I still long to be accepted and validated by others. It’s human nature. But I’d rather be alone than to not be myself. I’m still learning who I am, what I want, and how to present that to the world without the need for approval.

“Fear is the antithesis of freedom; it is, by definition, constricting.”

I’ve lived with my fear meter up on full my whole life. It’s exhausting.

“The pause is just as essential as the action.”

Minimalism can give us the time to pause. That’s where we think. It’s where we take in information, formulate plans, and make decisions. It’s where we look back and take stock, admire what we’ve done, how far we’ve come. Pause and look around.

“We’ll never ‘get there.’ Because there’s no there there.”

We’re born. We grow. We live. We die. There is no finished. There is no complete. There is just life.

“Never-ending growth says we must grow at any cost; intentional growth happens when we grow in accordance with our values.”

That goes for personal growth, gardens, businesses, non-profits, economy, and government. Having one house and keeping it nice for fifty years is fine. Having one child is ok. Doing one thing well for a long time is great. We don’t need to keep growing just to be growing.

“Just like it’s important to make conscious choices as a consumer, it’s equally important to create consciously. Otherwise, you’re just adding to the noise.”

I struggle with minimalism as a blogger. It’s also another reason why I gave up social media and only write here. If what I write is valuable, it will be looked for, found, and shared. Social media is just noise. This chapter on creativity was a bit of downer for me. I got reflective and judgmental on myself. I’d like to re-read and think on it more.

“The Three Relationships: Primary, Secondary, and Peripheral”

Life is a story. Who are your main characters, supporting roles, and walk-ons? And don’t forget all the extras! This made far more sense to me than family, friends, and strangers.

“Many of us navigate different roads toward joy, but even if we travel separate routes, it is important that we appreciate the journey – not only ours, but the journey of everyone we love. When we appreciate others for who they are, not who we want them to be, then, and only then, will we truly understand.”

Every. Single. One of us. (do not sing Devil Inside)

The last chapter on people was my favorite. Yes, minimalism relates to the people in your life. You don’t have to keep everyone you ever meet in your life. It validated a lot of my thinking and made me feel a little less alone in the world. Something I crave beyond anything is to be accepted by others, for someone to see me, the real me without any masks, and love me. This book made me realize, I DO have that from the main characters in my story. And those are the relationships that matter.

So, yes, I enjoyed reading this book. The Minimalists podcast has been a favorite of mine for several years. They inspire me with their peaceful discussions and the feeling of joy I sense between them. Like the few families I met years ago when I started my unschooling journey, I see them and wonder how they got there, listen closely, and adopt the pieces that work for my life, to get where I want to go.

Minimalism: No rules, just principles, self-reflection, and adaptation.

Want to go back and read my first thoughts on this book when I started? Click back to Love People Use Things: A New Read

Book vs Movie: Final Thoughts on The Stand

Book vs Movie, the only argument I’m willing to have these days, so I’ll jump in and give my two cents worth. In this instance, the contestants are many. The original 1978 book vs the Complete and Uncut 1990 version and/or the ’94 movie vs the ’20 movie.

book vs movie

When I closed the book, my first thought was, “Holy…wow…that was a long book!” Even though I’m a big fan of Stephen King, I don’t think it needed to be THAT long. There were plenty of drawn-out scenes that were awesome but didn’t move the story forward or add to character development. But I get it. If you loved the original, more is always better!

The Stand was originally published in 1978. In the introduction, King writes to the reader to warn them that there isn’t much of a change from the original, just about 400 pages that were taken out of his original manuscript at the request of the publisher because that many pages makes the book more expensive to print and therefore more costly at the retailer. They know people will only pay so much for entertainment, one of those economic principles I’m sure my son knows all the college words for.

In fact, the introduction was my favorite part of the book. I can’t help it, I enjoy King’s voice most when he writes directly to the reader. It’s why I cared so much for his memoir On Writing. Oh my…I just spent ten minutes looking up the post that I wrote about that book (because I LOVED IT so much) only to find that I never did. I read it in November of 2018, back before I regularly wrote about the books that I was devouring. Makes me think that maybe I should go back to my favorites and say a few words “in memoria,” starting with this one.

