Posted in 2018, Non-Fiction, Poetry

My Heart is Broken by Joyce Knock

I read this book because the author reached out and asked if I would recommend her book on Amazon. I’m all for free books and giving my opinions so I gave her a big yes ūüôā

This book is less than 50 pages but is emotional nevertheless.

It felt a bit disorganized but that was the beauty of it. When your life falls apart, life is disorganized. You get flashbacks, you get the emptiness of the moment and you get the hatred and fear of the future without a loved on in it. It’s hard and the author provided a few writing exercises¬†to help us overcome our own feelings.

She provided various poems about her son (er, the grandson whom she adopted who was the person she lost).

She gave us a bit of a background and the tools she used to overcome (but never forget) the accident.

It’s a short read but, like I said, emotional. It ends on a hopeful note and…if you do buy the book, the proceeds fund the Levi Knock “Pay it forward” Foundation which provides scholarships for youth in the Arts and Sciences.

(Featured image taken from :https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36116559-my-heart-is-broken-a-journey-of-loss-grief-and-hope)

Posted in 2018, Non-Fiction, Our Shared Shelf

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

This book was the official March-April book of Our Shared Shelf (a Goodreads book club started by Emma Watson).

Emma picked it because she fell in love with the sentences of the book. I was confused because this book had little to do with feminism, and Our Shared Shelf is a feminist book club.

Although the sentences did read like poetry, the content was about an emotionally abusive relationship. In other words, easy to read, hard to digest.

Out of all the books I’ve read this year, this is probably one I would not recommend. If you can handle mature content, then maybe it’ll be worth the read since it probably won’t last more than one or two days. (I read the e-book version so I can’t tell you page counts). All in all, it was not life-changing in anyway.

According to the Goodread threads though, it helped a lot of people reflect. Since I read many books regarding mature content and self-help, this book didn’t stand out in any way. Not to mention, I have friends who go to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous who always tell me what an unhealthy vs a healthy relationship looks like.¬† So given my background knowledge and information, clearly this book was not intended for me as the audience. It’s also hard to judge a biography since the whole point was that she was trying to release her memories in order to heal and recover, it wasn’t necessarily to change my life or to act the way a good book acts.

I don’t regret reading the book, it’s just not one that I really cared to be engrossed in, or to talk about or to even think about after I was done. In retrospect, I didn’t really emphasized with the protagonist.¬† She lead us into some really dark trails but failed to expose herself to the audience. She told us all the dark details of her relationships but none of the dark details of her heart (well, maybe like one or two). She completely revolved her life on this relationship that I don’t think she has an identity outside of it. Maybe that was the point of the book, to find herself. Still, she described herself in forms of relationships. She was either a mom, or an ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, student, daughter, grand-daughter. She was a mix of every person she has become attached to that I don’t think I know anything about Terese Marie Mailhot other than she has a misfortunate life when it comes to love. I know she’s been published a couple of times, but none of that seemed more important than whether or not Casey loved her back.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite quotes from this book (these quotes are more feelings inspired than thinking inspired so I will not be commenting on them. Also, I combined a few of them together since some were of similar topics) :

It’s too ugly–to speak this story. It sounds like a beggar. How could misfortune follow me so well, and why did I choose it every time?

I learned how to make a honey reduction of the ugly sentences. Still, my voice cracks.

My professor told me that the human condition was misery. I’m a river widened by misery, and the potency of my language is more than human.

Time seems measured by grief and anticipatory grief. I don’t think she even measured time.

I know the math of regret and nostalgia.

Empties are a clich√©–the sound of them is so familiar.

He knew something was wrong, and that’s when I wondered if maybe falling in love looked like a crisis to an observer.

You ruined me with touch. It was a different exploitation.

He fell asleep and spun a restlessness that comes when people are waiting to die. Sometimes grief is a nothing feeling.

I learned that any power asks you to dedicate your life to its expansion.

If my security depends on a man’s words or action, I’ve lost sight of my power.

Observation is a skill. Observation isn’t easy, and the right eyes can make me feel like a deer, while the wrong ones make me feel like a monster.

I think self-esteem is a white invention to further separate one person from another. It asks people to access their values and implies people have worth. It seems like identity capitalism.

I don’t think that I am lonely. I think that I am starved and maybe ravenous for the very thing you withhold from me.

I thought unseeing would be a cruel game to play with myself. But now I am reading the dark and knowing how my feet drag on every inch–feeling monstrous and tired. I’d like to have familiarity back.

I was polite enough, and considerate enough, to hurt myself like a secret.

Romanticism requires bravery and risk. The obsessive thoughts ruined things. Good news was met with a numb feeling. The voice I heard was practical. It noted every opportunity to die and then noted how I refused to jump out of a moving car.

I was not right to want to die. I didn’t want to leave my family. I liked my mind and its potential. I knew the type of burden I was. I was like my mother.

She taught me that I didn’t own things. I really liked the idea of possession. We don’t own our mothers. We don’t own our bodies or our land–maybe I’m unsure.

I remember that motherhood is mostly bearing shame to dress my children, to feed them, and to spare them the things I wasn’t spared.

