This week’s Storyworth prompt was books that have made a difference to you as an adult. 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 that 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 found myself stuck again and not knowing how to move forward. 2020 and 2021 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 and boosted, so COVID should no longer cause those feelings for me. I think my “stuckness” was 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 needed to figure out who I was post-pandemic with children getting ready to fledge my nest. I was also stuck professionally. Work has been pretty much non-existent for the past 2 years, 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 the book that helped me get unstuck in the summer of 2021: 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.”
So sat with my thoughts and asked myself how I could embrace optimism (I do, in fact, have a lot to be happy about). I did a lot of lakeside sitting and thinking that summer and ended up reaching out to Beautiful Together Animal Sanctuary after a nudge from a friend. The result? I am the Foster Support Manager on the core team of volunteers and will also be helping with the Youth Programming aspect of the non-profit whose goal is to bring the most vulnerable animals and vulnerable children together to heal each other. I am using the skills I have learned working with Girl Scout volunteers, and down the road, curriculum development. It has been a perfect fit for me – faced paced, lots of problem-solving, and really making a difference. I feel like I am writing my own new story. So thanks Jess Ekstrom for the inspiration!
I will be grateful for all the books that have helped me navigate the different phases of my life. For me, they are truly therapy.