January. And February. These post-Christmas, pre-Spring months reach unsparing and uninspiring depths of winter. Depths of -30 C and three feet of snow, to be exact! But the idea of Book Club fashioned itself into flesh and blood over brunch (as ideas do), and it has enlivened and inspired me mentally through the dark winter evenings.
My partner in crime is Jenna Dayle. We kept it simple, and exclusive - so far it's just the two of us. We're not unwilling to include anyone else (although vetting would be necessary for participation in the heart-exposing discussion that is the real bent of Book Club), but we haven't found anyone willing to be included (read: capable of spending six hours in a restaurant dissecting a single book - which we are).
BOOK CLUB RULES
The theme for 2018 would be self-help.
One book a month (we picked six each).
One meeting a month (bringing our questions, our takeaways, and our deepest and most vulnerable thoughts and feelings to the table).
Now, three books deep into 2018, April is the right time to share those book club picks with you.
Because spring has (supposedly, as I look out at the deep snow) begun. And spring motivates us to dig into the deepest, darkest corners of our homes to scrub, and scour, and sweep in light and freshness. Why not spring clean our lives as well as our houses? Opening up neglected places inside and decluttering unnecessary emotional trash with a beautiful and insightful read?
TAKE OUT YOUR EMOTIONAL TRASH
THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION by BRENE BROWN
January's Book Club met for brunch on a Saturday. Six hours, two restaurants, and bottomless cups of coffee later, the number of times I cried while dissecting The Gifts of Imperfection? Will remain classified.
I must have underlined half of this taut best seller, and it inspired five post-its on my bathroom mirror. Each sentence is valuable; there is no excess. But it’s more than a stark frame of proverbs. Brene Brown teaches with a confident warmth that is direct and personal, speaking truth about living a wholehearted life, understanding that you are enough, and owning your story.
There are a million point five ways this book has turned the way I think about life inside out. Big picture though?
Practice. Everything is practice. Every morning we wake up and go to work practicing our best lives. Perfectionism - my personal nemesis - will only paralyze you.
“Cultivating a Wholehearted life is not like trying to reach a destination. It’s like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really arrive, but we certainly know that we’re heading in the right direction” (page xiv).
February's Book Club convened, cross-legged on the rug by the fire, with lots of snacks.
“This book won’t take us six hours to discuss,” we said confidently.
Midnight told us we were wrong.
Reading Love Warrior, a memoir, after The Gifts of Imperfection was an uncanny, if unplanned, follow-up.
Brene Brown set up the framework of the journey to wholehearted living, and Glennon Doyle Melton passionately filled it out with her brutiful (the idea that life is both beautiful and brutal) story. This is a no-holds-barred story of healing. Body, mind, and soul.
Three phrases remained with me when I closed this book; three phrases I now whisper to myself on the regular.
SPEAK YOUR INSIDES. Glennon’s therapist, Ann tells her that ‘there’s nothing wrong with how you feel, but there is something wrong with pretending otherwise.’ You will lose yourself in the pretending.
DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING. When you feel paralyzed by perfectionism, or hobbled by pain, just decide on one step. The next right thing.
WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. We are Warriors. Life is hard. We know this. And we often pretend that everything is fine, that everything is okay, and numb ourselves as a form of protection. The other option? Is to open ourselves up to the feelings, and believe that we are strong enough to walk through it, and walking through it will lead us to a deeper, richer life. This has completely changed the way I think and how I speak about difficulty.
These three phrases I whisper to myself? I can read them, and I can believe them, but I won’t be able to live them without practicing. You have to walk toward them like a star in the sky. One hard thing, one right thing, one truth told at a time.
YOU SHOULD READ THIS IF... you are into truth-telling. And inspiring stories about love, healing, and life.
After the profoundly emotional one-two punch of our January and February Book Club picks, for March we changed lanes and accelerated into the practicality of The Power of Habit.
Not only did it give me a glorious ice-breaking anecdote about why toothpaste is so minty fresh, it opened my eyes to things I do on autopilot. Habits that I didn't even realize were habits!
There’s no magic formula for losing a bad habit. No secret process waiting to be uncovered, written on an ancient scroll, and no easy button. But if there WERE a process, understanding how habits work would be step one, and that is where The Power of Habit comes in: to explain the habit loop (cue, routine, reward). Once you understand the loop, you have the tools to start experimenting with changing the patterns embedded in your brain.
You have the tools to practice.
(I think it’s time to change 2018’s theme from Self-Help… to Practice.)
YOU SHOULD READ THIS IF… you want to say bye-bye-bye to a bad habit. Or at least, understand why it’s so difficult for us to change by counting on our willpower alone.