The knowledge proposes I either start each day as new and take you for your word, or I tear the walls down to illustrate my pain. I feel pregnant with burden, and I chose it. I want to take it back.

That pain didn’t burden me. Trying to forget damaged me the most.

Pain is faster than light, and I wish people would not fault me for things I can’t forget or explain.

We’ve become too symbolic and never real enough.

When a man’s hands become a ghost, there is no way to strip them from a body. Haunting, what a mother does not see.

There is some stillness, even in my history–a good secret in so much bad. It almost feels like a betrayal to have good thoughts.

Things were created by story. The words were conjurers, and ideas were our mothers.
Thunder is contrary. Thunder can intuit, and her action is the music caused by lightning. She comes because we ask, and that’s why falling apart is holy.

I felt the sticky notes of my lips pull apart from his. The right love is an adhesive. I realized that I had a singular mind with Casey. Even with my duplicity and my rambling. I felt unworthy of that kind of love and ready for it.

The rest of the year was a practice in language. Every new word became more horrific. I can say full sentences. In the shower, before I knew how to be scared or protect myself, I disappeared. Ten minutes of my life were enough to kill me. Every day I negotiate the minutes of my life, remembering that I can’t remember enough.

We tried to be explicit with each other. Some knowledge can only be a song or a symbol. Language fails you and me. Some things are too large.

My people cultivated pain. In the way that god cultivated his garden, with the foresight that he could not contain or protect the life within it. Humanity was born out of pain.

God foreordained Eve’s transgression. He didn’t see you though. You were stealthier than Eve. So stealthy, there is no text for you–until now. You were folklore and rumor, and there is a myth a man took, like the apple, but of your person.

Both of your mouths, weapons. That’s how love works for a spirit like you: a determined torture. Who could fault you? Did you come from misery?

 

 

(Featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35840657-heart-berries)

Posted in 2018, Non-Fiction, Ramsey's Book Club

The Good Fight by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

This will be my first book review regarding a Non-Fiction book. Not only that, but a non-fiction book that can be considered a self-help book. Well technically, it’s categorized as Religion/Christian Life/Love and Marriage.

I read this book because I am part of Dave Ramsey’s Book Club and this was the book for February 2018. This book teaches you how conflict can bring you and your partner closer. This book is about 184 pages long and all of it informative. I’ve written some of the basic information and how they have related to me.

This is a book I recommend everyone to read. EVERYONE! Whether you get anything out of it or not, it will plant a seed in your mind about fighting. Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not, it provides great insight on yourself and others. I found ways to utilize some of these methods to use on co-workers. It’s a great read.

Dr Les and Dr Leslie Parrot have concluded that a good fight has four elements:

Cooperation
Ownership
Respect
Empathy

The Benefits of A Good Fight

Authenticity: A Good Fight Keeps Us Real
“Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse, as to confront you with yourself.”
-Tim Keller
“We bear witness to nearly everything the other says or does. We begin seeing, in both the other and ourselves, our behaviors, attitudes, and motivations like never before. We give and receive feedback, invited or not, that can rub us the wrong way.”
“Authenticity occurs when our thoughts, words, feelings and actions come into alignment.”

I cannot speak on this as a married person (since I am not married). The closest thing I have come to this (besides family drama) is when I travel with friends. Being together with someone for longer than my typical 2-4 hour hangouts can cause a lot of tension (especially when the both of you enjoy free time alone). I remember cranky arguments that could have been avoided altogether if we were both willing to talk about what was really bothering us. Instead, we hid it from each other and it came out eventually one way or another.

Luckily, being willing to forgive each other for our differences allowed us to make up rather quickly and have the argument we were trying not to have.

Clarity: A Good Fight Sheds Light
“A good fight is often like a¬†searchlight that zeroes in on an issue that has been quietly lurking around the landscape of our relationship. Once we discover that issue–often through the illuminating blaze of a good fight–we’re able to see it and define it, which puts us in a position to do something about it.”

I once had a friend ask me “why do you think you’re better than everyone else?” She didn’t mean it as in that I literally thought I was better than everyone else, but rather, that I am incapable of being nice to myself. That I have this need for perfection. Chasing perfection is chasing an impossibility, therefore, by thinking I can be perfect, makes me “better than everyone else.” I didn’t realize perfectionism was a problem until she broke it down to me. “Your perfectionistic tendencies is ruining your ability to enjoy life.”

For the longest, I felt like having fun was child’s play. “If you were having fun, you weren’t hard enough. In order to get anywhere in life, you have to work hard.” There’s no time for playing. That was my mentality. Build your house with bricks mentality. Why? Because I desperately needed security. And being perfect meant safety. Because if I wasn’t making mistakes, I couldn’t get in trouble. If I didn’t get in trouble, you’d like me more. But my perfectionism got in the way of all my relationships. I was unable to forgive myself for even the slightest of mistakes. Consequently, I would feel like how could they ever forgive me and leave before they even had a choice.

It wasn’t until after that conversation that I started really opening up to people. That I gave people the opportunity to make their own decisions based on our relationship. Most importantly, I allowed myself the opportunity to be real. Not a facade of the perfect person I feel I should be.