Anywho, back to The Stand!

Opening up The Stand was the beginning of a month-long relationship for me. Like I’ve said before, I’m not a fast reader, and this book went by at my average, around 30 pages an hour. But book vs movie? I’m sad to say…you’re going to kill me…I think watching the new movie on Paramount+ was enough for me, even if I didn’t like Whoopie Goldberg’s portrayal of Mother Abigail. It wasn’t a waste of time though. I did learn a few things, it was interesting, and I did enjoy my time in the story.

Sure, scenes were moved around and combined in the new movie. Some characters were switched. But the feeling was all there, the motives. I liked the new movie because of the diverse characters and women had more aggressive and independent motives of their own than the book seemed to portray.

One thing that really did make me crazy (and this is my inner feminist coming out), I cringed every time someone was referred to “my woman,” “his woman,” or “her man.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve said the same thing about my husband in jest. “My man always takes care of me!” But this use and the frequency of it felt different and it pulled me out of the story every time I read the words. Pet peeve, I suppose.

Come to think of it, one could write a whole article about the differences in the portrayal of female characters in book, the 90’s version of the movie, and the ’20 version. Someone else do that, please, but not in a nasty man-hating way. It’s just interesting how things have changed and why.

I was relieved at finally finishing this book. It’s a big fatty and I’m tired of looking at it!

If you’d like to use the Wayback Machine and see what my first thoughts going into this epic, click over to The Stand by Stephen King: A New Read, a whole freakin’ MONTH ago!

Moral Foundations Theory: A Book Review

“The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt explains his ideas on Moral Foundations Theory. I just finished reading it and let me tell you, it was worth the effort. The first couple of chapters sucked me in with his elephant and rider analogy of human behavior, but about halfway through it started to lag. Maybe it got too technical. Maybe it just didn’t feel relatable. There was a time when I thought (and noted), “Yes, but what can we DO about it?” The last few chapters gave me some ideas and some hope, so I’ll rate it A for awesome.

Moral Foundations Theory in The Righteous Mind

The subtitle tells you exactly why I decided to read this book, “Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.” I don’t know how many times I’ve wondered to myself (and aloud to my family) why such seemingly intelligent people could be so fired up and ready to physically go to blows over a difference of opinion. I have close friends and family that support and push political agendas that, in my opinion, just seem crazy. Why? What the heck, people? This book helped me make some sense of it.

Now…do I feel better? Do I think there is any hope of avoiding something seriously damaging to our world in the near future, now that I’ve read this book? Not really. Sorry. I’m a pessimist when it comes to collective thought and politics these days. I just don’t see a way out. But I do know that I’m not the smartest person around or the most well-informed, so there’s still a glimmer of hope in the back of my mind. A miracle could happen. There could be, somewhere out there, individuals scattered across the world, that can help the rest of us pull our heads out and turn the ship around. Right?

Yeah…kind of in a mood this week. Sorry.

But this book! His theories and his research have really lightened my mood. There are reasons why things are happening the way they are. There is a way to understand others and come to some kind of compromise. There’s chance that we could start the ship toward living together in peace. It’s a hopeful kind of understanding of the human mind.

“Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together.”

We all actually do have a similar goal, to live in peace, to end violence, for everyone to have enough, but we all come to it from different directions. We’re told not to post our thoughts and ideas on social media. Don’t share your point of view. Keep your opinions to yourself. It’s not polite. But if we can’t talk to each other about these things, how do even begin to understand?

“…self-righteous…means ‘convinced of one’s own righteousness, especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others; narrowly moralistic and intolerant.’”

We ALL are, left and right, liberal and conservative, self-righteous about something.

“Emotions are not dumb. Damasio’s patients made terrible decisions because they were deprived of emotional input into their decision making. Emotions are a kind of information processing.”

