This post was meant to be about the books I’m loving reading right now, but it evolved into a post I’ve been writing in my head for a long, long time. It’s about reading and books as much as it’s about living, and figuring out the purpose of life. It’s patently obvious to me in retrospect that figuring out the purpose of life, at least for me, lies in reading the words of others as they reflect myself back to me.
Recently, as I’ve taken stock of my life, trying to live in a more purposeful, careful, happy and healthy way, I’ve gotten back to reading. Somehow over the years of building this blog I’ve neglected two major things that used to be critically important to the happiness and well-being of my life: reading and exercise. Over the last several months I’ve carefully evaluated all the things that do and don’t make me happy. I’ve literally made dozens of lists with pros and cons, yes’s and no’s. Friendships that have to go, foods I have to get serious about eliminating, habits I need to break. And also, things I need in my life. Things like long lunches with happy people, taking care of myself with pedicures fake eyelashes and other technically wasteful, but happy-making endeavors. Drinking tons of water, and taking long walks, going to bed at a Senior-Citizen-approved time of night, and putting myself first, for the very first time in my life.
And reading, reading is critical to my happiness. If I’d taken stock a long time ago, I could’ve told you that. My house is stacked to the ceilings with books, marked up in pen and highlighter, pages folded over on the top corners to mark passages whose words made my heart burn happily. The only thing under my bed, along with the dust, is stacks and stacks of books I intend to read when I get the time. And honestly, if the house were burning, it’d be the books I’d snag right after the kids.
So I’m reading every day. I’m listening to audiobooks on my Kindle, which let me tell you, is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I listen to books I’d normally never have time for while I power-walk a few miles every afternoon when my kids are still at school. I still read paper books, every day. And I read my favorite blogs, written by women I love and adore in real life and on the internet, women like Joy The Baker and The Pioneer Woman, and The Bloggess and Girl’s Gone Child. Women whose words I cherish, words that make me feel more myself when I read them.
And here’s the honest truth: after 4 straight months of this type of stock-taking and self-care, things are pretty awesome. And I’m grateful for it, even if it is hard work. Because somewhere in the midst of building a business and learning how to make money and thrive in a competitive online world, I lost myself. It became hard to remember exactly who I am and what I love about my life. And that’s pretty scary, because I’m someone who loves my life, and I love it passionately. But in the day-in day-out hullabaloo of modern life, I’d forgotten how to listen to myself. How to feel what I want to feel, not what everyone and everything around is telling me to feel. Being dragged from one viral video on Facebook to the next, into an internet wormhole of funny memes, right into the scandalous breaking news on The Huffington Post. I allowed myself to be navigated through my days at a frantic pace instead of the other way around. And like all major life epiphanies, it all became crystal clear to me several months ago when I fell critically ill and found myself in the hospital fighting for my life.
I’m not ready to talk about that part yet. It’s pretty raw, and totally terrifying, if I’m being honest here. And I am, being the very most, painfully honest I can possibly be. But I realized something serious in the dark days of recovering from near death. Which is probably patently obvious to the rest of you, but was a bit of a personal revelation to me: I crave vulnerability. Not just from myself, but from everyone else. Do you remember that line from Jerry Maguire, where Bonny Hunt (she’s the best) as Laurel Boyd, the sister of Renée Zellweger’s character Dorothy Boyd says,
“You know me, I’m incapable of small talk.”?
Well, that’s me. Not only am I incapable of small talk, I loathe it. I’d rather get to the meat of the conversation and talk to you about the disappointments of your life, the successes, what you’re passionate about, what makes you livid. So then, it’s pretty hypocritical, that in trying to be completely authentic on this website I’ve created, I ended up putting up a bit of a smokescreen in an effort to protect myself from anyone seeing what’s really on the inside.
Why is that? I’m nearly 40-years-old. I’m delightfully, happily married to the love of my life. I have two phenomenal children, I live exactly where I want to live, in a home we’re making our own one year at a time, with a menagerie of weird animals and an assortment of lovely neighbors and friends. I love what I do for a living. I love the community I’ve built, which includes YOU. What is it I’m so terrified someone will find if I pull back the curtain a little? That I’m secretly a fraud as a grown-up? That everyone else can, but I can’t possibly call myself a professional writer? That I’m often duct-taping things together behind the scenes?
I’m not totally sure what I was nervous about showing you, but what I do know is that I’ve become very reacquainted with myself over the last several months, and I’m happy to say:
I really like myself.
I’m a genuinely good person, a fiercely loyal friend and an excellent, albeit far from perfect, mother. I’m a kick-ass wife. I think I’m finally at the point in my life where I can say I’m a good writer. PROFESSIONAL, even. I’m voraciously curious about every single thing the world has to offer and I’m delighted to wake up each new day in the excitement of what today will bring. I really am.
I’m not totally sure why I’m sharing this with you today, except that I’m very purposefully living a carefully crafted life, wherein I’m leaning deeply into my own vulnerability and I hope you’ll support me as I do so. I’m planning to share bits of my adventure in all of this here, with this awesome community, full of amazing YOU, and I hope you’ll hang with me, share with me, and help me create an even more awesome, even more supportive place on the internet as I do so. And when I write a book, which I feel like I really want to do but which terrifies me beyond description or explanation, I hope you’ll read it.
Thanks for being here, I sure think you’re great.