Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Reviews

I may be the last person to have discovered, but discover it I did this summer, thanks to Maribeth, who gave me a copy of Glennon Doyle Melton's book, Carry On, Warrior as a birthday gift. I read it over the summer, rapidly, because I could hardly put it down.
If you haven't read it, I suggest you run down to your local library and check out a copy, borrow from a friend, or - if the budget allows - treat yourself to your own. I am grateful to have a copy, because I dog-eared so many pages that I would have been in trouble with the library had I borrowed their book!

One of my favorite things about this group of essays is its reality. Ms. Melton (ok, Glennon!) is a "truth-teller." I love that quality in a person, and especially love it in a writer. Glennon tells her own truth, and she accepts the consequences of airing it publicly, which are not always pretty in this age of lesser-restraint.

Truth-telling is a hard balance, in blogging and in memoir writing. I have faced it numerous times here, and most of the time, have shied away from sharing details of personal difficulties. That's part of the reason there are long silences here. It's not because I want readers to think I am perfect, or have a perfect life; it's because I want this blog to uplift and strengthen others. If my struggles do that, then they are worth sharing. I believe that my struggles through grief did that. But the other struggles, through parenting, marriage, anxiety, work issues, friendships, those strengthen and uplift others? I am not so sure. Glennon's writing did that for me.

What do you think?

Another book which has been a blessing this summer is "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. Perhaps the title doesn't sound interesting, but the book is, indeed, changing my life, through my perception of things. A former storage expert, Marie Kondo learned (from years of professional practice) that her clients' problems were not due to a lack of storage; they were due to an excess of possessions. As I prepare to put her ideas into practice, I am looking at the objects in our home in quite a different light.

I've held onto many things since Katie passed away, and David left home. Many of these items no longer serve us: toys, paperwork, clothing, gifts."Does it spark joy?" Ms. Kondo says that this is the key question to ask oneself about each item. As a result, I receive insight into feelings about the object, its origin, gifts in general, what I "need," and whether to keep, or let go.

A humorous aside: I intended to check this book out of the library, in order to reduce expense and avoid adding to clutter, but ironically, I found that this volume is best purchased rather than borrowed, because it is a working aid and worth revisiting!


jandi said...

these books sound really amazing. before i started my blog, i thought i would write + write + write... but somehow the words just never (or rarely) came. i have also been clearing out a lot of clutter lately...i do believe the state of one's private spaces reflects the state of one's mind... it must be hard having a lot of sentimental items around especially after the loss of a beloved person...and clearing some of those things must be hard but also quite freeing? i always love reading your insightful words! have a beautiful weekend!

Elizabeth said...

Oh, I really love this thoughtful post. I, too, bought the organizing book and while it helped me somewhat, I also found it lacking -- so stringent, so different culturally -- I think of it as a guide, particularly that whole "does it bring joy" thing, but there are also many, many mementoes that I own and love that BROUGHT me joy and that I am reminded of when I take the time to go through them or pick them up, etc. As a counterpoint to her book, I enjoyed reading an essay by the very elderly writer Penelope Lively who is literally surrounded by her many thousands of books. What she said about joy and intimacy and her interior life made me feel a little less crazy, to tell you the truth, while Kondo made me feel more so.

The other book sounds fascinating, and I really like how you've articulated why you have great absences from your blog writing. I admire that you've chosen to lift up your readers and that you've done so even when your own life is messy. As I struggle through very personal issues that I can't blog about, I find myself also pulling away from the very regular writing I do. I just can't, to tell you the truth, but my aims/goals are less clear than yours.

Karen Gerstenberger said...

Elizabeth, I'd be interested in that essay, because it would be nice to have a balance to the book about tidying, though I think I need the method Ms Kondo outlines.
As to the privacy issue, I am still wondering how to balance preserving privacy for myself and others while writing about real issues in my life. Much is written nowadays which I don't want to know (though not on your blog!), but as Ms. Melton's book has helped me, I do wonder if I should be brave and speak out more, as well. XO