Book Talk and Thoughts: What I’ve read, what I’m reading. Looking for inspiration and answers.

I’m so happy and relieved that I have a good book to look forward to reading. I really need it right now. How could I have forgotten how amazing and useful and essential it is to have a good book to read? How could I have forgotten? Isn’t that the story of my life?

I’m going through another existential, life-changing moment. But that’s what happens when you’re estranged from your family- a family that never really gave you much of an identity anyway. As always, I’m still figuring out who I am, and still striving to be who and what I envision myself to be. On top of having no extended family of my own, a flimsy sense of self and self-confidence, and no career- on top of all that- add the current situation in the country. Politics. It was rough this year. And it’s still going.
There’s a lot to think about. Maybe not for everyone, but for me there is. That’s just how I am. It’s who I’ve always been.
And like I said, there’s been a lot to think about. I think many of us have been shocked by the reactions of people we know and maybe we’ve even shocked ourselves with our own thoughts, reactions and behavior. So this has been a major opportunity for self-reflection and growth for me.
Why do I think the way I do? What is important to me? Can I have respect for the opinions of others? How should I react when others don’t respect me or people I’m close to? Can I continue to spend time with people whose opinions and beliefs seem so far from mine? Should’t I, as an adult, be able to spend time with a variety of people? But if I don’t feel like I can, isn’t that ok too?
But the most important question I’ve come to ask myself is- Why do I see myself as ‘lesser’ than others? Why do I discount myself? Why do I think and act as though everyone else is better than me, smarter than me, and has life figured out more than me?
It’s true. This is how I have always perceived myself. Over the years it’s gotten better. However, in the past few months it has been brought to light just how much I still perceive myself as ‘lesser than.’ And it’s more than I thought.
Which brings me to the other part of my current fluctuating existential/ self-identity issue– friends. I’ve been having a difficult time with friendships for several years now. I’ve purposely cut off all contact with two and I’m currently pulling away from another (or two), and it’s difficult meeting new friends when you’re nearly forty years old…..
This pattern of not being able to maintain long lasting friendships had me very worried. I don’t want to be the kind of person who cuts off relationships left and right. (That reminds me too much of my mom.)
However, my counselor pointed something out to me- it actually isn’t surprising (or bad) that as I grow and change the people I choose to have in my life changes as well. And, to take it a step further- If I was then the person I am now, would I have engaged in a relationship with the same people? Probably not.
All of my previous relationships were based on a faulty self-perception. The way a person perceives his or her self can definitely determine who they spend time with.
So now, with a new and better sense of self (and growing), I realize that I don’t need to feel bad for not wanting to be around certain people anymore, or at least not as much. If I don’t feel like being around someone- I should’t force myself to do it. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.
And the number one thing I have got to stop doing is thinking that everyone I meet is better than me in some way. I’ve got to stop it. I’m going to do it. I’m on my way.

So, needless to say, with all of this going on internally and externally; with the external world seeping into, influencing and infiltrating my internal world- I’ve been in need of some inspiration. So what do I do? Turn to books, of course!
I wanted more than just ordinary inspiration. With my current existential, identity, emotional, self-searching crisis I felt that I needed spiritual inspiration. I thought about going to church, but for various reasons I didn’t pursue it. I’m not Christian or Jewish or any other religion. I’m not religious at all. I even have a hard time believing in God- I want to, I try to, but I can’t honestly say that I feel anything the way some people seem to. However, I know that none of this prevents me from going to church. Churches love to welcome people who are searching for answers and wanting to have more faith in a higher power. Anyway, in the end I decided not to go that route.
I chose books instead.
The first one I stumbled across was The Snow Queen. Obviously it was the title that intruiged me. It’s also written by Michael Cunningham. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for his novel The Hours. (I haven’t read it but the movie was really good.) So I figured ‘Hey, Pulitzer Prize winning author. There’s a very good chance this book will be really good.’
The plot of the novel The Snow Queen also has a spiritual element. The main character, Barrett, is walking through Central Park one winter night when he happens to look up towards the sky and sees some sort of mysterious light. The light doesn’t immediately disappear, it hangs around for a bit and seems to be a conscious being that is “looking” back at him, or “regarding” him.
I was hoping that a profound meaning associated with this light would be revealed at some point in the novel. I was hoping (and it was implied) that witnessing and experiencing this light would lead to life-changing inspiration for Barrett. His experience does have an effect on him, but it doesn’t impact his life very much at all which was disappointing. In fact, I was disappointed in the story and the characters overall. I would go into detail about why but that’s not the focus of this particular post so I’m not going to do that.
I was also hoping to discover a more clear reason as to why the novel was titled “The Snow Queen”, but that didn’t happen either.
The novel does have a lot of good quotes though, so maybe I’ll do a post with those at a later time. The writing is amazing. Real critics have described it as poetic. Real critics liked the novel because they got it. Maybe if I read it again I would understand it more and therefore like it more. One last thing-  the novel refers to god as She at least once, which I really appreciated.