Fresh Start: A Good Fight Clears The Air
“The Pollutants of emotional tension, bitterness, stress, strain, woundedness, bad feelings, pressure, animosity, resentments, and walking on eggshells can choke loving feelings right out of the relationship. Collectively, these irritants become a kind of smog that shrouds your marriage in a malaise of discontent.”

I have done my share of resentments and I can attest to it ruining my relationships. One of my biggest resentments was when my best friend started dating and stopped talking to me as much. I remember being upset and not knowing how to talk about it and started being mean to her instead whenever she did reach out. It was…uncalled for. But as a teenager, I didn’t have the tools or emotional intelligence to understand that I was missing my best friend. And as a teenager with hormones, she didn’t have the light of knowing that I was affected by her disappearance (I have abandonment issues).

Eventually, after some much-needed distance, we had an honest conversation about what sparks the change and we both came to an agreement that, no matter what, we will always make time for¬†each other. She lives in a different state now, and we don’t talk like we used to, but because of that agreement, I don’t feel remotely deserted. I know that she will always be there for me, and I, her.

Security: A Good Fight Makes You Stronger
“An African proverb says, ‘Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.’ It takes a little turmoil to spur any of us to become really good at something–including our relationship. As we weather tough times together and come out on the other side, we build trust and confidence in our relationship. We find security.
This sounds counterintuitive, but a good fight, as opposed to a bad one, actually makes a couple’s relationship more solid. it empowers us. We begin to realize we don’t have to be afraid of troubles and tension. We can work it out. We’re strong. With new confidence, we say to ourselves,¬†Our love can stand up when it gets knocked around.

Reason’s We Fight
According to the book, there are 2 bases for fighting: perceived threat, and perceived neglect. We feel threatened when we perceive someone being critical, judgemental, controlling, demanding or attacking. We feel neglected when we perceive someone being uncaring, uncommitted, neglectful, selfish or disengaged. At work,  I feel more threatened, whereas, in my personal relationships, I feel more neglected. The former made total sense when I first read it. However, it was illuminating to read that neglect is more than just not being there. It can also be, not being on the same page. The author shared a story where he said he felt abandoned by his wife when she shut down from a conversation they were having (she shut down because she was feeling threatened by his comment, even though his comment had nothing to do with her parenting skills, but rather his own baggage).

The Cutest Story Ever
That might be an exaggeration but, it made my heart happy. The story goes that a man by the name of Johnny Lingo lived in the South Pacific. he wanted to marry one of the Islanders but, according to Islander customs, he would have to present the father with a cow. The highest price was typically four to six cows. He fancied a timid, skinny, plain, shy girl. The girl was worth very few cows. However, Johhny decided to give her father ten cows. That is more than the highest price! This transformed the girl into a confident woman. His reasoning was “I wanted a ten-cow woman, and when I paid that for her and treated her in that fashion, she began to believe that she was a ten-cow woman. She discovered she was worth more than any other woman in the islands. What matters most is what a woman thinks about herself.”

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(I just did a quick Google search to see if Johnny Lingo was a real person, it turns out that it’s a short film produced by the Church of the Latter-Day Saints..and that in the movie, he actually gave 8 cows. Either way, being treated as more than the highest price makes my inner romantic happy)

Rules for Fighting
The book mentions a few rules for fighting (which I will elaborate more on shortly) but it set an example of a couple who decided to have a discussion, on stage, with a live audience, about a real-life issue just so the audience can see a healthy versus unhealthy way to fight. They had the audience act as buzzers in case one of them broke a rule. The rules they set were: have open body posture (I never considered this to affect how I argue, until reading this), stay clear of blaming each other or trying to show the other person is wrong (this is how trainwrecks happen), lean in while talking (interesting), repeat back what they heard the other person saying before making a new point (I actually heard a therapist say this is useful, because oftentimes, we translate something very different than what was actually said), stay on topic and maintain eye contact. But of course, this couple has been doing that for years…it will feel very awkward when you first try it. I can’t even imagine a time where I had a discussion where I leaned in. A conversation, yes. An uncomfortable discussion….never. Quite the opposite, I want to run away. Or change the subject. Or roll my eyes and blame them. I get why they set these guidelines.

