Books have been super helpful in different ways throughout my adulthood. Just Mercy inspired me to become a Guardian ad Litem. A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog Named Trixie inspired me to write and publish a book about my dog Smooch.
There were two books helped me process the unexpected death of my mom in 2015. I did not work that summer, and in hindsight that was not the best plan for my brain. I was so stuck in my grief. Don’t get me wrong, I did not stay in bed all day crying or stuffing my face with chips, I got up and did all the necessary things that needed to get done. But I was literally just putting one foot in front of the other to get through each day. At the end of the summer my wise husband said he wanted the regular me back. My daughter was also stuck in her grief (how does one explain depression and bipolar disorder to a 10 year old?) which was the signal that I needed to get my shit together. I went back to work, which helped, but I also saw a review for the book Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things in my People Magazine. Here is an excerpt from the book – Furiously Happy is about “taking those moments when things are fine and making them amazing, because those moments are what make us who we are, and they’re the same moments we take into battle with us when our brains declare war on our very existence. It’s the difference between ‘surviving life’ and ‘living life’. It’s the difference between ‘taking a shower’ and ‘teaching your monkey butler how to shampoo your hair’. It’s the difference between being ‘sane’ and being ‘furiously happy.'” It was exactly what I needed to read at the end of that summer. Actually, my daughter and I listened to the audiobook together while laughing, crying and finding our own ways to become Furiously Happy. The second book was Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story . It is the author’s story about his relationship with his brother with bipolar disorder. Their mother was the enabler, and the author set healthy boundaries around his brother’s mental illness. Boy was that relatable. In our family, my brother was the enabler and I was the one who tried to set and keep those healthy boundaries both for me and my children.
Just like in 2015, I am finding myself stuck again and not knowing how to move forward. 2020 just did me in. The isolation, fear, uncertainty of how to live was a lot to deal with. But our entire family has been vaccinated, so COVID should no longer cause those feelings for me. I think my “stuckness” is also related to where I am in life. Both of my teenagers can drive, have jobs, and one will be heading to college in the fall of 2022. They no longer need me in the ways they used to. I need to figure out who I am post pandemic with children getting ready to fledge my nest. I am also stuck professionally. Work has been pretty much non existent for the past year, and I am questioning if doing community outreach is still what I want to be doing. I used to get so excited about doing programming with large numbers of girls at The Boys and Girls Club, but now I am not so sure.
And now for my latest book therapy: Chasing the Bright Side: Embrace Optimism, Activate Your Purpose, and Write Your Own Story. It is about embracing optimism –
“Success is not born out of skill, school, where we’re from, who we know, or what we scored on the SAT. None of us were born ready. None of us started life knowing how to fly a plane or launch a company or knit a sweater for our dog.
But we are born with something more important than skills. We’re born with optimism – the initial seed for success. Optimism fuels the belief that you can be the one to create the good the world needs. But you’ve got to hone it. And practice it. And determine to live from it.”
It is helping me get unstuck and think about my purpose. My children taught me that everything happens for a reason. There is no other explanation as to how two amazing children landed in my family from two different countries. So I am trying to sit with my thoughts, embrace optimism (I do, in fact, have a lot to be happy about) and activate my purpose…whatever that might be.
So my fellow readers, what do you do to help yourself get unstuck? Give me some ideas to go along with my book therapy.