A transitional time
The past nine weeks have been a powerfully transitional time for me .. and partly thanks to the input of a number of books and different perspectives on life.
Though I’ve always been a big reader in terms of finding information on topics that interest me, I haven’t been a big reader of non-fiction, or even a big finisher of books. Instead I have tended to be constantly dabbling in piles of non-fiction, all in an effort to achieve greater clarity. My ‘type 5’ sense of “not enough” has meant I’ve never felt I had time to fit ‘reading for pleasure’ into my already overpacked agenda of projects and explorations. Also, I’ve tended to live in a state of overwhelm that had me seeking to limit input rather than add to it.
Then nine weeks ago, a friend lent me his Kindle. There was a book on it which I wanted to read, and he had been suggesting for ages that I get a Kindle to deal with my ‘book problem’ – which was the 3000+ books in my house that had been having a weighing down and smothering effect on me and had me living in a state of constant overwhelm. He was convinced I needed to clear away all the books and instead get them on Kindle.
A clear answer
Well, I read the first book with relish. And it turned out there were a number of books on the Kindle I wanted to read. So when I finished the first I found another to read. Then another. And another. And another. I have been in some sort of literary heaven with every book I’ve read profoundly moving and inspiring me. I have even felt my whole approach to life clarified, challenged and opened up in this dive into the world of literature. And I am reinspired to tell my own story, in my own way.
The book I most recently finished was ‘An Abbreviated Life’ by Ariel Leve, telling the story of her childhood and how it has impacted her. I heard a snippet of Ariel talking on Radio National in a broadcast from the Writer’s Festival in Bali. The topic, childhood trauma, is one I’m currently fascinated with. Ariel’s story expresses beautifully many thoughts and feelings I understand. At the end of the book Ariel writes: “We tell our stories to be heard. Sometimes those stories free us. Sometimes they free others. When they are not told, they free no one.” What a great call to action!
The book I read prior to Ariel’s, and in doing so lost myself in a day of relaxation and laughter, was Graeme Simsion’s ‘The Rosie Project’. I knew nothing about this book except that I’d seen it in a bookshop and been curious about it. As a Project Person myself I had so many chuckles of recognition and perhaps developed a greater softness for myself in the process. I don’t have Aspergers, but my lifetime experience of cutting off from emotions has meant that I have shared many of the attitudes, beliefs and lifestyle choices that the protagonist in the story, Don, displayed. The very rational, ‘head based’ outlook of Don, has served me well in my mostly solitary existence, but has caused meltdowns and a consequent lack of action when it comes to decision making and relating to people. I have been very cut off from intuition and have tended to escape into my head rather than experiencing the fullness of life. Interestingly, when I just started to reread the book, only ten days after finishing it, my experience was completely different. I felt like I was reading it from more of an outside perspective .. studying it rather than being absorbed in it. But still enjoying it.
Prior to ‘The Rosie Project’ I read a book that featured in the first ever blog on this website and so had been on my radar for over two years – ‘Chasing the Scream – The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs’ by Johann Hari. I originally heard about this book from an article by the same author in the Huffington post. This book was a total eye-opener and made clear to me a shift that is needed on our planet to bring things back into alignment. This shift is away from fear and towards love .. away from disconnection and towards connection .. away from despair and towards hope .. away from a downward spiral of destruction and towards an upward spiral of love, acceptance and peace. This shift requires the dismantling of the ‘war on drugs’ and the creation of avenues for healing. I feel like my mission has become much clearer.
It feels strange to be working backwards with these books I’ve been reading .. but perhaps that is part of the deconstruction. I saw the film based on the book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed, and enjoyed it but wasn’t overly amazed or impressed. But reading the book I experienced a totally different perspective. I enjoyed and resonated with the experiences and challenges of solo adventuring, but was also in awe at Cheryl’s openness and vulnerability with people. That has never been my strength. For me, going solo has really been taking the easy route. It has it’s challenges, but opening up to and relating to people isn’t one of them. I admired the vulnerability in sharing of details of her experience, and I noticed an awareness and awakening to the possibilities of connecting with people thanks to this book. My solitude has served me well, but it isn’t a state I want to get stuck in. Essentially, I felt like this book gave me insight into a different perspective on life and helped break down some rigid thinking that has had me stuck. I was also inspired, in reading this book, by the quality of storytelling, and the meaningful arc of the story .. evident in the title of the book ‘a journey from lost to found’. I am keen to dive into story structure in order to tell my own story in such a way that I can both create and discover clarity.
And finally, the book that started this whole journey, the one I borrowed the Kindle to read, ‘The Course of Love’ by Alain de Botton. I loved this book. In fact, I loved all these books. It’s like, after holding myself back from this ‘indulgence’, I fully indulged and discovered what I’d been missing out on. ‘The Course of Love’ is a love story and psychology guide combined. Since I’ve been quite obsessed with the study of psychology for some time, this book was like the gateway that led to me diving into the fiction and non-fiction that followed.
I guess I could go into a lot more depth in analysing my life according to these books .. but I will sum up to say that, through these five books, I have felt love, joy, connection, purpose, validation, clarity, inspiration and hope. And I’ve come to some appreciation of how I have deprived myself in my shut down and avoidant approach to some aspects of life.
I’m still in the transitional state .. but with a bigger picture of what is possible and a greater sense of clarity and purpose. What a huge blessing. And what’s more, in appreciating the value of reading these different perspectives, I feel much more inspired to add my own.