She’s baaaaack.

Excuse my unplanned hiatus.  I’ve been caught up in the throes of life.  A few posts back I wrote about losing my grandmother and half of my neglecting this blog had to do with dealing with the aftermath of that, being there for my family and then dealing with the aftermath of that, too.  The other half has to do with happy news: I was accepted into a MA in Publishing program with a college in the Philadelphia area.  That being said, the subject of this post is appropriate: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

The Alchemist is one of those books that I always heard about and in the midst of another book I would think: “next, I need to read The Alchemist” and when the time came I’d forgotten about it.  So I’m glad that I finally got around to it.  I quite honestly had no idea what this book was about, I’d just heard the name so many times, so I really hadn’t any sort of expectation about this.  To my surprise, this book was about something that I’d been attempting to put into practice for the last two years: The Law of Attraction.  It never comes right out to say that, but that’s what it is: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it…”

As I said in my post about Wonder, I think that all things happen for a reason and some books come into our lives at just the right time, and this was one of those situations.  Without meaning to, I’d read three books, almost consecutively, having to do with living the best life I possibly can: The Power of Now, The Soul of All Living Creatures, and The Alchemist.  These books are in some way guiding me, they are my own Alchemist, showing me the way to get what I want and be where I want to be.

I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery over the last few years.  While I really love most of the people that I work with, I strongly dislike my job.  Its alright for the moment, but its not something that I can continue to do – it crushes your soul to do something every day, for 9 hours a day, that you don’t really care about.  So over the last few years I’ve tried to figure it out.  I’ve decided I was going to be a life coach (oh, the irony!), a veterinarian, a project manager, a yoga guru (LOL!), you name it.  And each time, those things fell through and I couldn’t figure out why.  So in practicing the Law of Attraction, I learned that I should stop thinking so much, stop planning so much, and just take time every day to do something I love to do.  Over the last few months, I’ve been making time every day to read.  I’ve read more books in the last few months than I ever have and I’ve also started this blog.  I came upon this college in the suburbs surrounding Philadelphia that offers a MA in Publishing and I thought that was perfect, that was my answer!  So even though I had a horrid GPA in college, I applied and this past Monday, I got my acceptance letter.

So here goes!  In taking this step, I am getting to do so many things that I’ve been wanting do to so badly for years.  I get to go back to school and work on my Master’s degree in a subject that I really am passionate about.  I get to be the adult I’ve been trying to be and move, get my own place, go to a new city, and start a new life.  I get to get a new job. I’ll have to work full time while I’m in school and even if I stay in the same industry I am now, it will be a welcome change while I work on my MA.  All this just by taking one step, by doing one thing for myself.

Coelho writes: “‘…at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.  That’s the world’s greatest lie.'”  For a while there, I believed that lie and I did lose control and I was absolutely miserable.  It made me sick.  I had to go on disability in order to get treatment for my depression and anxiety 2 years ago.  I’ve been trying to cope and trying to cope but coping is not living.  Even if I wind up having to slave away in a cubicle for the rest of my life, I’d rather be doing something that I love to be doing inside that cubicle than talking myself into getting out of bed every day.

So this post was more about me than The Alchemist, and that’s okay because I needed a “me” post.  It’s okay to be all about me sometimes.

 

 

 

 

the Cool Girl

** Gone Girl spoiler alerts! **

The most recent band wagon I’ve jumped on is Gone Girl because it looks like a good movie and I’ve got to read the book before I see the movie.  The only time I’ve seen the movie first is when I didn’t know it was originally a book.  Now, I’m thinking that when a movie comes out that I want to see, I should just assume it’s a book and scoop it up before I buy my movie ticket!