So the rules the authors suggested is to: share withholds (information you are withholding from your partner because you either didn’t have time, are afraid of confronting them or got distracted. It can be positive or negative. They suggest to write two things that you like that your partner did, then write only one thing that they’ve done that has irritated you. Make it a weekly habit to share) rate the depth of your disagreement (one person might find the issue extremely important while the other might not even register it as a problem. This will cause a change in cooperation and lead to tension), agree to disagree when necessary (you won’t always agree and maybe, sometimes, you can use your differences to your advantages in compromising for a more effective solution), apologize when you mean it (half-ass apologies are insulting, and not meaning it doesn’t lead to change in behaviors), practice the XYZ formula (it’s basically a formula they created to get your message accross. X stands for “In Situation”, Y stands for “When you do” and Z stands for “I Feel”. So one that I’ve used with my friends is: when we go out to eat, and you are on your phone, I feel like our time together isn’t as meaningful and that you’d rather do something else.) don’t be cruel, take a time-out if needed (taking a break will cause you to relax and not act on instinct and hurt), read your partner’s mind (They have a good exercise mentioned), and send up a prayer. They created these rules with the CORE attributes in mind.¬†The book goes into further explanation, examples, and details on how to follow each rule.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when they had us identify our fighting method. There are 4 possible fighters: competitive fighter, collaborate fighter, cautious fighter, and conciliatory fighter. They define all 4 and why you are that kind of fighter. They then go into detail on how to understand your partner and his/her fighting personality. What more you need to bring to the table if your partner is, let’s say, a collaborate fighter. It’s really neat! I won’t go too much into this because this is really something you have to read on your own to fully understand your methods and why they work for you. But I will say this, based on my own personal experience, I almost cried when they wrote what my personality type wants out of my relationships (because it was 100% true!). The book also talks about how you and your partner can help each other heal based on the deeper rooted issues of why we fight. It also tackles a chapter on anger.

Seriously, if you’ve enjoyed my blog post so far, you will love the book even more. If you buy the actual book, they have a code so you can get the app which is supposed to help you and your partner with certain tools. I didn’t download it since I’m not married and don’t have a partner to test it out with. They also have a page of reflections after each chapter, just to keep you thinking about what you’ve learned in each chapter.

Favorite Quotes

Contempt is so lethal to love that it ought to be outlawed.

“Contempt is any belittling remark that makes your spouse feel about an inch time.”

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I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.
-Dave Barry

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Marriage is the closest bond possible between two people. Legally, socially, emotionally, and physically, there is no other means of getting closer to another human being. It is the desire for this extraordinary closeness that propels us into matrimony. we long to belong to another person who knows us and loves us like nobody else in the world. This kind of imtimacy is the rocket fuel of marriage. Without intimacy, life becomes horribly cold and lonely. So we plunge ourselves into marriage and give our heart in exchange for the heart of another to discover the deepest and most radical experssion of human connection possible.

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When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
-Karl Menninger

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What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing.
-C.S Lewis

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Our life is what our thoughts make it.
-Marcus Aurelius

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The tone of our truth-telling can build a wall or a bridge.
-Ed Waltz

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“That’s not why I pray, Harry,” Lewis responded. “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

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Loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not.
-Colin Powell

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Money doesn’t talk, it swears obscenity.
-Bob Dylan

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According to Hendrix, intesne and recurring arguments are a good indcator that one or both partners have unresolved childhood pain such as abandonment, rejection, smothering, shame, or helpnessness.

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Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful parts of us.
-David Richo

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When you’re not aware of how the pain from your childhood gets replayed and exacerbated in conflicts as a married adult, those childhood scenarios inevitably repeat themselves with the same devastating consequences. The trauma you experienced gets reignited, whether it’s your fear of abandonment, rejection, shame, helplessness, or whatever. Heated conflict ensues, and you resort to defensive childish tactics. But once you face facts and recognize how these early unment needs play into your current relationship, you start to grow. You mature. “It’s crucual to accept the hard truth that incompatibility is the norm for relationships,” says Harville Hendrix. “Conflict is a sign that the psyche is trying to survive, to heal by stretching out of its defenses.”

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The single biggest problem in communication is the illusions that it has taken place.
-George Bernard Shaw

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Featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25440140-the-good-fight

Posted in Non-Fiction

Go Ask Alice

Since this book was based on an actual diary, I will treat it as if it were non-fiction. Non-fiction stories, in my opinion, are allowed to have scattered ideas because who’s to say what’s right and wrong?

I will, however, paraphrase what Sarah Silverman said in her autobiography, Bedwetter. Diaries are boring. When you’re accustomed to sentence structure, character development, and the works…diaries don’t fit. Mostly, because diaries are personal…not a work of literary art. And unlike a biography, you don’t need to edit yourself and rewrite aspects.

However, this book is considered great probably due to the topic. This book covers drugs, sexual abuse, LGBT, relationships…everything but racism really. There are even instances of prostitution and teenage pregnancy.

The short (semi-spoiler) version of the story: teenage girl accidentally discovers drugs, gets sucked into the hustling world, poverty, and the next hit. Quits. Returns to her family. Repeats a few times until she winds up in a mental hospital.

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An exhausting story, really. Especially when you read it in a period of 2 days.

However, if you do not know anything about the cunning world of drugs, perhaps this book would be somewhat educational. Not in a sense of understanding why people go back into drugs…she never understood herself. More or less on, just, how euphoric it feels to go back after the drought.

Like I mentioned earlier, she repeated the cycle a few times. We get to see her mind in the eyes of her diary. She writes to her diary, her only real friend, on a somewhat common basis (or at least that is what was published). Usually whenever anything interesting happens. Each time she found herself taking drugs again, she was scared. She knew that drugs ruined her relationship with her family, and her security in school…but the feeling was superb. She really did try to stop. It would just somehow manage its way back into her life.

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My take on our protagonist
Her name was never mentioned so I am referring to her as “protagonist.” Alice is actually a reference to Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland because…well…that doesn’t really need explanation if you know the story.

