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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness


I’ve been a fan of Brené Brown for a while now, and after multiple people recommended her book, Braving the Wilderness, I decided I had to give it a read.

I’m a lover of hard-cover books that I can hold in my hands and read alone, but I decided to get the Audible version and listen during my walks. (Re-reading this sentence makes me alarmingly aware that I am 23 going on 74).

Not only did I love the book, the audio version is Brown reading it herself, so it feels even more genuine, even more important.

Let me start out by saying, I felt the beginning was slow to get into and the first two chapters took a bit of energy to get through. But it’s worth sticking out. The bulk of the book is a deep-hearted narrative that weaves scientific studies and statistical findings.

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the last sixteen years studying vulnerability and shame. Some of the statistics she shares throughout the book are insane. Like this one:

 “Living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5%. Living with obesity, 20%. Excessive drinking, 30%. And living with loneliness? It increases our odds of dying early by 45%.”

How crazy is that? Feeling alone is deadlier than putting actual poison in your body. According to other research in the book, food, water, and connection are our three necessities. Which simply means: denying we are lonely is the same to our body and mind as denying that we are hungry. The long-term effects are just as dangerous and detrimental. (If you want to check out the full study from the meta-analytic review, you can download the PDF here).


While the book explores multiple themes, the central theme is the idea of true belonging. What it means to belong versus fit in. What it means to show up as we are, where we are. 

I could go on and on about the book, so I wrote a list of all I learned. 

It was one of those books I felt grateful to read. And some of the parts I’ll always carry with me are:

1. We belong to ourselves. 
It’s a big job, to know and understand that ultimately, how we feel, act, and choose our belonging is up to us. When we start carrying our lives as our own, we realize we belong anywhere that we show up honestly.

2. The kindest thing we can be is honest. 
I want to always, always be seen as the friendly, reliable person in a room. I want people to feel encouraged, acknowledged, and supported around me. But sometimes it zaps my energy entirely and I rarely know how to turn people away. Honesty is crucial. We can’t serve others and offer them joy if we are denying it for ourselves.

3. Hating the same people as someone else does not and will not ever foster genuine connection. 
Brené Brown calls this "common enemy intimacy". You can't create real roots in a relationship that's rooted in the idea of hate. The only thing you get out of gossiping about others is, maybe, fifteen minutes of a surface conversation.

But those talks we truly crave, the ones that leave us feeling lifted, inspired, and curious of the world? Those don't come from saying unkind things about someone.

4. We are all human, meaning if you believe in the goodness of people, and you recognize you are no more or less than others, you can't "hate" one side, one group, one collective society of people. 
Brown has this whole section where she talks about dehumanization- how we don't need government to segregate us and decide what people can and cannot be, we've already done this ourselves, by placing people in boxes and attacking them if they decide that box is not for them.

Brown goes on to say, you turn on the news and you are told what to fear and who to blame. And it is always other people, and it always leads to dehumanization: 

“Here’s what I believe: 1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May. 2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.” 3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman. 4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?” 5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” 

5. Replace "I am angry" with "I am hurt." 
Our anger and the world's anger, doesn't come from a place of being truly angry, but instead feeling unseen and unable to belong anywhere. This also goes with the above. How many angry people are just not understood? How quickly do we jump to anger when it's pain that needs tending to? Our world needs a lot more compassion. 

6. Sometimes life asks that we stand alone. 
My goodness, this is not easy. Sometimes we put up a good fight to keep fitting in. Sometimes we are called to walk away. And we stand out: alone, cold, nervous, alarmingly aware of how large and small we can feel at the same time. It's all temporary. I look at all the leaders I admire and adore and notice one thing: they have all been called to stand alone, to stand rooted in what they truly believe, before people saw the sense in it. 

But how wonderful it is to come to find where you feel most sincere and free, how wonderful it is to then find people that don’t ask you to fit in, but instead remind you of how you belong anywhere you get to show up as yourself. True belonging requires zero negotiation.

I'm linking the book here.
And you can download Audible and get a free book here.

And for anyone going through anything, take heart. We truly are all in this together, all searching for our place of belonging. Let go of the versions of yourself that no longer, or maybe never did, hold truth. There's better ahead than anything we’re asked to leave behind. 

