You are mentally obese if you stop adding new posts to your blog because you’re too busy reading and spending/dreaming of spending your days at Barnes & Noble.
So first and foremost, I apologize for not not updating. You see, I was in a funk, a life funk, and I just could not be arsed as the Brits say to do anything other than what I absolutely had to do which is to get up, get dressed, somehow spend 8-9 hours at work, come home and eat, shower, veg out to some TV/read, and sleep. I’m not exactly out of this funk, but I am determined to not let this blog fail.
I had promised to continue with my review of Oliver Burkeman‘s book, but since I have been in a reading ADD mode, I’d rather write about another book I recently read. Don’t fear, I have also finished Burkeman’s and will get to it next time (or soon)!
“Dear Sugar” is an advice column on The Rumpus, which has recently been collected into a marvelous jem called Tiny Beautiful Things. This process also involved revealing the identity of Sugar, who as it turns out is Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestseller Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Tiny Beautiful Things is not just a book or self-help advice. It’s an experience. My roommate (who bought the book after I showed her my copy), said, “I stop after reading each letter to digest the message.” Sure, there are some letters that you can’t relate to and some experiences that you couldn’t and shouldn’t even try to comprehend, but in every letter Sugar describes the joys and heartaches of life and love with such clarity, grace and humility that you are simply floored. You are left speechless, in tears, laughing, angry and confused all at once. You think about your own life. And more than anything Sugar’s words give a comfort that maybe even well-meanings friends, family and significant others cannot:
The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
We all know we have to help ourselves, that no one can help us if we can’t/don’t try. But Sugar does not beat around the bush:
Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.
And since of course this is a book about love as well, what does Sugar ultimately have to say on love?
Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep.
The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.
I can’t possibly condense Sugar’s advice into some punchy, soul-grabbing paragraph because: 1) she writes far more eloquently and succinctly than I could ever manage, and 2: why should I try when Sugar has such a summary towards the end of the book.
You give a lot of great advice about what to do. Do you have any advice of what not to do?
Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do. Don’t stay when you know you should go or go when you know you should stay. Don’t fight when you should hold steady or hold steady when you should fight. Don’t focus on the short-term fun instead of the long-term fall out. Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore. Don’t seek joy at all costs. I know it’s hard to know what to do when you have a conflicting set of emotions and desires, but it’s not as hard as we pretend it is. Saying it’s hard is ultimately a justification to do whatever seems like the easiest thing to do—have the affair, stay at that horrible job, end a friendship over a slight, keep loving someone who treats you terribly. I don’t think there’s a single dumbass thing I’ve done in my adult life that I didn’t know was a dumbass thing to do while I was doing it. Even when I justified it to myself—as I did every damn time—the truest part of me knew I was doing the wrong thing. Always. As the years pass, I’m learning how to better trust my gut and not do the wrong thing, but every so often I get a harsh reminder that I’ve still got work to do.
If we have two road before us, which road do we choose? How do we know what we will and won’t regret? What if you can’t move ahead and pick a direction because the dread “what ifs” are too paralyzing?
I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.
(These two images have nothing to do with Sugar’s blog, I just liked them. And you will to! Visit here).