For some reason, probably because of TV, I imaged her having a high pitch voice. She kept repeating words like “fun! fun! fun!” The only times I hear that, in real life, comes from teachers trying to get kids excited about things.

For someone with her train of thoughts (I’ll quote some of her writings later), she was extremely emotionally immature and underdeveloped. Which given that she was a teenager, it is not surprising. The teenage years are hard to overcome, especially when everything is new and strong and uncontrolled. She needed a lot of attention, both physical and emotional, but because she couldn’t get that…she shut down. She wouldn’t express herself to anyone other than her trusted diary.

An example of her thoughts that proved her need for acceptance and lack of esteem can be found on pg 13, after being dropped off and kissed goodnight.

“I don’t know if he doesn’t like me or just respects me or what? I guess I just can’t be secure no matter what happens. I sometimes wish I were going with someone then I’d always know I had a date and I’d have someone I could really talk to, but my parents don’t believe in that, and besides, confidentially, no one has ever been that interested in me. Sometimes I think no one ever will be. I really do like boys a lot, sometimes I think I like them too much but I’m not very popular. I wish I were popular and beautiful and wealthy and talented. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like that?”

Those thoughts aren’t really red flags or anything, but, they are very low. Oh, I forgot to mention, at some points in her story, she seemed to be attracted to girls but dismissed it because she thought it was wrong for her to like girls. She never really experimented. That’s not the point though, I just remembered that because she said she likes boys a lot. Not once, did she talk about having any talent. She never spoke of hobbies. I don’t know if she just didn’t write them down, or if the editors didn’t think it would be important to have them published. She acknowledged everyone else’s greatness. She had a good moral compass.

Her mood switched from gratitude and excitement to confusion and frustration. But how does that differ from other teenagers? It didn’t. So then, what made her prone to drugs whereas others her age were able to hold strong? Nothing other than opportunity. She had a good family, according to what she wrote anyway. Her mother and father were together. Her younger siblings weren’t a complete terror. She just felt left out because she couldn’t make friends fast and the boy she loved didn’t like her back. In a moment of vulnerability, drugs were there. Well actually, her first and last time taking drugs, were accidents. She didn’t know what she was consuming was laced with hallucinogens.

I’m not saying that is how addiction works, that’s just how it happened in her story. She liked the feeling. She started looking forward to having “friends.”

In page 96, she said “After you’ve had it, there isn’t even life without drugs. It’s a plodding, colorless, dissonant bare existence. It stinks. And I’m glad I’m back. Glad! Glad! Glad!” If you haven’t heard already, each time you get back on it, it gets harder and harder to stop.

She had a drug-dealing boyfriend that got her into pushing drugs to her classmates and middle schoolers. At this part of the story, she tried to act real hard. It’s funny. When she’s repeated words, I see her as this innocent girl, but then she starts trying to talk the way druggies in TV sound and it just didn’t fit her persona. Which makes sense because drug dealing wasn’t her thing. She hated it. She moved to San Francisco to get away from it.

After San Francisco, her life stops being stable, even when she’s back home, living clean, with her parents. As I mentioned earlier, she didn’t go out looking for drugs again…it just happened. Or at least, that is how she wrote it. Until suddenly, she was in the hospital again because someone laced her food and she started tripping and banging her head open. “A psychotic episode” they diagnosed it.

In the end (SPOILER ALERT), she commits suicide three weeks after telling her diary that she is not going to start another one because she thinks she can hold it together now. Remember when I said the only person she expressed herself to was her diary? If her life was overwhelming enough with her diary, can you imagine the insurmountable demons she faced without it? I’m not suggesting that this is a good excuse to commit suicide. This book was published in the 70s. Which means, the story took place before then. Back then, from my understanding, they didn’t have the resources we have now. She probably didn’t know she had other options.

I wish she would have left a note. Something to let us know what her last thoughts were. But unfortunately, in reality, we don’t get to have that. It was her choice. Truly controversial book.¬†

My Favorite Quotes
a790712f-94fd-4c40-95ab-fec033bd90e5-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1“The pill is harder to get than drugs–which shows you how screwed up this world really is!” I just thought that was funny.

“In the beginning, when they were telling me about their deep concern, I had the overwhelming desire to break down and tell them everything. I wanted to tell them! I wanted more than anything in the world to know that they understood, but naturally they just kept on talking and talking because they are incapable of really understanding anything. If only parents would listen! If only they would let us talk instead of forever and eternally and continuously harping and preaching and nagging and correcting and yacking, yacking, yacking! But they won’t listen! They simply won’t or can’t or don’t want to listen, and we kids keep winding up back in the same old frustrating, lost, lonely corner with no one to relate to either verbally or physically.” In the defense of parents, I find that a lot of people do this regardless. More people want to talk than listen. I know I’ve run into that situation where I forgot to listen. Or I am trying to talk about something extremely vulnerable but the other person keeps bringing the focus on him/her. It’s annoying, especially when you’ve been holding it in for so long and you thought this was a form of release. Or….this could have just been her excuse to not open up. Because I’ve guilty of that too.

