Monday, September 8, 2014

Most Inspiring Book of my Summer

The first cool breezes blew through town this weekend which reminded me summer's coming to an end. Summer is (at least in our wishful thinking) a time to slow down and enjoy some hobbies that are crowded out the rest of the year. In the past few summers, I've realized my favorite summer hobby is reading. Picture me in a hammock, reading until the sun makes me sleepy and drifting off to sleep. This does not happen, but it's the vision that draws me to books during the hottest season. Reality looks more like me on my couch, in the air conditioning, telling my kids I only have a few pages left and please don't interrupt me until I know whether Catness ends up with Gil or Peta! This hobby carries me away to another time or place or scenario. I forget about my to do list and that's a momentous thing. 

While I let myself read some silliness, I mix in a few meaningful books. This summer's winner was Tiny Beautiful Things. Oh. My. Goodness. If you need your heart stretched wide and your confidence broadened and your groundedness replanted, read this book. It's a collection of advice columns from a lady who goes by Sugar and who, we now know, is Cheryl Strayed. 

This isn't your typical, detached advice column. Sugar makes up words, curses and tells stories from her own life. Her writing is from the gut. From some people's deep down guts, I wouldn't want to hear, lest they be cesspools of bitterness and cynicism. Not Cheryl. Her's is a mother's soul that loves lavishly and honestly, making it possible for you to handle it when she gives you a kick in the pants. Her hope feels so steady to me--like someone who's been around the block so many times, she's no longer nervous about the big stuff. She knows what matters most is already settled and speaks this security over situations shared in the letters. I found these letters everything from overwhelming to hopeless until I read her answers. It's like being given a hand up to see life from a vantage point I'm years away from gaining.

After reading Tiny Beautiful Gifts, I felt empowered. I don't have to see things the way I do initially and get stuck there. I can step outside, get a bird's eye view and ask the most important questions until the little (but loud) excuses subside. If you're feeling locked in, stuck, or just need a fresh voice to shake you awake emotionally, give this one a go.

To a man who wrestled with saying "I love you" to his lady:
Don't be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word "love" to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will. We're all going to die, Johnny. Hit the iron bell like it's dinnertime. 

To a lady who lost her daughter by miscarriage:
This is how you get unstuck, Stuck. You reach. Not so you can walk away from the daughter you loved, but so you can live the life that is yours--the one that includes the sad loss of your daughter, but is not arrested by it. The one that eventually leads you to a place in which you not only grieve her, but also feel lucky to have had the privilege of loving her. That place of true healing is a fierce place. It's a giant place. It's a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it. You're a woman who can travel that far. I know it. Your ability to get there is evident to me in every world of your bright shining grief star of a letter. 

Happy reading, my loves!


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