If you know anything about me–seriously, anything at all– you know that as much as I love to talk and wonder and argue, I love reading more. The quickest way to get me to stop the questions spewing from my mouth is to shove a book in front of me. Truth.
Lately, I’ve been reading books all across the spectrum. And to be clear, when I say all across the spectrum what I really mean is, I’ve been avoiding fiction like the plague and instead devouring anything I can get my hands on that reads like a meaningful conversation between the author and my own stream of conscience.
Here’s the thing: I read for a variety of reasons. Most people assume I do so out of sheer enjoyment, but this isn’t necessarily the case. To be completely raw: I’m incredibly insecure about the amount of stuff there is to know and see and do in the world; the lives I have not lived and may never live; the information and thoughts I may never come by if I don’t actively pursue the insight of those who have a wide range of knowledge and experience.
I soak in these worlds because it creates a breathing room in my head-space. Without it, I would drown under the ever-present internal pressure and inquiries. I realize there is no real end goal here, and I have to remind myself of this as I speed through pages as if I’m competing to win some arbitrary rat-race.
After I close a book, I look at the world in a softer light than I had prior to. I engage in relationships differently. I allow myself to push my shoulders down and back until I feel an audible exhale. These pages bring me back to a place within myself that I so often stray from, a place I return because it’s where I unearth and refine my very best self.
I am an assortment of all the writers who have come alongside me and whispered their own personal anthems. Unbeknownst to them, I fell into their lives when it felt like I was falling out of my own. Slowly, over the years, I’m learning that merely existing creates a song inside of you, and if anything, we have an obligation to share it as much as we have an obligation to do any other human thing. I have as much to say as I have yet to learn. Which, as it turns out, is a HELL-OF-A-LOT.
When we become people who dare to believe in their own divine-ness, we pass the baton on to others who are then given permission to do the same. Call it the science of empowerment or the impact of a culture, I’m not sure. I only know that it’s real. And that I feel it more often than not.
Regardless of how you spend your extra hours, I recommend the following books to you. Truly. I cannot promise they’ll reveal to you anything you don’t already know, or perhaps anything you even desire knowing, but I can assure you that these authors opened up spaces in me that were either a.) filled with lies or b.) devoid of my own light.
If anything, I nudge you to recognize or identify the places or events or people that allow you to exhale. The baton is already yours.
“One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only remember that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner . . . and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.” —W.E.B. DUBOIS
Loewen, James W. (2008-04-07T23:58:59). Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (Kindle Locations 443-444). The New Press. Kindle Edition.
“Teachers have held up Helen Keller, the blind and deaf girl who overcame her physical handicaps, as an inspiration to generations of schoolchildren. Every fifth grader knows the scene in which Anne Sullivan spells water into young Helen’s hand at the pump. At least a dozen movies and filmstrips have been made on Keller’s life.
Each yields its version of the same cliché. A McGraw-Hill educational film concludes: “The gift of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan to the world is to constantly remind us of the wonder of the world around us and how much we owe those who taught us what it means, for there is no person that is unworthy or incapable of being helped, and the greatest service any person can make us is to help another reach true potential.” 5 To draw such a bland maxim from the life of Helen Keller, historians and filmmakers have disregarded her actual biography and left out the lessons she specifically asked us to learn from it.
Keller, who struggled so valiantly to learn to speak, has been made mute by history. The result is that we really don’t know much about her. Over the past twenty years, I have asked hundreds of college students who Helen Keller was and what she did. All know that she was a blind and deaf girl. Most remember that she was befriended by a teacher, Anne Sullivan, and learned to read and write and even to speak. Some can recall rather minute details of Keller’s early life: that she lived in Alabama, that she was unruly and without manners before Sullivan came along, and so forth.
A few know that Keller graduated from college. But about what happened next, about the whole of her adult life, they are ignorant. A few students venture that Keller became a “public figure” or a “humanitarian,” perhaps on behalf of the blind or deaf. “She wrote, didn’t she?” or “she spoke”—conjectures without content.
Keller, who was born in 1880, graduated from Radcliffe in 1904 and died in 1968. To ignore the sixty-four years of her adult life or to encapsulate them with the single word humanitarian is to lie by omission.”