“When I look around here at all the ass draggers, I really think that we are a bunch of gutless wonders. We get pissed off when someone tells us what to do, but we don’t know what to do unless some fat bastard tells us. Let someone else think for us and do for us and act for us.” That was an interesting insight. You hear that when someone is zoned out, they don’t care about what is going on around there. But here, clearly, our protagonist cared about what she was identifying with. And yet, she was admitting to the helpless pattern of the addict.

“I have just read the stuff I wrote in the last few weeks and I am being drowned in my own tears, suffocated, submerged, inundated, overpowered. They are a lie! A bitter, evil cursed lie! I could never have written things like that! I could never have done things like that! It was another person, someone else! It must have been! It had to be! Someone evil and foul and degenerate wrote in my book, took over my life. Yes, they did, they did! But even as I write I know I am telling even a bigger lie! Or am I? Has my mind been damaged? Was it really just a nightmare and it seems real? I think I’ve mixed up things which are true and things which are not. All of it couldn’t be true. I must be insane.” I am always amused by identity crises. This is no different. Not being able to tell who is the real you and the fake you. Is the druggie the true you, or is the clean one who wants to give up you? Are you really as happy as you think you are? Or are you pretending out of fear? It’s interesting to think. It’s horrible if you are that person…but…interesting, nevertheless. The brain is extremely fragile.

“Maybe I’m schizo. That often starts in teenagers when they lose contact with reality, doesn’t it? Whatever it is, I’m really screwed up. I can’t even control my mind. The words I wrote when I was out are just squirming little lines and roads with a lot of rotten crap and symbols in between. Oh, what am I going to do? I need someone to talk to. I really and truly and desperately do. Oh God, please help me. I’m so scared and so cold and so alone. I have only you, Diary. You and me, what a pair.” I like this quote because it’s raw. It’s honest. It’s….the illusion of rock bottom. But we always persevere. She was having a panic attack, and your first one is always hard to identify. I’ve struggled with panic attacks, and I still have trouble identifying them in the moment. But it’s extremely gruesome. You feel susceptible to your nonsensical notions that in a different life, would have seen silly and easily overruled.

“It’s terrible not to have a friend. I’m so lonely and so alone. I think it’s worse on weekends than during the week, but I don’t know. It’s pretty bad all the time.” This is a recurring movie on the cinema of her thoughts. I’ve known how that has felt before. That’s not something that’s easy to admit out loud…or in general.

“It’s strange how much sex I’ve had and yet I don’t feel as though I’ve had any. I still want somebody to be nice and just kiss me goodnight at the door.” See, it’s not quantity but quality. But also, drugs rob you of the moment. She was usually high whenever she was having sex. Although she said it felt amazing, she didn’t think it felt real.

“I looked at the sky this morning and realized that summer is almost gone which really made me sad because it doesn’t seem as though it’s been here at all. Oh, I don’t want it to be over. I don’t want to get old. I have this very silly fear, dear friend, that one day I’ll be old, without having really been young. I wonder if it could happen that quickly or if I’ve ruined my life already. Do you think life can get by you without you even seeing it?” The only worse than dying is not living.

Time for the last quote…I know I’m sad about that too.

“Anyway, this morning I was reading an article on identity and responsibility, and it said that kids who aren’t allowed to make any decisions for themselves never grow up, and kids who have to make all the decisions before they’re ready never grow either.” This quote doesn’t really need any explanation, just a simple digestion of information. Do you fall into a certain category? I know I do. Being a parent must be hard.

That’s my take on this book. I did not read the excerpt of Jay’s Journal because…there’s only so much drama a person can take. What were your thoughts?

 

Featured Image was taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/46799.Go_Ask_Alice
Posted in Fiction, Non-Fiction, short stories

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

Since this book didn’t provoke much thought, I decided to bundle my review to one post. That’s not a slight to the author. Her writing was more emotional than mental.

Introduction
The¬†introduction built up the author really well. It was written by one of her teachers. Based on her description, I was expecting Marina’s writing to be someone overwhelming. (It wasn’t. However, it was original.) Without knowing Marina, I already felt a connection to her, just based on how much love and respect her teacher had for her and her potential. Whoa, too many pronouns.

The Opposite of Loneliness
This was a commencement speech that portrayed Marina as this lively, loving, energetic, insightful ambitious person. She starts off with “we don’t have a word for the opposite¬†of loneliness” and immediately I’m hooked. “I’m going to like this girl!” I thought after realizing that there really isn’t a word that opposes loneliness. Not really. Not sufficiently. Like most commencement speeches, she continues to inspire hope and courage. I was really excited to read what she wrote next.

Fiction

Cold Pastoral
Ironically, this short story made me feel…lonely. Not what I was expecting. I must admit that Keegan is not afraid to delve into those insecurities. The story centers around Claire. She had a friend with benefits relationship with a guy named Brian who suddenly passes away. Brian’s ex-girlfriend convinces Claire to steal his diary so his parents wouldn’t find it and read it. Claire, however, decided to read it herself. I won’t mention what was written, but it was definitely a conflicting situation. Grief and reality, all at once. Kudos for going there.