What Gone Girl has done for/to me is something that a book has not done for/to me in a long while.  Normally, when I can’t put a book down, its because I’m just a book worm and I’m eating it up whether or not I like it very much or I think its the best book I’ve read so far.  But I devoured Gone Girl in 3 days with a very busy schedule.  Every spare second I had, the book was in my hands.  I haven’t had a book leave me at the edge of my seat (the way movies proclaim to do so often) in a very, very long time.  It takes the reader on an emotional ride where he or she does not know who to sympathize with, if anyone at all, as if we were watching this woman disappear and the case unfurl before our eyes, while all the while we’re getting a glimpse into the minds of the two main characters, Amy and Nick.  It made me feel like I was an insider and a bystander all at once.

In typical me fashion, I jumped all over the notion of the Cool Girl that Amy writes about when we get to hear her true voice, not that of Diary Amy.  This phenomena, for lack of a better term, of girls and women pretending to be what they are not in order to interest a man is not only something I’ve read about in femist theory, but something that I’ve witnessed and been a part of in every day life.  Gillian Flynn writes, from Amy’s point of view:

“…I was playing the girl who was in style, the girl a man like Nick wants: the Cool Girl.  Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they?  She’s a cool girl.  Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot,brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot.  Hot and understanding.  Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want.  Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.” 

Flynn uses Amy to draw attention to the extreme expectations that males, in general, have for females.  It goes right back to the Madonna or the whore.  Be caring, be understanding, be tough, be sexy, eat a steak, laugh at my fart jokes but be a lady,  be motherly but don’t smother me, deep throat me and take it from behind but don’t be a slut, have some self respect.  Every female I know, including myself, has had to deal with these unrealistic expectations. Flynn goes on to write: “Men actually think this girl exists.  Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl.” Males, and many females, with antiquated ideals expect so many contradictory qualities in women that it becomes confusing for a girl or woman to even know who she is or how she really feels because we are always so busy attempting to squeeze ourselves into the mold, to avoid the dreaded labels: psycho, crazy.

I don’t believe that any of the pretending that Amy is talking about here is done intentionally by women; I believe that we’ve all been groomed to act in a way that men will find attractive and we allow others to dictate who we should become in order to get their attention and gain their affection. But the pretending, intentional or not, can only go on for so long before the real you, your true emotions, bubble over.  Once that happens, that may not be met with the kindest reactions, which is what happened to Amy in this book.  Her true nature coming out pushed her husband, Nick, away, so far away that the marriage collapsed.  Now, I’m not making a plea for Amy or blaming Nick; in this one situation, Amy does turn out to be what we all fear we will be called as females who dare to share our true selves with a male: a psycho bitch.  But that’s not quite my point.

Speaking from experience, I’ve been in that place where I was the Cool Girl.  This wasn’t intentional, this wasn’t even pretending – someone had brought out all of these ideal qualities in me at one point. I wanted to have fun and go to parties and drink whiskey with the guys and go to band practice until all hours of the night and let him put his hands on me whenever and however he wanted.  But like all good things, it was good until it wasn’t.  It turned into a big case of “Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”  I wouldn’t say that I was pretending and then I stopped, I would say that I was taken advantage of and then let my feelings be known.  As Amy, again, says “I was told love should be unconditional…But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing ever?…Unconditional love is an undisciplined love, and as we all have seen, undisciplined love is disastrous.”

What then happened was that I was sick of being walked all over; I drew up conditions in this “unconditional love” and those conditions weren’t favorable to the other party.  Fuck me for having feelings, right?  So often women are shamed for being honest.  So many times, in different situations and to different people, I’ve said “you really hurt me” to be met with “you’re being dramatic”.  When we try to take control, we become the psycho bitch.  Our truth is minimized at best.

Amy takes things to the extreme, to say the least, and although I couldn’t sympathize with her after I got to the point in the book where I knew what was really going on, I could identify with her.

