Reading Matters: May

Two contrasting books this month – “Bloom” by Bronnie Ware and “the Rules do Not Apply” by Ariel Levy

“Bloom” by Bronnie Ware

Photo image by Poppy Potts

“Life is a choice.  It is YOUR life.  Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly.  Choose happiness”

Those who follow this blog know of my intense interest in life, what makes a life, how to live it, what makes us belong in life , what makes  life a fulfilling experience and worth living.  Often times I find answers from books and writings from people who have gone before and who turn back to share their experience and knowledge one last time.

In 2009, Bronnie Ware was thrust unexpectedly headfirst into the limelight when a blog article written about her experience caring for the dying went viral.

Here is the post: Regrets of the Dying

And here are the top five regrets

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Powerful stuff  – don’t let it be me we shout out  – wide and loud – and yet, tell me  the wind echoes back –

  • What does it mean to live a regret free life?
  • What challenges will I face?
  • How do I find the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expect of me?
  • How do I find the courage to express my true feelings?
  • How do I let myself be happier?
  • What happens if I choose to work less hard and put more time into the things I truly love?
Photo image by Poppy Potts

It’s something I have often wondered.

And why does following our own heart often present such discomfort?   Why can it be so challenging?

“Bloom” [Hay House]  is Bronnie’s own insightful journey.  It is her experience of living a life without regret putting the theory into practice – it’s the stuff we really need to know – where the rubber hits the road.

Pockets of glory, pockets of pain, pockets of resourcefulness – its all here – a manual for living, a manual of life.

Building on her knowledge and the advice imparted from the dying during her years providing palliative care, Bronnie lets us see how change and growth come from being prepared to sit with each experience, losing the judgment, daring to be present with all that life brings – the discomfort, joy, pain, happiness   – all of it – its the only way.

Shortly after becoming a single (older) mum to her longed for daughter Elena,  Bronnie’s health deteriorated with a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Crippling attacks follow,  forcing Bronnie to feel her way into and through the pain and suffering and back out the other side.

Always moving at her own pace.

Finding a home.

Finding herself in love.  Unrequited.

Raising a child as  a single parent.

Providing an income as breadwinner for the family .

Everyday life but life on Bronnie’s terms.

The book manages to be both inspiring and practical.

An invitation to search for and find our peace.

There’s something rather wonderful watching over and over this magical cycling  – Bronnie joyous, riding carefree in dappled sunlight – in the moment, in love with life.

Highly recommended.

The Rules Do Not Apply (published by Fleet) written by Ariel Levy

This is a story about a life which starts :

“For the first time I can remember, I cannot locate my competent self,” writes Levy in her opening “In the last few months, I have lost my son, my spouse, and my house. Every morning I wake up and for a few seconds I’m disoriented, confused as to why I feel grief seeping into my body, and then I remember what has become of my life.”

I found this book a raw, visceral uncomfortable read

“The New Yorker writer had a life that balanced domesticity with intellectual and sexual adventure. Then it fell apart”

Is this a book about womanhood?

If so, I do not recognise my own experience as a woman and that unnerves me.

Gender irrelevant, somehow – is this the new currency?  I am confused.

Levy is confused.  But then again so definite in her writing, it unsettles me.

It is as if the rules do not apply literally in Levy’s life – the gloves are off and anything goes in life, in relationships, in sex and coupling – it reads like a 24 hour party people existence where nothing is real and no one brave enough or real enough to venture deeper into commitment – a deep rooted belief that life is only a series of unhappy events and then gone.

And that deadens me.

What happened to the old order of things Ariel?  I could understand that.

This life – this writing- challenges my perception of life and of loving and I am uncomfortable with what I find.

May be that is why I find this to be such a difficult read.

And yet I read on, longing for a neat resolution and gentle outcome.

It never happens.

Carrying an endorsement on the back cover from Lena Dunham and with a distinguished writing career – this book first appeared as a long story in the New Yorker (Thanksgiving in Mongolia) in 2013 – Levy has a clear, well defined writing pedigree.

But her life seems to occupy unfathomable sadness – marriage to a female alcoholic, failed parenthood, the tragic loss of her baby son on the floor of a Mongolian hotel bedroom – he was born alive at 19 weeks but did not survive , separation – it is a tough read – critically acclaimed by raw.

There is a predatory, intimidating feel to the book , the kind of “casual” one finds in “casualty”, unremitting.

Did I like it?  No – it made me feel old (and faintly grubby) but there are many others who have read it and would disagree.

Its like my Teacher said – walk into a room full of people and offer them the choice to live a joyous heart filled life over a life of pain and suffering and watch the response – 99.5 times out of 100, people would opt for the latter  – believing that to be the true experience and meaning of life.

Its just I want more….

And that’s why reading matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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