I’m an avid reader and have been for as long as I can remember. My first novel was The Secret Garden. To this day, it remains a personal favourite for both the quality of the story and for the nostalgia of sparking my love of books. Since then I’ve consumed countless numbers of books for personal enjoyment, school, professionally and as part of a long-standing book club (we’ve been meeting monthly for almost 9 years).
As a passion, my love of books has stayed the course, if on occasion taking a reluctant back seat to study exhaustion or baby exhaustion. This year though, the kind of reading I’ve enjoyed has been different than before. I credit fellow bloggers for introducing me to so many authors and my own pursuit for new and meaningful direction.
If you’ve been reading Coffees & Commutes since it’s inception, you may be able to trace the path of literary influence I’ve followed all year through various posts. Most certainly you can if you are a friend on GoodReads. I thought it would be fun and provide some closure if I wrapped up the year, a year filled to brimming with sadness, confusion, fear, and deep personal growth with a round-up of the words that made a difference in my lif; to look back at 2010 not just for the challenges, but for the opportunities they presented and the change they sparked. I’m also using this as a jumping off point for the kind of writing I hope will come in 2011. I’m still sorting it out in my mind, but these books and others will provide the impetus for much of the discussion I intend to pursue here in the New Year.
I keep each of these books close at hand in my home workspace. I enjoying looking at them. They fill the space with an awareness that has been absent in my life. Each affected me in profound and important ways. Each are filled with pencils marks (I’m a sucker for a traditional wooden pencil, sharpened to a point) underlining important passages I hope to come back to and write about, and notes jotted in margins when the author’s words ignited an important thought I didn’t want to lose. Many of you will have read some of these, but if you haven’t I certainly recommend them.
Raising Happiness by Christine Carter was part of Kristen at Motherese’s online book club. I wrote a couple of posts about it, here and here. I was ripe for a better understanding of the issues Carter explores in the book and found it to be full of powerful revelations and helpful guidance for my parenting style and for my own self awareness. Without question, I believe it is a gift to write a book that appeals on both levels.
Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for Ordinary Life by Karen Maezen Miller was the single most significant impetus for my own journey. At the beginning of 2010 I embarked on project finding me and shared some personal revelations from the last decade and thoughts about goals I had for the coming years. At the time it was abundantly clear to me that I had spent the last 10 years building my life. I declared that the next 10 should be all about living my life. But until reading this book I really didn’t get it. Even after reading this I didn’t completely embrace it. With time, much thought and the privilege of a personal phone call with Karen, I realized that though I believe the answer was to set new goals that would energize and keep me focused, Karen managed to ignite my first understanding that it really is all about living life now.
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg spoke to me as a person and a budding writer. She writes about the importance of self in our writing and how to use our words to find and root ourselves in the moment. I found it so relevant to what I’ve been trying to do here and look forward to integrating her ideas and suggestions into my own writing. I expect to come back to her words for inspiration and focus often.
Lit by Mary Karr was somewhat surprising and very resonant. While my personal struggle is not with alcoholism, I happened to be reading this book at the very pinnacle of my depression and cannot express how grateful I was for her words. Her candor not only refreshing, but a balm for my battered and panicked soul. Even now, this passage so eloquently describes this place I find myself in:
If you live in the dark for a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling. There’s an initial up rush of relief at first, then—for me, anyway—a profound dislocation. My old assumptions about how the world words are buried, yet my new ones aren’t yet operational.
Devotion by Dani Shapiro was intensely evocative. Her words whispered to me, filled me up with a sense of beauty and wonderment. The connection came from my own desire to fill my life with meaning and peace and from a quest to honour the joy that is right in front of me, for both my own sake and that of my family.
Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali is the most recent in a collection I am sure will grow in the coming months. It was recommended to me as “homework” by my therapist. It came at just the right junction, when my mind was ripe with the awareness of where I needed to go but was looking for a framework to root my thoughts. It’s a practical introduction to Buddhism that speaks directly to mothers and lays the foundation for a mindful practice that is both realistic and empowering.
This year has been steeped in so much, more than can easily be expressed. I’m ready to see it go, and equally ready to face a new year with a new enthusiasm for life. I see goodness ahead. I feel more confident than I have in a long time. A welcome place to end the year. A hopeful place.
With that I send all of you warm wishes for a happy and safe holiday season. Until we meet again in 2011!