That being said, I was, and still am, so conflicted on the ending.  Another thing that we are groomed into is that yearning for the fairy tale ending, that happily ever after.  So much so that even after reading the horrible things that Nick and Amy did to and thought about one another, I still wanted them to wind up together.  That in itself kind of confuses and scares me.  Or maybe I just felt like Amy and Nick did: that they were so fucked up and knew each other’s fucked up-ness so damn well that who else could either of them wind up with if not each other?  Part of me is also disappointed that Amy didn’t get her due punishment, or did she?  Living a life with a man who loathes you, who is only with you because of your child that you share, that’s got to be some kind of hell, right?  I’m very much disappointed, confused, and only very slightly satisfied with the ending.  Yes, that’s right, I’m disappointed and satisfied at the same damn time and that’s alright because I’m a complex, female human being and I can feel however I want and tell you all about it.

 

“All things are connected.”

Those who know me know that I am an avid animal lover – a bit obsessed, actually.  It was a long-time habit of mine to watch YouTube videos of any kind of animal I could think of, although, I never could find one of baby bison which really bums me out.  As one who feels so much love and admiration for all animals, it was a no brainer that I picked up The Soul of All Living Creatures by Vint Virga, DVM.

When I first picked up this book, I thought I was going to be getting a compilation of heart-warming stories about animals, and that’s what I got, but there was so much more.  What Virga does is use his experience in treating animals as a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and animal lover to weave stories together, as well as present ancient proverbs, folktales, and quotes, that wind up teaching the reader a lesson in being human.  This was actually a great follow up of The Power of Now.  Lessons that Virga’s carefully crafted chapters teach include being present, forgiveness, mindfulness, and responsiveness.  I also learned a fair bit about different animals such as Bengals, leopards, ocelots, as well as domestic cats and dogs.  Again, as an animal lover, this book spoke to me by showing me that I could take those lessons that I learned already while reading The Power of Now and apply them to every day life in a way in a meaningful way: by turning to animals and observing their behavior, to be reminded by other earthlings of how to go about having the best life that I can have while I’m here, just the way that they do.

On another note, this book touched me because for the last year and a half, I have been vegan.  What Virga does in this book is reiterate time and time again that animals are just other creatures that we share the earth with who have souls just the same as ours.  My favorite quote that Virga includes in this book, and there are many, one to start off each chapter, is in the very beginning of the book, before the reader even gets to chapter one.  The quote is:

“The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.” – Hippocrates

My very special little man, Elmo. He passed last year but he was a big part of my heart, and still is. When I lived alone at school, he was the only one around and this little red guinea pig took away all my blues.

Virga reaffirms my belief that animals feel, love, care, cry, hurt, worry, and feel the full range of emotions that humans do.  If that were not the case, how could we connect with our pets on such a deep level to the point where a dog, cat, rabbit, snake, or lizard can be part of our family?  It can’t be that just those domesticated animals are “smart” enough to have those feelings or to have a soul; what makes pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, goats, or ducks any different than the animals that we adopt into our homes and hearts?  Virga wraps up his book by repeating his point: that not only do animals have souls, they are here to teach us.  Virga writes:

“I believe our sense of kinship with animals comes from our souls connecting with theirs.  This conviction that animals have souls like ours can be traced to the roots of the word animalis, which, literally, in Latin means “having a soul.”  To ancient scholars, the anima or soul, was the spirit of life found in creatures and humans that makes up our essential nature.”

Virga then goes on to quote Chief Letakots-Lesa from the Pawnee tribe who, to paraphrase, says how a higher power or God shows himself to us in the form of “beasts” or creatures because that is the only way that this power can communicate with us.

So in honor of the animals that I love so much, here are a few photos of those who have touched my life and made it better in every way just by being around.

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My special little man, Elmo. He passed last year, but he was a huge part of my heart, and he still is. When I lived alone at school, it was just him and me and this little red guinea pig took away all my blues.

 

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My precious beagle, Nikki. Nikki also passed not too long ago, but she was our little surprise. We weren’t planning on getting her, but when we picked her up in the pet store and she fell asleep in our arms, we had to take her home. She brought us so many laughs and gave us so much love for 13 years.