After I finished The Snow Queen I turned to Woman of God (James Patterson, Maxine Paetro). Now that title makes complete sense in relation to the story. Woman of God (by James Patterson, Maxine Paetro) is a great novel. For me it was a much better novel than The Snow Queen and lot more spiritually inspiring. However, I was a bit disappointed in it as well, but only because I was hoping for (and maybe even expecting) the plot to go in a very specific direction. It didn’t. *Spoiler alert.* The novel opens (first chapter or two) with rumors that the next pope might be a woman. Now that got my attention. Spirituality for me must include a female presence, not only male. This has been and continues to be for me the most difficult part of modern main stream religion- the lack of female representation. Anyway, I was hoping the novel would focus on that theme but, sadly, it doesn’t. That is a significant part of the novel, especially towards the end, but it wasn’t present for the bulk of the plot. Most of the novel takes place in war-torn South Sudan which I did not like. I learned a lot, but it wasn’t the type of novel I set out to read. Woman of God may not have been the super inspirational novel I was looking for, but I can see how it could be that for others. It’s a combination of Dan Brown and Danielle Steele. With one unimaginable tragedy after another it reminded me of Zoya, and the theme of the role of women in the Catholic Church reminded me of The Divinci Code.

This novel, Woman of God, I recommend as a good read. Very worthwhile.

Well, my search for inspiration continues.
Next up, Victoria. I’m very excited about it. I think I’m going to find a lot of inspiration in this one- maybe not spiritual inspiration, but I fully expect to be inspired. The novel is about (as you may have guessed) Queen Victoria. It’s written by Daisy Goodwin and is apparently very well researched. Daisy Goodwin is also part of the PBS Victoria TV series. So I’m thinking that this novel is the real deal as far as historical fiction goes.
Based on what I’ve read on the book jacket, Victoria and I have a lot in common- both of us trying to figure out who we are, having to determine who we can trust and who we can’t, struggling to believe in our worth and abilities despite being told otherwise. Maybe through reading Victoria’s story I can learn about and absorb her strength. Maybe I can stop having so much self doubt and stop thinking that everyone knows more than I do, that everyone except me has life and success figured out. Maybe Victoria’s story can inspire more trust in myself- my talents, my abilities, my experience, and my intuition.
I’m always looking for answers in books. And honestly that’s actually worked out pretty well for me.
I’ll let you know how it goes this time.

: )

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Lady Susan and movies

I recently put it out there that maybe I would read Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland novels before reading Gregory Maguire’s After Alice, or that maybe I would just go ahead and dive right into After Alice.
But then I somehow found out that another one of Jane Austen’s novels has been turned into a movie, and pretty good one apparently! Yay!
It’s titled Love & Friendship and is based on Austen’s novella, Lady Susan. Apparently the movie is pretty funny because, apparently, Lady Susan is considered Austen’s “comedic gem.” (I read that somewhere, but I can’t remember where.)
So I haven’t been able to read anything to do with Alice or Wonderland because I had to re-read Lady Susan. It was bothering me.
I read Lady Susan a year or two ago, but I did not remember it being funny. I liked it, but I did not remember it making me laugh- maybe a few mildly funny things here and there, but certainly not a “comic gem.” A gem, yes. Comic, no. Bridget Jones’s Diary now that’s a comic gem! So is Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, as well as Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy. 
Anyway, what do I know? If the real experts say that Lady Susan is a very humorous novel then obviously it is and I just don’t get it. I probably took it way too seriously. Oh well, I’m still looking forward to the movie and I’m very excited that it looks like it really will be hilarious.
Oh, and I loved reading Lady Susan again. I couldn’t put it down!

