Since I last posted, I’ve read a lot of books; it’s incredible what commuting to 120th street multiple times a week can do for one’s reading life. The papers and presentations and assigned readings, though, have kept me away from this space considerably this semester–and as a result, I feel as though I’m walking on the periphery of my reading life’s potential. I’m flying through beautiful words, but not lingering in my thoughts. Today’s post is one I need to write quickly, but that’s ok, because this is the book that I will one day stack extra copies in my home to pass them out to everyone who stops by.
If you’ve been reading long enough, you know I am heavily skewed toward fiction, but this week I read Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed and could not put it down. She used to be the anonymous advice columnist for The Rumpus (“Dear Sugar”) and this is a collection of the best of her work. To be honest, I’m not usually a fan of “advice” and I thought I’d read it slowly–a column here, a column there. Instead, I found myself turning pages incessantly and truly saddened to close the book at the end. Each column beautifully (and somehow both boldly and gracefully) encourages bravery, honesty, and reflection–and even though I couldn’t personally relate to all of the exact situations people found themselves in, I found myself on an inner journey as I read along. I just want to share a few excerpts so that you, too, will get lost in this book.
I have breathed my way through so many people who I felt wronged by; through so many situations I couldn’t change. Sometimes while doing this I have breathed in acceptance and breathed out love. Sometimes I’ve breathed in gratitude and out forgiveness. Sometimes I haven’t been able to muster anything beyond the breath itself, my mind forced bank with nothing but the desire to be free of sorrow and rage.
You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.
Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things befall you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.