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Our princess, Mandee. Mandee was extra-special because not only was she a girl all her own, but she came into our lives at the perfect time. My grandmother, my mom’s mom, passed just before I turned 10 and it was a devastating loss for all of us. I didn’t have a birthday celebration that year, but my parents got us this little diva and she filled a huge hole in all of our hearts. Mandee passed last July, but our lives wouldn’t have been the same without her in it.

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Last but not least, my puppy brother, Cosmo. He is the cuddliest, friendliest, sweetest boy. He sleeps with me every night and he keeps me company whenever I’m down. I couldn’t picture my days and nights without him; even when I go away for vacation or a weekend, I miss him terribly. He’s always there when I need him,

 

 

“It is just like the present to be showing up like this”

 

This is not a post that I planned on writing. I had been planning on writing a final post about The Power of Now, but like the good Lord, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver sings: “It is just like the present to be showing up like this…”.  So life happened and here goes.

I truly believe that one of the nicest things you can do is to lend someone a book.  When you lend someone a book, you’re sharing a bit of your soul; “these words, this story meant a lot to me, I want it to mean something to you, too.”  I only ever leant one book out to someone and that was Fight Club.  I let my boyfriend borrow it and of course, he lost it!  Anyway, at work, one of the women that I am particularly close with brought in this book called Wonder by R.J. Palacio for me to borrow.  She said her son who is in 5th grade was assigned this book for class and it was so beautiful, such  great story, I just had to read it.  So I graciously accepted the offer and took the book.  On the inside, my inner Literature Snob took over right away.  I had just placed an order with Barnes & Noble for 3 new books, I had just a few more pages of The Power of Now to finish, and I had another book on deck for me to read while I waited for my order to come in the mail.  So now, not only was my Lit. Snob taking over, but my OCD tendencies were, as well because everything was going to be out of order, not at all like I had planned it.  But I know what it means to me to lend someone a book, so as promised, I read the book.

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I began reading Wonder this past Tuesday.  Surprisingly, not only was I enjoying it, I was impressed by how a book about and narrated by a character who is a 5th grade boy could touch upon so many adult themes.  Different chapters were told from various characters’ points of view and each one of them had something to say that not only a real, 5th grade reader could understand, but that could touch a more mature reader on a deeper level.  Much like real life, it was both sad and beautiful.

On Thursday when I got home from work, I got a call from my mother around 6:30 PM.  My parents, aunts and uncles were at the nursing home where my grandmother had been for the last two years for the second day in a row; she wasn’t doing well.  So I got the call at 6:30 on Thursday that Grandma Rosie had passed away.  It wasn’t a surprise and in many ways, it was a relief that this beautiful, spunky woman would no longer be suffering.  Thankfully, she wasn’t in any pain but she suffered with Alzheimer’s for so long and the disease just caused her to deteriorate to nothing.  That was hard to watch.  But all of that aside, the news killed me.  My parents wouldn’t be home for a few more hours, so I was alone in my house with this terrible news and a broken heart.  So for hours, I sat in my bed and I read Wonder.  I don’t know if or how I would have gotten through those 3 hours where I was alone and devastated without that book.  And this is what books have always done for me.  Whenever I’ve needed comforting and there was no one able to be physically present, books have been that comfort.  Wonder wound up being a beautiful book that I would recommend to anyone, but I believe that everything happens for a reason and I had that book in my hand at the right time.  Looking at the pile of books that I had on deck to read after The Power of Now, I know that no other book could do what Wonder did for me that night.

 

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Grandma Rosie, my brother, James, and me

