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I don’t know about you, but the more I’m hunkered down at home, the more I feel myself drawn to books that have nothing to do with instruction, but rather titles that offer me reflection and connection. It seems whenever we experience trauma, there is an almost immediate need to fix or mitigate (or better still control). For me, this looks like pouring myself into tutorials and resources and diving into conversations with colleagues with an intent to envision, create, and construct. While this is invigorating work, it’s also depleting.
As these weeks slowly accumulate, I’ve begun to realize that my trauma has gone somewhat unchecked and, at times, has been deepened by the media’s coverage of societal inequities made only more apparent by this pandemic. How can the world be so beautiful yet so cruel? It can feel as though sadness, bitterness and disappointment are around every corner.
I didn’t even realize my own need for repair until I started noticing a trend in my book stack. I couldn’t quite get myself back into the professional books I was mid-stride in reading. Instead, I had and have eyes for books that offer healing. My house has no shortage of books, yet I find myself adding healing titles to my online shopping cart and requesting digital books in that same vein through my local library. I ask friends for recommendations and crack open old books that have helped me through undoubtedly hard times in the past, to be re-read.
Perhaps you, too, have been feeling this way. Maybe you need to start a bit of internal repair. If so, here are a few titles worth your consideration. It’s important to take the time to do some healing work within ourselves, without which we can’t offer our fullest selves to others.
Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, by Anne Lamott
If you’re new to Anne Lamott, you’re in for a treat. Her honest, often self-deprecating approach to nearly every topic, carries both depth and wisdom. She’s written fiction as well as memoirs and self-help style books on topics like parenting, writing and healing. This particular title offers ways of embracing and reframing our experiences as a way to enter into grace-filled survival, especially when the world feels less than kind. She reminds us of our own resourcefulness and the power of leaning into each other and the hardest bits of life. If you love this title, I’d recommend “Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair” as a follow up read.
Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Way Finding, by Lynn Darling
In this memoir, Darling tenderly invites us on a journey through new found solitude as she becomes an empty nester and abandons her New York City home. The fact that she lands herself in a small, remote Vermont cabin as a self-professed directionally challenged person is not lost on the reader. Rather, it is an enduring and universal metaphor for navigating life. Her journey reminds us all that in being lost, there is much to be found.
Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment, by Katrina Kennison
Whenever I find myself reading a Kennison book, a pencil or pen needs to be nearby. I can’t help but underline her revelatory observations--poetry on the page. In this particular read, she ruminates and reflects on the passage of time, shifting identity and the struggles and gifts of change. “To be human and alive,” she writes, “is to strive and to struggle, to learn and to grow even as we endure our losses and question our ability to transcend them.” Page after page, she opens her mind and her noticings to the outside world, gifting us the opportunity to do the same: to see life anew, just as we are, wherever we are and however we have come to be.
This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems, by Wendell Berry
When you come into the work of Wendell Berry, you step into a world of a thinker, naturalist, and poet. I first fell in love with Berry when I came across his poem “The Wild Rose.” It continues to be one of my very favorites. In this collection, there is much to love, explore and ponder as he sanctifies the undoubted and ordinary beauty of the world, of people and rituals all around us. In naming the unavoidable cycles of life, Berry highlights the divinity in every living thing.
Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, by Glennon Melton Doyle
This book won’t disappoint. With sheer authenticity and heart, Doyle shares personal stories of her hard-earned grit and resilience. While some of her life circumstances may be unlike our own, her reflections and call to grow into a better version of herself aims right at the center of the human experience. She had me at “Life is brutiful”--one of her fabulous coined sayings.
I’m anxiously awaiting the delivery of my next read, David Whyte: Essentials, by David Whyte. After hearing his interview from the On Being Project with Krista Tippet, I know that this title will serve up my next dose of heart and healing. Hopefully you’ll find some comfort and inspiration in one of these titles. As is so often the case, reading reminds us of our shared humanity and the transformation we can experience on the heels of upheaval. With a little bit of help and perspective, discomfort and struggle become fertile ground for powerful reflection where we’re invited and challenged to accept, connect and change. Healing can be ours, little by little, page by page, day by day.