For my friends in book clubs, looking for ideas…

I went to a party on Saturday night and got talking with friends about bookclubs. I’m a fan of anything that gets people reading, books circulating and authors rewarded. While reading is essentially a private activity for me, I love sharing suggestions and my lovely friends in book clubs asked me for my top ten. Some are well known, some less so. I can recommend them all.

Lydia Millet (Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, Mermaids in Paradise)
Ann Patchett (Run, State of Wonder, Truth and Beauty)
Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face; companion to Truth and Beauty, above)
Elizabeth Strout (Abide with Me, Olive Kitteridge)
Mark Poirier (Modern Ranch Living)
Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries)
Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch)
Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being)
Valerie Martin (Property)

Megan Abbott, (The End of Everything)
Elizabeth Gilbert (The Signature of All Things)
John Green (any – I think he’s a genius in getting into young adult heads)
And that’s more than ten! I could go on. 1234963
Happy reading.

3 resources for mental strength – and all from women!

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Three books crossed my path recently that share a message, albeit in different ways. They are about the power of resilience and the value of looking inwards for answers.

In 1995, grieving her mother, not knowing what she was doing in life, dabbling in heroin, loving the wrong men, losing the right ones, Cheryl Strayed made a decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She walked 1,100 miles through California and Oregon, mostly alone, carrying a pack she called Monster.

Her book, Wild, subtitled A journey from lost to found, recounts her resourcefulness in going on, increasing the miles she walked each day, finding water and feeding herself, making camp each night. She earned back her own respect through doing something that was hard, that took courage. She fought off a bear, survived her solitude—she saw no one for her first six days—and ran out of water. She lost most of her toenails, and then lost her boots, mid-hike.  She became alive to her own strengths and witnessed her capacity to bring herself to each day.

When we’re adults, we don’t have our parents to push us anymore. Sometimes we have a mentor or a friend who will but it’s rare. We pussyfoot around each other, careful not to overstep boundaries. Giving advice on life and choices can be construed as ‘interfering’. We’re supposed to be able to do this ourselves. But often we can’t. In a world of the ‘individual’, we have to call on our own resources, our mental strength.

Amy Morin’s book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do identifies behaviours that control you. Strayed’s experience is an exemplar of realising, identifying and responding to those behaviours.

For instance, number 3- ‘[Mentally strong people] don’t shy away from change’. Strayed’s realisation that she had to change her life is there, on page 1. ‘My solo three-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail had many beginnings. There was the first, flip decision to do it, followed by the second, more serious decision to actually do it, and then the long third beginning of [preparation].’ (Strayed, 2007). Morin says that mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results or give up after the first failure. Forty minutes into her hike, ‘the voice inside my head was screaming, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’

Mentally strong people don’t focus on things they can’t control and they don’t dwell on the past. Walking the trail meant living only for that day and ‘each day on the trail was the only possible preparation for the one that followed.’ When she loses her boot, and throws its useless companion over the escarpment to join its mate, she knew there was only one option—to keep walking.

Perhaps, most especially pertinent, mentally strong people don’t fear time alone. ‘They can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence.’ (Morin 2016).

And this is what makes me think of another contributor to this discussion who enters from a different angle.

Susan Cain’s message is about the power of introverts. When we prize extroversion, performance, collaboration, we devalue the contributions of the quiet.  She begs us to ‘stop the madness for group work’ which makes me applaud.  I loathe teamwork. I used to wriggle out of the inevitable interview question with some embroidered half-truths. I’m not a borderline sociopath. I get along with people in the office fine but when left alone, I produce my best work.

Susan says that we need to value the privacy, the autonomy and freedom of working alone: ‘we need to have our own revelations; we need to go to the wilderness.’ Which brings me back to Cheryl Strayed and mental strength.

More please.

http://amymorinlcsw.com/mentally-strong-people/

http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?language=en

http://www.cherylstrayed.com

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Trying to get noticed?

Want to get people to see YOU? To pause their feverish scrolling? The interweb is overrun with how to guarantee clicks!  Wanna go viral? Here’s how! Just this morning ‘7 insane headline ideas that will give you more traffic’ floated into my in-box.

The advice follows a recurring theme—success, speed, effortlessness, winning.

How do we do something or do it better?

How can we become something?

How can we get somewhere (without sacrifice)?

How can we multiply the benefits?

How can we do it fast?

Tell us what to do

Tell us what to do. Tell us how the experts do it, or how the boss does it.  Or at least how a famous person does it. It’s a quest and the holy grail is out there. How can it not be? You just have to find the right titbit.

There’s a place for all this self-improvement. I’m sure it’s valuable sometimes, to some people. There may be a few useful things within. But I’m over it. I’m tired of this rabble of life coaches talking up my insecurities while pretending to be my friend, entreating me to rummage through their tawdry showbags looking for the prize.

The ‘killer headline’ is reducing our gorgeously complex, infinitely magnificent age of information to a tabloid rag.  Crying wolf until we’d rather tune out altogether.

What makes  you pause?

I’d rather read something beautiful, evocative, dream-like. Something that lifts me into the light and hope of a new day than presses me more deeply into the mire of life’s shortcomings and fix-its.

The killer headline for me is different. It’s the opening line in a book that is the perfect pick-up, that meets your eyes and smiles crookedly. That lays itself down and asks for your commitment. That knows you’d follow it anywhere.

I read one recently in The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein. “In the moment after Robert Mason’s condom broke he rolled off me, propped himself on his elbow, and said, “What you do doesn’t help anybody.”

The opening of Run by Ann Patchett still takes my breath away.  ‘Bernadette had been dead two weeks when her sisters showed up in Doyle’s living room asking for the statue back.”

I want to read them. I want you to post your favourite first sentences of novels or stories. Let’s have some new headlines.

Click here for beauty.

 

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