So here’s to my beautiful, sassy, sweet, Grandma Rosie.  She always sang “You are my sunshine” to my brother and me when we were little.  She always had cake in her house.  Even in the summer, she didn’t turn her air conditioner on, she just left the windows open because “there’s a nice breeze.”  She was the definition of sweet, the glue that held everyone together for so long and there was not a bitter bone in her body.  Though, as sweet as she was, if you sassed her, she’d zing you right back.  No matter how old my dad was, she still said he was her baby.  When my Grandma Gracie, my mom’s mother, passed away, she was there for us in every way.  She made us laugh and she was a good sport.  For instance, my cousin and I taught her how to Harlem Shake and girlfriend rocked it.  When she was getting very sick, my uncle bought her a radio and Frank Sinatra CDs and she listened to “The Way You Look Tonight” on repeat.  She tried to sing the song but didn’t know any of the words except “But you’re lovely…” and she hit that part on cue every single time.  She was someone who everyone always wanted to be around.  Truly a special, kind, warm, beautiful soul.  My Grandpa Mike, her husband, passed before my parents even got married and my mom said it best: “She has been without her husband for 30 years and finally, they’re together again. You have to find some comfort in that.”  And I do and I’m happy that even though we are all hurting and missing her terribly, that she is with her “hunny-bunny” again.

I love you, Grandma.  You are my sunshine. 

The Goddess

I’m in the home stretch of reading The Power of Now; I’ve got about 60 pages left.  I thought I would get through the whole book without another post until the end, but for this last chapter, I just have to.

In this chapter, Tolle writes about relationships, zoning in on love relationships, as he calls them.  This was of most interest to me because I’m in a serious relationship.  My boyfriend and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary last weekend and in attempt to ease his stress and help him be the best version of himself, I try to sprinkle these bits of spiritual fairy dust on him as often as possible.

However, as I read, I initially took issue with his constantly referring to relationships as man and woman.  I mean, at one point, I felt quite uncomfortable and wanted to scream into the pages that a relationship, not only does not have to be between a man and woman, but between people who don’t identify with any gender, or with both!  So I was getting a little perturbed.  And then I remembered what Tolle said about words: “A word is no more than a means to an end.  It is an abstraction.  Not unlike a signpost, it points beyond itself.”  So I came to realize that it is possible that Tolle was merely discussing man and woman, not as a human with a penis and a human with a vagina, but a human with a predominately masculine energy and a human with a predominately feminine energy.

This rationale works up until a certain point, when Tolle begins to discuss the “collective female pain-body” which is only relevant to those who are anatomically female.  He explains:
This consists of accumulated pain suffered by women partly through male subjugation of the female, through slavery, exploitation, rape, childbirth, child loss, and so on over thousands of years.  

Of course, I read with a resounding “PREACH!” buzzing between my ears. And Tolle goes on to discuss menstruation – the ultimate collective female pain-body, in my opinion.  I won’t get into detail because I don’t want to give away all of the good stuff, but I will say that I am, for one, extremely happy about a male speaking on menstruation with thought and consideration.  Of course, he would; he’s Eckhart Tolle, but it has been rare in my personal experience for me to witness a male have an objective point of view, and some profound input, spiritual teacher, or not!

So after I complete this section of the chapter, feeling like a Goddess and looking forward to turning my next period into “radiant consciousness”, (though I am a bit skeptical and even wrote in my book “We’ll see about that!”) I had reached for my little book mark, when the word “gay” caught my eye.  Finally!  I put my bookmark down and read because I had been so turned off by his reference to relationships as “man and woman” that I was extremely curious to know how Tolle approached being gay, and shocker: done so without judgement.  Thank goodness!  I think I have been so used to religion excluding people that even though Tolle doesn’t speak for a specific religion, I still expected it and I am glad that I was wrong.

That’s my two to four cents on that.  I have a lot of love for this book and it has been doing a lot for me over the last few days as I’ve plowed through it.  I am already formulating a plot for my last post on this book that will likely be tomorrow!

Into the Wormhole?

I’m more than a quarter of the way through The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and I have overcome the frustration that I wrote about in my previous post and I’m hooked.  At times, I do, however feel like I am in an episode of that show that Morgan Freeman hosts called Into the Wormhole where they discuss time and space and parallel universes.  There are so many things that Tolle writes about that I connect with personally.  One thing that I want to address is mental illness and how Tolle ties time and the mind to those things.  He explains:

“It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s own worst enemy.  Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy.  It is the cause of untold misery and unhappiness, as well as of disease.”