Winter Break
Another story that leaves a sense of loneliness. However, in this story, Addie and Sam are in a happy, passionate relationship. Addie is back for winter break and finds her parents miserable, although they weren’t quite ready to admit it till they saw the spark between Addie and Sam. A story with a glimpse of the dysfunction of a “normal” family.¬† I liked the contrast of the relationships. The young, passionate couple versus the older, no longer compatible, married couple.

Reading Alone
Reading Alone was perhaps the most original of art her stories. I have never read anything like this. The story is about this elderly woman, Anna, who has bi-weekly sessions reading to a blind man, Sam. It was recommended by her doctor since she started feeling pain after her husband decided to get out of retirement to work again. What made this story interesting is that Anna would undress as she read to Sam. Weird, right?

The Ingenue
This is a story of jealousy, distrust and “cha-cha-cha”. Our main character is intimidated by her boyfriend’s on-stage girlfriend, Olivia. Danny, the boyfriend, is adamant about being the originator of saying “cha-cha-cha” between birthday songs. She felt a strong sense of betrayal by him after he cheated on a game of Yahtzee. My take, it was a metaphor for her doubt in his loyalty in regards to Olivia. But I could be wrong since they wound up getting married.

The Emerald City
The Emerald City seems out of place. The story is a set of e-mails sent from a William Madar. He works for the Coalition Provisional Authority and has been stationed in Afghanistan. Not as a soldier though, he’s the Deputy Secretary of Housing Reconstruction. We see the e-mails he is sending to a Laura Kenzie, whom we never meet, nor do we see her responses, even though it is stated that she does reply. The story progresses with him getting a new translator, Haaya. Haaya and Will try to negotiate with a reformed member of Al Qaeda in order to get a list of names of those involved. It’s definitely a change from her other writings.

Baggage Claim
Baggage claim was the shortest of all short stories. It was about a soon-to-be-engaged couple (the girlfriend doesn’t know Kyle has a ring in his backpack) who decide to go to Unclaimed Baggage Center. They sell luggage and the equipment inside that was never claimed. Kyle, the boyfriend, decides to leave his backpack (with the ring) there because he started finding her annoying. Before the story ends, he returns to buy the ring again from the luggage place. The ending was cute, his back-and-forth conflict was nice to read. You could tell he was nervous.

Hail, Full of Grace
This feels like a story that wasn’t quite done. It has the potential for a romance novel. The story is about a woman, Audrey, who is back in her hometown for the winter. She adopted a kid by herself. She runs into her ex-boyfriend, a man who she previously had a kid with but gave the baby up for adoption since they were really young. Her new baby, Emma, has been cast to be the understudy of baby Jesus for a Christmas play. She runs into her ex-boyfriend, Julian, at a store and invites him to the play. It ends with him showing up…late. See, potential. However, I should note that he is married and has kids of his own with his wife. So, a very controversial romance story.

Sclerotherapy
This story starts with the explanation of Karen getting a tattoo of a Chinese character that supposedly said “Inner resolve and outer peace, a general levelheadedness and tranquility” only to find out by her brother’s Asian roommate that it actually meant “soybean”. It became her shame and she tried to cover it up. Finally, during a sclerotherapy session, she was asked what her tattoo meant. She first said that it meant “inner resolve and outer peace, a general levelheadedness and tranquility” but then admitted it actually meant “soybean”. This story reminded me of the struggle of being honest and acceptance towards the curve balls life throws.

Challenger Deep
If any of her stories were to make it into the big screen…I would bet on this one. Well, maybe the ingenue as a Sundance film or something. These 5 people were stuck in a submarine thirty-six thousand feet under. They were in complete darkness and couldn’t see. They were all slowly losing hope, with the exception of Ellen, who was recently engaged. Little by little, they all begin to crack. What makes this suspenseful is that there are 5 shifts needed to run the submarine….so all are needed and can’t be replaced. Therefore, it is important that everyone stay. They are all haunted by their dreams and the lights they can see in those dreams.

NonFiction

Stability in Motion
This is basically a love story for her car. She talks about how her grandma used to own it and took very good care of it. But once it was passed down to her, it started becoming messy and filled with memories of her own life. It ends with her clearing it out and passing it down to her younger brother. She reminisces about her break-ups, her first kisses, her newspapers and all other important events in her life that were lived in this car. This car that once belonged to someone else, and will now belong to someone else. In other words, it’s kind of like a country song.

Why We Care about Whales
Her writing style here was irresistible. My favorite quote:
“I worry sometimes that humans are afraid of helping humans. There’s less risk associated with animals, less fear of failure, fear of getting too involved. In war movies, a thousand soldiers can die gruesomely, but when the horse is shot, the audience is heartbroken.” How true is that?! We care about the pets more than we care about the people. She goes on about how we should care about people but that during the heat of the moment, it’s hard to be philosophical. Her description of the dying whales that washed into the shore was hauntingly beautiful.