This reminds me of what Noah Rashad was saying on Secular Buddhism. The point of emotion is our intuition telling us something MAY be important. Our job is to notice it, pause and make an assessment, and then CHOOSE an action based on that assessment. Haidt here is speaking of patients that had lost their emotions due to accident or defect. Logic and reason will only get you so far. Those who base their action solely on logic and reason will end up doing atrocious things.

“In this chapter I’ll show that reason is not fit to rule; it was designed to seek justification, not truth.”

That is exactly what we do. We have a feeling, think about it some (hopefully), reason why we should have that feeling, and then go with it. Haidt says that when we want to believe something we reason to find out if we can, and when we don’t want to believe something, we reason to find out if we must.

His idea of Moral Foundations Theory is fascinating. He compares our morals to taste buds on the tongue, a limited number of basic tastes that combine to make each of us different. We’re born with a first draft of innate taste buds but our experience revises which ones we use more, rely on, or prefer. That really hit home because I’ve always thought of myself as naturally a conservative person, more likely to prefer less change and stable outcomes, but I’m liberally trained by my experience in the world. I have learned to enjoy some change and look for different experiences, points of view, and ways of thinking.

A whole chapter is dedicated to why we seem to be compelled to form into groups and take sides. And explains why some of us tend to be a bit more individualistic. It’s always safer in groups, that’s why women always take a friend to the restroom when they’re out in public. And groups are safer when we all have similar values and norms. This was my favorite chapter.

“We humans have a dual nature – we are selfish primates who long to be part of something larger and nobler than ourselves. We are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. If you take that claim metaphorically, then the groupish and hivish things that people do will make a lot more sense. It’s almost as though there’s a switch in our heads that activates our hivish potential when conditions are just right.”

It is easier to live in a group than alone. Self-sufficiency is inefficient, like “The Rational Optimist” points out. But there are degrees of groups, from urban city to rural farms, from suburbs to mountain towns. And what it takes to get along in each of those is different. I keep seeing east coast city dwellers attempt to make laws and regulations for Midwest farmers, and west coast suburbanites dictate what life should look like in the rural south. That’s where the fights begin. Is there a way for us all to live our own lives in our own areas without harassing our distant neighbors about how they live theirs?

Have I convinced you to go get this book? I hope so. One more thing before I go. The last chapter was titled, “Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?” It’s the chapter that gave me some hope. We all have to live here together, whether we like it or not. The best way to do that is to stop making other people live and act the way we want them to. Instead of lifting up and emphasizing our differences: race, color, culture, location, creed, etc., we could do a lot better by emphasizing our similarities. If we make teams and take sides, good and evil, right and wrong, it’s very hard to meet in the middle. There is no compromise with a partner that is evil and wrong.

We could sit back and take care of ourselves, leave others to do the same, and compromise when we need to so that we can share space without getting on each other nerves. Seems too reasonable. Probably will never work.

If you’d like to read my first post about this book, go back to The Righteous Mind: New Read. If you’re interesting in learning more about Moral Foundations Theory, I have an extra copy of this book that you’re welcome to have. The first person to comment that they want it will get it!

DNF: “Did Not Finish” does Not Equal Failure

It’s my first DNF of the year, my friends! Yep, I’m a quitter! There are times in life when you just have to walk away from something. Let’s celebrate the wisdom of making choices and not wasting anymore time.

DNF - Mao - The Unknown Story
I’m a quitter!

I’ve spent almost 4 hours in “Mao – The Unknown Story” and, at the rate I’m going, I’ll be there for 20 more. I’m calling it quits right here. It’s not that it’s boring, it’s just…not useful, maybe.

The book reads as if Mao was a demon straight from birth. As if one could have known what his life path would lead to and maybe he should have been cut off from this earth before he did too much damage. There are no why’s in this book. There’s no ideology discussed, no reasons for the path he chose, just the description of a monster’s acts. I just don’t think that’s helpful.