This struck me, of course.  As I read, there are many passages that I feel addressed depression, emotional pain, anxiety, fear, in a very relatable way.  But I am torn.  On the one hand, it makes sense to me now and there are things that I know that I’ll take from this book that will better me.  But on the other hand, I used to be very, very sick.  No amount of meditation or focusing on the Now would have helped me.  Nothing would have saved me except for seeking help from professionals, which is what I did.  I think it is a bit utopian to believe that focusing on the present will help cure mental illness in any capacity.  Meditation won’t rid a cancer-ridden body of it’s disease, why would it balance the chemicals in a mental ill person’s brains?  Don’t get me wrong, I know that it can help but I don’t think it is the answer.  If it were that easy, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money in doctors’ visits and bills.  I think that this book and what Tolle has to say makes sense for me now, for the current state of my health, but it would not have helped me 3 or 4 or 5 years ago.

On another note, there are many, many questions that I have that come up as I read, but before I get to write them down and work them out, I just read on and Tolle answers them.  So I’ll keep reading and report back when I’ve completed the book; shouldn’t be long now!

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart…”

Last night, I jumped on the Eckhard Tolle bandwagon, a bit late in the game, and started reading The Power of Now.  My first impression was that the language was so flouncy and fluffy with all the Being and the Enlightenment.  Didn’t this guy just write in the Introduction not to pay attention to the words but to what’s behind the words?  Meanwhile, I felt like I couldn’t even get through the first two pages.  So I was instantly frustrated.  Leave it to me to read a book in hopes of enlightenment and spiritual growth and then get pissed off two pages in.  But then I had a thought: I read A Clockwork Orange and not only was I able to read and understand it, I was actually able to speak that twisted language to a friend of mine who was reading it at the same time!  So I calmed down and just kept reading.

In the Intro, Tolle writes:

“…this false, suffering self immediately collapsed, just as if a plug had been pulled out of an inflatable toy.  What was left then was my true nature as the ever-present I am: consciousness in its pure state prior to identification with form.”

If you know me, you know that I worship Sylvia Plath (and if you don’t know now you know..I also really love Biggie so there’s that).  Naturally, at this point I’ve begun to recite the famous line from The Bell Jar to myself and reveling in the words of my Queen until I caught myself and returned my attention to the book.  This all happened on page 5, so I’d already passed the frustration phase and was really trying to give Tolle a shot and Sylvia helped me with that, as she has helped me with so many other things.  I really started to get it, at this point.

 

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This morning, I picked up the  book again and found it much easier to read and to understand, as well as much easier to look past the actually physical words on the page and to discover the meaning behind them.  So as I was reading, I was underlining and underlining because I was really relating to what Tolle was saying about the mind and how we don’t use our mind, our mind uses us.  I have struggled with anxiety since I was 14 and all the times that I tried to overcome an anxiety attack or just even get some sleep I told myself: just stop thinking, stop thinking, stop thinking.  I’ve gotten better with it, but I’ve always felt that my mind was my worst enemy.  I could so easily talk myself out of doing something that I know is good for me, or doing something that I know I’m good at; my mind is a plethora of self-doubt at all times.  This really stuck out to me:

“Even if the voice is relevant to the situation at hand, it will interpret it in terms of the past.  This is because the voice belongs to your conditioned mind, which is the result of all your past history as well as of the collective cultural mind-set you inherited.  So you see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of it.  It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s own worst enemy.  Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continually attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy.  It is the cause of untold misery and unhappiness, as well as of disease.”

And with that, I am having a total Oprah-Ah-Ha moment.  Here’s to learning how to tell my mind to SHUT THE HELL UP AND LET ME LIVE, GIRL! 

 

This is like poetry

I really loved Americanah in a way that I haven’t loved since reading This is How You Lose Her and that’s saying a lot because I sort of live and breathe for the words of Junot Diaz. I wish I had done this bit-by-bit the way that I plan to do future posts as I read, but I couldn’t miss an opportunity to write about the experience of reading this book. I also thought it would be proper to start out this little venture in homage to Ifemulu, The Blogger, probably one of my favorite female characters of all time.

