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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