Here’s the thing, there are legitimate reasons to think Communism is a bad idea…and there are reasons to believe it’s a great idea. Demonizing one side or another gets us nowhere. What we need are facts laid out so that we can see the past more clearly and create an informed worldview to work from in the future. But, then again, that assumes that most people want to do that. I’m feeling rather pessimistic this week. Maybe it’s the heat. I think most people aren’t interested in ruling themselves. They’d rather sit back and have someone tell them what they are supposed to think instead.

DNF for: reading this book has put me in a negative spin. I need to turn that around.

There are two positives that I got from this book! The first was that I didn’t realize that Communist China rose with Communist Russia. Same timeframe. Same leadership. They were “contemporaries” and now I need to find better books that give me more of that background. Maybe something that reads a tad less like propaganda and more like a less biased history. That will take some time to find, since Russia and China are charged histories from my American worldview.

I also added two books to my TBR list. “The Essential Marx” A collection of Marx writing, edited by Trotsky in the 30’s to show what he based his thinking on. And “The Portable Atheist.” Another collection of atheist and agnostic works through the ages. I’m not a Marxist or an Atheist, but it seems to be the way the world leans these days, so it’s best to know why, right?

I think “it’s making me sad for no reason” is a legitimate reason to DNF (did not finish) a book. If the book were giving me background on Communism, the ideology and culture of China, reasons for the revolution, or details about its connection with the Russian Revolution, I’d keep reading, even if it did make me sad. All it’s doing right now is listing atrocities and creating a monster to hate and fear. That’s never a good way to help thinking people make better decisions.

I only started this book a few days ago and posted about it at “Mao – The Unknown Story: New Read.”

Listen Like You Mean It: Final Thoughts

Listen Like You Mean It book cover

Listen Like You Mean it by Ximena Vengoechea was a strange journey. It started strong for me, started to peter out, and then picked up again at the end. The author used her experience in business, as a researcher for apps, to explain how to better listen in conversation. It makes sense. Her job was to listen to people’s first thoughts, experiences, and usage needs of an app to make it work better for them and for the company.

I suck at wrapping up what I think of a whole book. Bottom line of this one was that I liked it. I got some good bits from it. And I hope I can practice some of the things I learned in it. That’s the key. Most of it was the stuff you always hear about how to be a better listener, but if you don’t practice new ways consciously and often, you’ll only fall back into your old routines and habits.

How does one practice better conversation techniques? Especially now.

One thing I noted to myself in the margins of this book was that much of these listening skills could really be used in self-discovery and self-talk as well. How we talk to and listen to ourselves is how we look at the world around us. Can I make some useful reminders to practice these techniques on myself at home? If I can master a few of them, make them a habit when alone, maybe I can use them more readily the next time I’m out to lunch with a friend?

Halfway into the book, I started to get frustrated. Some of it seems too technical and businesslike. Maybe these would be great for someone that was around a lot of people all the time, at work or school. I don’t feel like they apply to my lifestyle. I read but glossed over much of those chapters and kept reading instead of giving up and not finishing.

I’m glad I did because the chapters on difficult discussions and resting and recharging between conversations were especially inspiring.

“We can express ourselves with humility, admitting what we do and do not know, and with curiosity, staying open to how others may receive us in conversation. We can practice patience, become aware of when our body language is telling us we are closing ourselves off, and quiet our minds when our thoughts and fears get in the way of being honest. We can make the necessary space to be ourselves, just as we do for our partners.”

Listen Like You Mean It

See? Conversation is a give and take thing. We are all in need of that intimate connection with another human or two. The first step, like everything we wish to achieve, it ours to make.

Was the book worth reading? Yes, and it would be even more so if you happen to be in a situation where you work or live closely with a lot of other people.

Pop back to my post “Listen Like You Mean It” – Another New Read, to start at the beginning of my journey and find other posts about this book.

Classic Crime Drama: Prayer for the Dead

Remember that book I started a few days ago, Prayer for the Dead? It turned out to be a classic crime drama that I couldn’t put down.

A Crime Drama Classic

I wasn’t all that impressed with the first chapters, but as I read on, I started to see its charm. And then it got creepier…and then there I was, yelling at the book, “No! What the hell?” and “Don’t go in there!”