For those of you who don’t know, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a perfect human. Okay, but for real, she is an outstanding author and if you’re a person, you need to read Americanah or at least spend 30 minutes and 15 seconds watching her TED Talk (http://youtu.be/hg3umXU_qWc) and educate yourself about what life is. And if you love Beyonce`, Adichie is the voice on “Flawless” so thank you, Queen Bey, for putting her name in the mouths of so many who didn’t know that they needed her.

I read Americanah differently than I’ve read any other book. I felt as if I were reading it at arm’s length, even though I made so many notes and underlined so many sentences and mentally said “Yaaaaas, Ifemulu, yaaaaas” so many times to myself. But I felt like a visitor in this book, like I had no right to these characters and I was truly an observer. I owe that partly to the way that Adichie writes that makes you really feel that these are real people and you are just invited to see snip its in their lives, but mostly to the subject of race in this book. I had no ownership of the conversations about race in this book. I was merely an observer, and most importantly, a student. I had no experiences to compare to the ones that Ifemulu wrote about in her blog or any right to a “mmhmm” as I read about Obinze’s time in England. I have lived in and visited other countries, but I’ve never been an immigrant. I have also, obviously, never had to be on the receiving end of racism and ignorance. So this was not a book in which I could relate to any character, save for when Ifem and Obinze discussed their love of books. But that’s about it. It was not my job to judge these characters or to even have my own thoughts about race, this was their experience and I gladly assumed the role of student.

I have so much I’d like to say about this book, but I also want to keep so much of it to myself because it was just so damn good and I’m not sharing. But if anyone asks me for a book suggestion, even if no one asks me, I have to say READ AMERICANAH! There are many, many people out there who could benefit from being a student of Adichie and I’m glad to say that I have learned from her.

Lightbulb

I wish I had thought to do this sooner. Nine out of ten times, when I tell someone that I love to write, they say to me “Why don’t you start a blog?!” – as if I had never thought of that, as if no one has ever said that to me before. I don’t mean to be snide, I know you all mean well. I never blogged because I’m one of those people who has too many thoughts. To organize them is the challenge, not to write.

Tonight, I was lying in bed finishing up Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, reading each word the way a someone who has been starving consumes food, eagerly without taking a second to breathe because I’ll surely never have anything this good in front of me again. And ever the hopeless romantic, I had to, just had to know if Ifemulu and Obinze wound up together in the end which is part of the reason that I devoured that baby like the last piece of chocolate cake. So I was lying in bed with the book in one hand and my pen in the other because I can’t read a book without a pen to underline and write notes in. No, I’m not currently in school or taking notes for a class, but I’m an avid close reader. So I had the thought to write about the things I think and notes I take when I underline something in a book – not a book review because who am I to review a book? I’m merely a reader/fanatic, but there is so much more to a book than what you read.

I believe that you truly have to be immeshed with the words, squeeze in between the letters and be among the print to understand what the author is trying to say. I don’t read for entertainment; though I’m guilty of reading 50 Shades of Grey (had to!), I read as if my life depended on it. Maybe it’s because I wish I were a writer. I know that any time that I ever put a pen to paper it was born out of the need to pull something out of me that I could no longer keep in, like those clowns who pull the never-ending handkerchief out of their mouth but in a more sanitary way. So when I read a book, I know that this author didn’t wake up one day and decide to write a book. He or she had to have been tortured in some way, hurt, bent, broken, scratched, dinged up – no one writes for fun, we write to heal. Whether the writing is funny, happy, sad, we all know it comes from a darker place or else we wouldn’t need to put it down on paper; we would just swallow it. Words are our ointment the way a comic’s jokes are his/her salve for wounds (i.e. Robin Williams </3). I feel that it is my duty as a reader to understand what is in front of me, to become ensconced in the ink on the page and maybe if I write about that, it will do some small justice to the masterpiece and its creator.

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