So what else have I been doing….
I’ve been watching movies actually. It all started with Bridget Jones’s Diary. I happened to see last week that it was available on Netflix, and because I’m such a nerd I was so excited! I’ve been wanting to see that movie again for years! So I watched it. Loved it!
Then, a few days later, I tried to watch it again but it wasn’t there anymore.  : (
And that’s how I found Notting Hill and One Day.
I had seen Notting Hill back when it first came out and I was very interested in watching it again. I was very curious to see if I would react to it differently considering I’m about 15 years older than I was when I first saw it. And, I was right. I remember liking it before but this time around I loved it! I loved Julia Roberts. I’m going to watch it again.
One Day (starring Anne Hathaway), on the other hand, I probably won’t watch again. It’s a really good movie- and sorry to give too much away- but it’s just too sad.

There was one part where Dexter, the movie’s male lead character, was lying at the top of the stairs a bloody mess. No, literally, the guy really was a bloody mess. He had been out at a club the night before, got drunk, then got into a fight with a guy who smashed his face into a mirror. So he (Dexter) somehow gets home, passes out at the top of the stairs, and his little daughter, about 7 years old, finds him there like that. Fortunately, her mother, who has divorced Dexter,  gets there just seconds later and she attends to him immediately. She firmly tells her daughter to get dressed and ready to go, but it’s Dexter she’s attending to- lifting his head, trying to get him to come to, trying to get him to stand up. In other words, she responded compassionately. Now, I know she’s a character and it’s “only a movie,” but that situation is entirely plausible. It’s obviously happened to someone somewhere before- it could be happening to someone somewhere right now.

In that situation a person has several different options– I don’t need to go through all of them, use your imagination. Anyway, as I said, the character in the movie responds with compassion. She, in my opinion, responded appropriately.
What would you do in a situation like that?
What would I do?
I know exactly what I would do. My first concern would have been my daughter. My instinct would have been to go to her first. I would have stepped right over him.
That’s not compassionate, not compassionate at all. What does that say about me?
And even after I had taken my daughter to another room, I don’t think I would attempt to physically help the person. I mean… I don’t know…  I don’t think I would. I’m an avoider. I would call an ambulance! That’s probably overkill, but that’s what I would do.
But that isn’t natural, is it? Isn’t going straight to the injured person more natural than avoiding them? Al-Anon teaches “Detachment with love.” Or detachment with compassion.
Detachment- that’s the part I’m good at! Its the other stuff I’m not so good with. My detachment isn’t balanced with much love or compassion. But it isn’t hate either. I don’t hate anyone in my family…. I think I love them…. In a way…. But I’m also, I think, alarmingly indifferent.
It’s just that they make me so sad and so uncomfortable, and I just can’t… I just don’t want to be around them…

Anyway, how did this turn into me going on about my family woes?

I was talking about movies.

So, yes, Bridget Jones’s Diary– great movie (even better book), very funny. Definitely recommend.

Notting Hill– loved it. Like I said, I will watch it again. Soon. Julia Roberts was mesmerizing, especially in the first half of the movie. Hugh Grant was also excellent. And quite funny. I really want to watch it with my husband, I think he’ll really like it too. I don’t know why it has only 3 stars on Netflix, it deserves more. The only thing I can think of is that maybe it was a book first and the fans of the book didn’t like how the movie was done.

That’s definitely what I think happened with One Day. It also has only about 3 stars on Netflix. Again, I think it was a book first and the fans of the book probably thought the movie left out too many important details. And, like I said, it’s a very, very sad movie, and not just the ending- the entire story line is a bit depressing. The male lead, Dexter, isn’t very likable, but I don’t think he’s meant to be. Like I said, probably won’t watch it again, and that’s even despite the fact that Anne Hathaway is amazing. In fact, if I ever watched it again the only inducement would be that Anne Hathaway is so great in that movie, but still, I doubt it. Just too sad.

This is why I try to stick to Jane Austen and Bridget Jones and the like. I like happy endings, I don’t care if they’re cliché or unrealistic.

I don’t like sad endings. I avoid them whenever possible.

Making Progress: Blogging, but not reading

In my last post I said that I haven’t been reading lately, which was kind of a lie…. I have been reading, but not anything new. One night a few months ago I picked up the Tao of Pooh again because I couldn’t sleep. It’s an interesting, mildly entertaining read and -most importantly- it was helping me fall asleep. After about 2 weeks The Tao of Pooh was getting annoying so I stopped reading it and started reading Jane Austen instead. I started with both Mansfield Park and Emma and decided to stick with Emma. I’ve been reading that for the last few weeks whenever I’m having trouble falling asleep. Reading Jane Austen is, for me, like eating a warm, gooey grilled cheese sandwich or chocolate chip cookie- it’s comforting.

Sarah Addison Allen wrote, “Sometimes it’s a comfort just to have a book around.”