My son came in the room right as I started the last twenty pages, and I was forced to tell him that whatever he had to say at this time would have to wait. I held the book aloft, my thumb in the crack just pages from the end, and pleadingly looked at him. “Just a few more minutes? I can’t stop now.”

He shook his head at me, “Nothing changes around here. Well, except my room.” He laughed and walked into the kitchen to make more coffee. It’s a running joke right now that I took over his room the moment he left for University. In my defense, I warned him what I was planning, and he was all for it when he left.

But that, my dears, is another post. What I’m here to talk about is the draft…no, wait…the book I just finished!

I’d say, “I love it when a plan comes together,” but there was no plan. I’d never heard of the book or the author. I only picked up because the cover and title were appealing. Yes, I judged a book by its cover! And I was not disappointed.

The shy and quiet serial killer with a reason behind his madness, the retired special agent with a checkered past, the bumbling local cops and police chief. All the strings coming together at the end. Perfect.

If you like crime drama tv shows, you’ll love this book. Classic characters and a great story. Go find it at Thriftbooks.com!

Another Book Already?!

Yeah, I usually have a couple books going at once!

One of my husband’s favorite movies is Omega Man and when we saw I Am Legend, we both looked at each other…

“Wait a minute. This movie is familiar.” We looked it up via the blessed web and found out they are both based on the same book, so I added it to my wish list. That was years ago and I’m finally getting to reading it.

Strange that I’m deciding to pick it up now.

A quick bit of research on the book, I found that it was written in 1954, inspiring movies like “Night of the Living Dead,” a personal favorite. I also read that none of the movies follow the book close enough that the author wanted his name on them, so I’m excited to read the differences.

I’m about a hundred pages in and I’m loving it. For an end of the world by virus that mutates humans into vampires, it’s a fun, light read. Since it was written in the 50’s, of course it has references to ending some war with a nuclear bomb. Is that what made the virus?!

I’ve always been a huge fan of zombies, vampires, and end of the world stories, both in books and film. The causes change within each era but the how people deal with the disasters, government reactions, how they try to avoid it, and deal with each other is eerily familiar.

Looking around me now, watching the news, reading the papers, and scanning social media, it makes it a little more upsetting. Little did I know how real those stories could be and how helpful they’d become in dealing with my own world. No, I don’t think this is the end of the world, but it’s fascinating how predictable masses of people can be and it’s all right there in the stories.

Life imitates art or vice versa?

New Read – “A Literary Education”

Some of My Friends

It happened again. I forgot why I put this book on my wishlist. I need a better system. Or do I? Does it really matter where I got the recommendation? I suppose not. I’ve learned to trust my list. It’s there for a reason, so I buy them when I can.

As I sat down to read, I remembered; my mother-in-law had recently shared an article with me that she thought I’d enjoy. We’ve lived together for 18 years and the woman knows me well. She had pulled it out of a magazine and brought it over to me, old school sharing. There is something awesome about that. I have it still sitting on my desk. What do I do with it now? Share it with someone else maybe? By mail? Before the internet, I had a folder of pulled articles like that, some photo-copied and sent from friends and relatives.

“A distinction needs to be made between solitude and loneliness. One chooses solitude, one is afflicted by loneliness.” Alone Again (Unnaturally) by Joseph Epstein – National Review

My favorite line from that article was, “Proust notes that books have over friends that you can call upon them only when you wish and dismiss them at your discretion. Proust also felt that reading could be an aid to solitude, especially to the indolent mind that is unable to think in solitude but requires rubbing up against, through the stimulus of reading, a finer mind than itself.”

Long before all this “social distancing” stuff, I always had a hard time navigating the social world. The past six months has made that much worse. I feel like I simply don’t fit in, not for any specific reason, just in my head more than anything else. But yet I crave conversation, that back and forth with another thinking human. On a weekly basis I cycle through, “I need solitude to think. Thank you, world!” to “But I want to sit in a coffee shop with friends or join a writer’s group!” to “Screw it. People suck!” Books have been my compromise, the “rubbing up against” that I need to spark my own thinking. Books ask for so little in return and they never get in my way, despite how my family feels about the bookcases.