Loewen, James W. (2008-04-07T23:58:59). Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (Kindle Locations 467-482). The New Press. Kindle Edition.
“They stare at me. We all kind of hate each other in this minute, me most of all because I taught them the word bitch and I yell so they yell and Edward missed another brawl so they’ll like him more today and he’s better anyway and whatever lust for combat my daughters have comes straight from me and I thought I was going to be a good mom like Michelle Constable or Tammy Stedman and I’m not and according to a parenting blog I saw, yelling is as bad as corporal punishment and particularly destructive to self-esteem so oh my God, what am I doing?
Soft but direct, I say, ‘Georgia, Claire is wearing the shirt. I gave it to her. If you want it back, you can have it after today. Now, go.’
Georgia turns in a theatrical huff, Claire clomps behind, no less preposterous, and in seconds, I hear my elder tattling on me to her father: ‘She always takes Claire’s side.’
I took the side of ex-ped-i-ence! I want to scream, but I can’t defend myself against my accuser, not only because that would make my daughter equal to me in a way that’s verboten according to the last conversation I had with my mother, but also because the phone rings again and it’s her, my mom, calling as if she knew was headed for a doomed arbitration. Just as well. The girls are eating bacon with SuperEdward. What do they care about a T-shirt now?”
Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say, Kelly Corrigan (pgs. 18-19)
“You will eventually catch on that you have to distance yourself from your psyche. You do this by setting the direction of your life when you’re clear and not letting the wavering mind deter you. Your will is stronger than the habit of listening to that voice. There is nothing you can’t do. Your will is supreme over all of this.
If you want to free yourself, you must first become conscious enough to understand your predicament. Then you must commit yourself to the inner work of freedom. You do this as though your life depended on it, because it does. As it is right now, your life is not your own; it belongs to your inner roommate, the psyche. You have to take it back. Stand firm in the seat of the witness and release the hold that the habitual mind has on you. This is your life-reclaim it.”
Michael A. Singer, (pgs. 21-22)
“Which parent did you crave love from more?” the speaker asked the crowd. “Not which parent did you love more . . . Which one did you crave love from more?” My dad. I would assume that this is true for many women, but it’s definitely the truth for me. And here’s the thing: I’ve done a lot of therapy, and much of it was so I could work through questions like this one. So when he asked the audience whom we craved love from the most, my answer was my dad. But, I already knew that, no great surprise there. Then he asked the follow-up question that changed everything.
And who did you have to be for them?” Meaning, what did you believe as a child that you needed to do to receive that parent’s love? “Successful,” I grumbled to myself. This was not news to me. As I’ve already mentioned, I understood all about how being a “performer” had affected my life as an adult. “Besides that,” the man on stage asked, “what else did you have to be?” “Small.” It fell out of my mouth without conscious thought. Before that moment, I can tell you I had never, ever considered that concept before.”
Hollis, Rachel. Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be (pgs. 125-126). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
“For the last two years, two intrepid researchers and I have read and analyzed more than seven hundred studies— in the fields of economics and anesthesiology, anthropology and endocrinology, chronobiology and social psychology— to unearth the hidden science of timing.
Over the next two hundred pages, I will use that research to examine questions that span the human experience but often remain hidden from our view. Why do beginnings— whether we get off to a fast start or a false start— matter so much? And how can we make a fresh start if we stumble out of the starting blocks? Why does reaching the midpoint— of a project, a game, even a life— sometimes bring us down and other times fire us up? Why do endings energize us to kick harder to reach the finish line yet also inspire us to slow down and seek meaning? How do we synchronize in time with other people— whether we’re designing software or singing in a choir? Why do some school schedules impede learning but certain kinds of breaks improve student test scores? Why does thinking about the past cause us to behave one way, but thinking about the future steer us in a different direction?
And, ultimately, how can we build organizations, schools, and lives that take into account the invisible power of timing— that recognize, to paraphrase Miles Davis, that timing isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing?”
Pink, Daniel H. (2018-01-09). When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Kindle Locations 139-143). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.