That’s how I feel about Jane Austen novels. Having them there is a comfort, reading them is soothing. So when I read a Jane Austen novel I’m not reading it to read- I’m reading it for comfort, to relax and calm down. It doesn’t exactly count as reading. Know what I mean?
I swear I’m going to read a new book soon! But not just yet. I’d rather wait until the kids are back in school. Only 8 more days now.
But what to read? ….What to read…?

Think, think, think.

Hmmm… I went to the Dublin Irish Fest this past Friday. Dublin is a suburb of Columbus and its annual Irish Festival is HUGE. Of course I loved it, I always do. It’s amazing. There is so much to do and see and hear at any given moment. It’s a very inspiring atmosphere and it gave me an idea about what I might read next. I discovered last summer that Oscar Wilde is the author responsible for some of the best, most famous quotes ever, and he was Irish. Two of my favorite Wilde quotes:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

and,

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

There is such wisdom in that one especially. Such wisdom. And the same could be said for the company we choose to keep, or the TV and movies we choose to watch. What you put into your mind, who and what you surround yourself with, will undoubtedly influence your personality. I’ve seen and experienced this time and time again.
There are two other quotes I’d like to mention. I can really relate to these.

“I am too fond of reading books to care to write them.”

and,

“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”

The last one is basically why this blog exists, the reason why I wanted to start a blog in the first place. I am completely enamored with intelligent, creative language, but that doesn’t mean I’m really good at it! (Oh, how I wish I was!) So I substitute the wit of others in place of my own. Like Mary (played by Jennifer Lopez) says in The Wedding Planner, “Those who can’t wed, plan.” I say, “Those who can’t write, quote.” Or, “Those who aren’t quick, quote.” I think I’m a decent writer, but I know I’m not quick witted- not verbally and not when I’m put on the spot. I’ve had my moments here and there, but it’s not often. However, if I have the time to think about it and write it down, then I have a better chance of displaying some amount of wittiness, but nothing profound. Nothing like Oscar Wilde, or Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. That entire book is quotable, it’s just one big quote- the whole thing! That’s what prevents me from attempting to write a novel- I don’t think I could write anything that’s as good as what I read. I’ve said I want to write books since I was ten, but so far I’ve been too much of a chicken to do much about it. Sad, isn’t it?

But, you know what makes me happy?
Sally Field as Miss Betsey Trotwood, that’s what!
Sally Field as Miss Betsey Trotwood?! Are you kidding me?!
What delicious bacon-wrapped goodness is this!? What did I do to deserve such a treat?

Much earlier this year I read my first Dickens- David Copperfield. Before reading it I did a little research about the novel and one thing that came up consistently was the strength and quality of the characters, and it did not disappoint. Enough cannot ever be said about the characters in David Copperfield. I could go on and on about that novel but truly it deserves its own post so it will all have to wait until then. Now, back to Sally Field. One night last week it suddenly occurred to me that I had been wanting to see if I could find a David Copperfield movie on Netflix. I ended up finding the TV movie (from 2000) on YouTube and watched it that night. I was up until 3 am! And I was so very pleasantly surprised to see Sally field as Miss Trotwood, I only wish there had been more of her!

When I do start reading maybe I’ll read David Copperfield again…. Or maybe it will be something by Oscar Wilde…. The Importance of Being Earnest… Or The Picture of Dorian Gray…. Hmmm…

Hermione would know what to read next.
Hermione would know what to read next.

Well, this certainly has been an eclectic post. Not the most organized or creative mass of words or ideas, but at least I did it. Getting something out there is better than not posting at all.
My next post will likely be on Monday, August 10th, and will mark (for me) the return of Moon Post Monday. It’s an idea I came up with when I was working on my last blog. I sort of stole the idea from another blog that I like and occasionally read, A Witch’s Ashram. (Formerly a WordPress blog but now on patheos.com.) The author of A Witch’s Ashram does Mantra Monday. I realized that I could do something similar with my collection of “moon quotes.” I love the moon; not for any profound or mystical reason, but simply because it’s pretty. (And doesn’t burn me, unlike the sun…) So over the past few years I have recorded or made note of dozens of moon quotes. Many writers have been inspired by the moon so those quotes are easy to come by. The Monday Moon Post can be as detailed and substantial as I want, or as simple as I may need at the time. It’s the type of post that can be done ahead of time and scheduled for “publishing” at a later date, which makes it a realistic way to ensure I post at least once a week- which, as you know, is essential to a successful blog.
See you Monday….