Against the Grain
So…her mom…is the best! In this story, Marina describes the lengths her mom went through due to her (Marina’s) dietary restrictions. See, Marina was allergic to gluten during a time where there wasn’t that much information about it. Her mom, nor the doctors, could figure out why she kept getting sick, until her mom found the definition of Celiac Disease. Her mom made all new foods, researched like crazy, and tried her very best to make sure Marina didn’t feel like she was being left out. But of course, all that effort made Marina feel completely different. Who among us haven’t felt ungrateful for our mother’s efforts every now and then?

Putting the “Fun” Back in Eschatology
This is just talking about how the world will eventually end. She hopes that humanity can survive it…if we don’t fuck up. It’s just a two-page opinion piece. I personally don’t see how we cannot fuck up.

I Kill for Money
With that name, you wouldn’t think that this is the funniest story. But it is! It’s about an exterminator. Get it…he kills for the money. Clever. Tommy, the exterminator, AKA Dr. Death, is sixty-three-year-olds and loves his job. He is filled with lame jokes (depending on your sense of humor, I’m into dad jokes so is jokes were up my alley). I felt for Tim. He’s made fun of a lot but he does good work and he tries his best to be nice. The world needs more people like Tommy.

Even Artichokes Have Doubts
I never figured out why she picked that title. I can tell you that it was about doubt. In this story she talks about her personal experience regarding receiving a letter from McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm. This got her to question what her peers thought about this, especially those not studying for the finance industry. She received some feedback about the doubts her classmates felt about not being able to make a living in a non-profit, and how most feel like starting here would be a good step. Many justify it by saying they’ll get valuable experiences.

The former dean argues that you can get those experiences doing something more interesting. He continues by pointing out that “if you’re like most people, you’ll do one thing for two to three years, then something else for two to three years, and then–somewhere in that five- to seven-year distance from Yale–you’ll see a need to fully commit to something that’s a longer-term project” but what made this quote eye-opening is that he ended it by saying “If you think of your first few jobs after Yale in this way–holistically and in terms of your growth as a person rather than as a ladder rungs to a specific material outcome–you’re less likey to wake up at age forty-five married to a stranger.” But his advice was not all that extreme. He believes that you can do more good working for a corporation (even though they have a stigma about being evil) than working for consultants or banks. It’s an unproductive use of Yale graduates.

She ends it with her fears: that people are settling due to fear of not being able to succeed otherwise. She mentions how excited she gets when her classmates are passionately doing the best they can for a project and how proud they become…and how she can’t imagine a world without their visions coming to life.

The Art of Observation
I won’t go too into this one since I didn’t get much out of it. Here, she and her boyfriend are tourists in India and get asked to have their picture taken…a lot. Her boyfriend is quickly annoyed whereas she enjoys it for as long as she can. Then, late at night, she wonders how her face will be in dozens of strangers pictures….and she takes a picture of a complete stranger. A circle of silent understanding.

Song for the Special
Here she talks about how every generation thinks they’re special. She talks a lot about jealousy and how she sees other people succeeding and she wonders why she didn’t think of it. Then she gets deeper, she mentions how nothing is permanent and that the world will eventually end. “Everything will be destroyed no matter how hard we work to create it. The idea terrifies me. I want tiny permanents. I want gigantic permanents! I want what I think and who I am captured in an anthology of indulgence I can comfortingly tuck into a shelf in some labyrinthine library” I found this amusing because I believe every person should have their own memoirs. Not for money, or fame…just so that people can know you existed. That you were here and you contributed, no matter how small, to this world. That everyone’s story, no matter how horrific, tragic or boring should be told.

“I’m so jealous. Laughable jealousies, jealousies of everyone who might get a chance to speak from the dead. I’ve zoomed out my timeline to include the apocalypse, and, religionless, I worship the potential for my own tangible trace. How presumptuous! To assume specialness in the first place.” See…if we had our own memoirs, this desire might diminish. It’s true, I’ve read about it in a utopian novel…that ended horrible bad…hmmm….my thoughts are flawed somewhere.

“There’s a really good chance I’ll never do anything. It’s selfish and self-centered to consider, but it scares me.” I understand this feeling too well. My biggest fear is that I’ll never be more than average. I was taught to strive for greatness…but realistically….not everyone can be great. It’s like a lottery game. Hard work is not enough. There are many hard-working people who don’t get to where they want to be. Luck plays a big role. Opportunities help. It’s why many people say the journey is what matters…because the journey is obtainable. The destination isn’t promised. Marina, herself, didn’t get to where she wanted to be. She worked hard, won many awards but I’m sure she had bigger dreams. That’s why the book was created. To help her dreams come true. But what if her friends and family didn’t care enough? This book wouldn’t exist. Her hard-work would have disappeared. My point about luck would stand strong. It was luck that she was born to the family she was born in. Not everyone has the good fortune of caring parents.

But it is scary. The deepest quote I ever heard was “the place with the most treasure is in the cemetary….it’s buried with potential.” (it was by my friend’s mom, not some famous person…unless she got it from a famous person and I just never did my research.)

 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. Her writing was untamed and doesn’t follow any style I’ve read before. If you know of a book similar to this, please let me know.

 

(Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18143905-the-opposite-of-loneliness?ac=1&from_search=true)