Wishing everyone a beautiful day. 

xo, 
Katie 


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Books for Restoring Your Faith ( In Yourself, In Others, In the Whole, Big, Messy World)

I thought of what to call this list a dozen times over. Books for Reminding You You Aren't Alone, Books to Remind You There Are Worse Things, Books I've Clutched to My Own Chest, and so on.

A few week back I had posted a couple quotes on my Instagram story from Cheryl Strayed's, Tiny Beautiful Things. 

I was nineteen-years-old in a crowded newsroom when my editor set this book on my desk and simply said, "I think you'll like this."

I've read the book four times, each time revealing something new, each time reminding me of a few crucial truths: a full life welcomes everyone, struggle is never a singular experience, and most importantly, we are never truly alone.

After posting the quotes on my Instagram story, I got messages thanking me for sharing,  asking me about the book, or simple recognition that the quote was needed.

So I decided to make this list- a list of books that restore your faith in the workings and ways of this messy world.

Honestly, 99% of books I read do this for me, but these do it something better. These are the book from writers who untangled themselves from their very core and had the courage to write about it.

All of these books have restored my faith in myself, in others, in the sentiment I pour over all I love: "it will all be okay."

Because it will. Because everything you thought you'd never survive, you're now here to tell about. And these are the books from people who are already doing their telling.

1. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

This book is the letters written to Sugar of Dear Sugar, an advice column originally published by The Rumpus. The entries are vulnerable, hilarious, and really really real. I mean, these are people anonymously writing in about their biggest worries and problems. Strayed shares with this love and honesty that makes you feel like you are sitting on her sofa with your knees pulled into your chest, asking for guidance. And she gives it flawlessly.

“Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.” 

“So release yourself from that. Don't be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word 'love' to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.” 

“You have to say I am forgiven again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself.” 

2. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

I cry at everything, but I reaaally cried at this collection of essays. Marina Keegan passed away in a car crash just five days after graduating from Yale. Her work was collected and bound in a book. Her optimism and hope for the world is the stuff of life.

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.”

“The best years of our lives are not behind us. They're part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn't live in New York.”

3. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Joan Didion is one of those women that you read her words and sigh with a, "how did she find the words for what I so often feel?" kinda breath. She wrote this collection of essays about her life in California during the 1960's. It's magic.

“See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do... on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there...” 

“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”

4. On Writing by Stephen King

You don't need to necessarily like writing or even want to write. I think if you enjoy reading about someone who had the odds against him and the people telling him "no, no, no" and then suddenly, his work gets picked up and he is a household name and all of us are equally scared of red balloons on street gutters, you'll like this one. This book remindsmme you do what you love, period. And you pursue it even when it doesn't seem possible.

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

5. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls 

I'm emotional even writing about this one. Jeanette Walls leaves it all in this memoir. As a kid, she was raised in less-than-ideal circumstances by parents who were dysfunctional: her father, an alcoholic always promising things just over the horizon, her mother, an unstable artist. Walls grow up trying to navigate the promises of parents and learning to fight and feel for herself. It's one of my favorites.

“I hate Erma," I told Mom...
"You have to show compassion for her..." She added that you should never hate anyone, even your worst enemies. "Everyone has something good about them," she said. "You have to find the redeeming quality and love the person for that."
"Oh yeah?" I said. "How about Hitler? What was his redeeming quality?"
"Hitler loved dogs," Mom said without hesitation.” 

“Once you'd resolved to go, there was nothing to it at all.”

“I felt best when I was on the move, going someplace rather than being there.” 


6. Anything by Anne Lammott (Bird by Bird, Help Wow Thanks, Plan B, and more)

The woman is an unapologetic genius and I find so much comfort in the ways she shares. I haven't read a book of hers I haven't learned from.

“Hope is not about proving anything. It's about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” 

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”

“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.” 

7. Gift of The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

My mom gifted me this book and it's just everything and more. The writer goes off and spends time, by the sea, reconnecting to her life. Her words make you recognize how abundant and wonderful and forgiving life is. And the importance of trusting your own voice- stepping away from the booming noise of others. It's one of the books I always gift to friends in need of some extra self-love.

“The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere.” 

“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”



I could go on and on. I hope you go and find any bit of lost faith in each of these books, and then I hope you share it with anyone who seems to be needing that same faith-restoring goodness, too.

xo,
Katie


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