Reading the article, I suddenly felt less lonely and far more secure in my solitude. I immediately went online to look for the author. Maybe he has a website. What else has he written? I love the internet, and especially Amazon, but I found myself longing for a well-stocked bookstore where I could thumb through and pick out the book I liked best, maybe get a cup of coffee and talk to a person…there I go again. I picked this one mostly because of its title. “A Literary Education” is what I’ve been working on for the past ten years.

Do you read the introductions to books? For fiction, I don’t want someone else’s thoughts to color my reaction to a story. Sometimes, I’ll go back and read it though. For non-fiction, or collections, I generally do read them…unless it’s boring!

Last Friday, I really wanted to chill and read my new book, so I went around the house looking for a spot. I’m easily distracted, so I need a very quiet space to read and that is hard to find in the afternoon in a small house with four adults. My husband was still working in our room. My younger son was in his room working on his college classes. And my older son was doing some research on the computer in the livingroom. The perfect scenario!

I gathered my book, glasses, notebook, and a cup of tea and settled myself into my favorite spot on the couch. It was glorious. Right from the start I knew I had the perfect book in my hands.

“Initially my essay collections were divided between what I thought of as literary essays and familiar essays; the former were essays about other writers, the latter about the world at large, or at least those things in it that captured my fancy at the time.”

…drops pencil…what the…other people write about these things?!

There are times when I wonder what the point of my blog is. Ok…I’ll admit…most times I feel that way. But then I come around to, I write about what I like to write about, what I find interesting, and because it makes me happy. I don’t look for and write to a specific audience. I write my point of view, my opinions, my thinking, in the hope that someone out there might want to hear it.

I kept reading for over an hour, smiling and nodding, tearing up and underlining pieces that spoke directly to my poor little writer heart. When my time was up, I marked my place, closed the book, and went off to get dinner started feeling on top of the world. I’d found encouragement to keep working, keep reading, and to keep writing and I wasn’t even looking for it.

Once again, my “follow the trail wherever it leads” way of living has paid off big time. I can’t wait to read more of these essays. And the world will be reading mine as well. I’m not lonely, I’m in solitude, quietly working away in the background building worlds to share.

Mind Over Mood

Confession: I love self-help books and videos, especially workbooks.

I started reading this yesterday afternoon in the hopes of getting some help for myself. I’ve taken anti-depressants in the past, had some small semblance of counseling, but in the long run nothing helped but time. Stresses change, kids grow up, relocation; time changes the situations but not my thinking. For a long time, I honestly thought I had changed. I had cured myself, all I needed was some time and space to breathe.

But here we are. And I’m not ok. I don’t deal with stress well at all and I can easily spiral out of control, creating a vortex of depressive thoughts that spin into a storm of angry chaos, destroying everything around me, leaving behind only those strong enough to weather the storm. It’s not fun for me and it’s hardly fair to my friends and family. Something needs to change.

I learned about cognitive behavior therapy years ago and only recently felt pulled toward trying it. Yes, I know…I should probably talk to a therapist too, but if you know me at all you’ll know that just won’t work. I’m a “do it myself” kind of girl! Besides, all they are going to do is say what’s in these books and I can read in the comfort of my own home. They’d also ask questions…which is why this book is awesome. It’s a workbook!

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be spending thirty minutes a day in this book. I intend to read and then sit reflectively with the workbook pages alone.

Yesterday when I pulled the book off the shelf, I flipped it open and found the first chapter is called, “Understanding Your Problems.” I laughed and showed my son as he walked by. That’s when we both laughed. “You’re going to be in that chapter a long time, Mom.”

The fact that my sons are open about reminding me how crazy and confused I am, leads me to believe I can be saved. I may be a bit “touched in the head” but they love me.

I’ll be posting about my progress as I go. Maybe this book will help you, too!

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