tiny beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed.
What a tiny, beautiful thing Strayed’s book is.
Sometimes I feel like all I can (*should*) read in recovery is (are? struggling with grammar right now..) recovery related books on eating disorders, mental health, depression, etc. But to tell you the truth, I don’t want to. Those are well and good and have there place, but I don’t believe they should be everything.
I came upon tiny beautiful things when I was scouring the shelves of Barnes and Noble for just that… recovery books. I had never heard of Dear Sugar or Cheryl Strayed before… ever. I kinda just took a gamble and bought the book on a whim because the title said “advice on love and life” under it. And good gosh could I use some of that.
Strayed collected her answers to anonymous letters sent to her “Dear Sugar” column into one book. She comments on writings of love, loss, abuse, occupational desires, gender identity… you name it. But her advice is so applicable and thought-provoking.
Excerpt: Let’s start at the introduction written by Steve Almond. He states: “Inexplicable sorrows await all of us. That was her essential point. Life isn’t some narcissistic game you play online. It all matters-every sin, every regret, every affliction” (Strayed 5).
My thoughts: God, really… you’re just going to drop that on me? 5 pages in and I just got hit with that doosy. But, it’s so true. I can’t even start to comment on the reality of it… so… MOVING ON.
Excerpt: “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor, and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want to keep. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love” (15).
My thoughts: First off… that phrase “motherfucking shit.” Thanks for speaking to my sailor mouth soul. But, in seriousness, I have experienced quite a few love’s facades. Love hurts a lot sometimes. I have cried so much out of love. I have cried because I am afraid of losing love. I have cried because I love too much. I have cried because I haven’t felt loved. I have cried because I DID feel loved. I have cried because I thought I could/would NEVER be loved. It’s been emotional. But maybe that is because love really is that important. It is a drive. It is a blessing. It is a curse, sometimes. It is pure. There is such a power in being pure. I would love (ironic use here) to tackle the shit out of love… but I am afraid too. I am genuinely scared of the repercussions of being so forward and so authentic. It’s a work in progress.
Excerpt: “Nobody can protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal” (29).
My thoughts: Damn it, really… that seems so hard. But wow is she right. There is never going to be a cure-all for suffering, for anything. When I read these sentences, I immediately think about my eating disorder. I really did try to starve away the suffering… and then I tried to eat and therapy away the suffering that the starving caused. This is a passage I truly need. It reminds me that I need to survive but I also need to love and be better for my past and my struggles and my suffering. It reminds me to dream and to picture a better time. It reminds me to strive. And it goes back to kintsukuroi… because you will be BETTER for it.
Excerpt: “Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true” (52).
My thoughts: I always question if I know what is true. I think that is something that happens when you lived with two voices in your head for years. “Trust your gut.” People say that all the time. But I don’t even know what my mind is saying… let alone my gut. What does that even mean? I really don’t like that expression. It feels out of control. It feels un-thought-out. It feels rash. But it is also raw. Truth is raw. When I think of truth, I think of a line from The Big Short (the movie on the housing bubble): “Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.” But why do people hate poetry? It is so beautiful, so expressive, so authentic, so unique, so personal. And that begs the question… why can I not trust the authenticity of my gut? Why can I not trust the feeling through my bones that tells me what IS true? Why… can I not trust myself?
I’m not yet done with Strayed’s book, and I anticipate I will comment some more on her writing. If you decide to check her stuff out, please let me know what you think!