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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A New Approach: Books on the side

It’s been four weeks since my last post. To be honest I thought it had been longer. It feels like it’s been longer, but that’s probably because of the time of year that it is (was)-
back to school time.
Back-to-school is always a pretty busy time of year so I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself for slacking off on my blog, but I am a little disappointed in myself. I’ve started and then abandoned a blog more times than I can now count, I’ve lost track. I’m not proud of this, I’m actually a little embarrassed by it. I don’t like to be the type of person who says they’ll do something but then doesn’t follow through.

So here I am again, four weeks later, picking it back up. And I actually had to sort of make myself do this today. Pitiful.
There are several reasons why I decided to come back to this blog today, several reasons why I decided to keep plugging away.

  1. A lot of people know that I am attempting to be a “blogger”, some people even consider me a writer. I want to live up to this if at all possible, or at least give it more than a half-ass try.
  2. My husband got me this nice, expensive laptop for Christmas last year and the whole point of me asking for it was so that I would be able to blog. I need to do what I said I was going to do. It’s important to me that I be true to my word.
  3. I realize there needs to be more to me and my life than husband and kids.

One day my kids will be grown. They’ll be gone. Even if they still live close to home, even if they still live at home, the kids I know and adore today will be gone. Because they won’t be kids anymore and it will be oh-so-different. I know this because my son is fifteen. Obviously I can’t hold him and kiss him the way I used to. It’s a different relationship now. Luckily, my daughter is only eight so I can still hug her and hold her and smother her face with kisses. XOXO  And it’s a good thing too, otherwise I would be very lonely right now.

But one day that will change too. My daughter will grow up and I won’t be able to hold her anymore. And then I’ll have to get a puppy.

My point is, I know there has to be more to me and my life than my family. I don’t want to wait until the kids are grown and gone to start something for me. I want to already have it in place. Besides, I think it will make my kids respect me more and help them see me as more of an actual person. Having interesting, successful parents- parents they can be proud of- is important for kids. It’s good for the development of their own identities, and it’s good for the adult relationship between parent and child.
This is why I think it’s important that I keep blogging and writing.

I’ve almost always wanted to be a writer. I can remember thinking in fifth grade that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. And from then on that’s what I always talked about doing. But I’ve always been too scared to actually do it. Besides, even if I did write an entire novel, how in the world do you get published?! Where do I send it? Who do I send it to?
I’ve tried looking into this a little bit but it’s so overwhelming, and now with ebooks and the internet making it so easy to self publish- it seems even more overwhelming to me.

However, I don’t want to give up on writing entirely. So I came up with a plan to help me keep going. First, I have given myself permission to choose something else to do in addition to writing. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, I don’t know why I thought I had to choose one or the other. For about the last 6 months I have thought about taking some art classes. I’d also like to (maybe) do some “crafting”- but to me that still falls into the art category. I told my husband the other night,
“Hun, I don’t think I want to be a writer. I think I want to be an artist.”
He said ok.
I then said, “Would you be disappointed in me if I decided not to be a writer?”
He said no.
What I didn’t say in that moment was that I think I would be happier doing art vs. only writing. Writing can be exhausting!  Not to mention frustrating and depressing, at least for me. Most of the time I put a lot of time and effort into something but end up with very little in return- almost no one reads it, and I myself am rarely ever completely satisfied with my end product. I can’t stop editing!!! Writing is a very solitary thing, perhaps even isolating. It can be very lonely, which can be depressing. And I’m not saying anything that many, many other writers (if not all writers) have said before.

With me being already so prone to depression I figure I should have something else in addition to writing. Something that is easy to share with others, something that will naturally lead to me being around other people rather than alone with my laptop. I think art can fit that bill. Art classes are plentiful, accessible, and affordable.
And I used to be pretty good at it back in school. My creations were always being chosen to be shown in various shows…. But I never got to see them. My parents never took me to the events where my art was being displayed. That makes me so sad. That’s another reason I want to try it- I want a second chance to experience that. I think it would be good for me; good for my psyche, good for my soul.
As I mentioned above, when I write I am rarely completely satisfied with the end result, but when I do something more creative- something that involves color and the use of my hands-  I’m more likely to feel satisfied, even happy. And, like I said, it’s easier to share with others. For example, card making. Occasionally I will make cards- birthday cards, thank you cards, Christmas cards, etc. It’s fun and it’s very purpose is to be shared with someone else. I want to do more of that kind of thing.

But I don’t want to give up writing entirely. The most realistic way for me to continue writing is actually this blog, especially if I do it in more of a journal style. That’s the kind of writing I’m best at anyway- less structure, just let the random thoughts flow. If I allow myself to do that I’m more likely to sit down and do it. I wanted this to be a book blog, that’s the type of blog I’ve wanted to do from the beginning, but I discovered something. I love to read, but lately when I’ve been reading with the specific intention of writing a review/blog post it takes away the enjoyment that I usually get from reading.

So I realized that I needed to take a step back and rethink this blog. Should I give it up altogether? Should I completely change the type of blog that it is? I didn’t want to do either so I found a middle path. I’ll continue with the blog but switch to a more intimate, diary-like type of approach. I’ll focus more on the details of my life and inner world. Considering everything I’ve been through (and what I continue to deal with), all the therapy I’ve done, the tremendous growth I’ve experienced– I have a lot to offer. Maybe that should be the main course and books can be on the side. I’ll still want to share my thoughts on books sometimes, but not always. I have to allow myself that flexibility.