A Diamond in the Rough?

There’s a reason that the nightly news ends with a ‘good news story,’ we need hope. Hope gives us energy. Hearing and watching stories of how others have triumphed over the odds inspires and helps us to think better of others and ourselves.

We had our own good news story live last evening when we looked out our living room window and spotted a young couple setting up a Covid 19 style birthday party in our neighborhood. We stood in awe as decorations went up in the pouring rain and the little family waited a good 40 minutes until a trail of young families, including the 32 year old birthday girl, arrived dressed to party. We joined in from our deck as everyone sang happy birthday. 9AE6593F-91F3-4616-AFBD-EBE8A02EDC1F

Last evening was remarkable, but other days it’s been a bit like searching for diamonds in the rough. I’ve found Cloud Library the easier of the two online ebook apps to use when doing a subject search. I began my search on self-care and health but, landed on inspirational books and stories of courage. I encourage you to do your own search. Cloud Library has an extensive topic search although some titles overlap.

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Papemy

I don’t want to die, however in my more broken and vulnerable moments I feel like I need to be fixed. Author Anna Mehler-Paperny tracks her quest for knowledge and her desire to get well. Impeccably reported, Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a profoundly compelling story about the human spirit and the myriad ways we treat (and fail to treat) depression, a condition that accounts for more years swallowed up by disability than any other in the world.

Last May I blogged on depression. No one was more surprised than me on the response I received, which attests to the importance of mental health. More recently co-worker Linda blogged on the subject as part of her Did You Know series.

Almost Everything by Anne Lamott

I’ve enjoyed and shared my enthusiasm for Lamott’s candor in a previous post. I can’t think of a better time to revisit her in Almost Everything. In this profound and funny book, Lamott calls for each of us to rediscover the nuggets of hope and wisdom that are buried within us so we can make life sweeter than we ever imagined. Her work is divided into short chapters that explore life’s essential truths. Candid and caring, insightful and sometimes hilarious, Almost Everything is the book we need and that only Anne Lamott can write.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Whimsical comes to mind when reading this short summary: From the revered British illustrator, a modern fable for all ages that explores life’s universal lessons, featuring 100 color and black-and-white drawings. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the mole.“ Kind,” said the boy.

Walking with Peety: the Dog Who Saved my Life by Eric O’Grey

Eric was 150 pounds, overweight, depressed, and sick. After a lifetime of failed diet attempts… sound familiar?…Walking with Peety is for anyone who is ready to make a change in his or her life, and for everyone who knows the joy, love, and hope that dogs can bring. This is more than a tale of mutual rescue. This is an epic story of friendship and strength

Broken Places & Outer Spaces by Nnedi Okorafor

A powerful journey from star athlete to sudden paralysis to creative awakening, award-winning science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor shows that what we think are our limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths.

We’ve heard it, and we’ve said it a thousand times over these past weeks “We’re in this together.” Author Philip Yancey once wrote “We don’t get to choose the family we’re born into.” So much of life is about not having control, yet seeing a spontaneous birthday party outside in the rain and finding books with amazing stories and insights helps us along our way. A bit like finding a diamond in the rough.

Failure is an Option

Promises, promises. They are easy to make, especially around the New Year, but much harder to keep. Maybe you have pledged to get a better attitude, lose some weight, or work on your relationship with a significant other. A couple of weeks into 2016, however, things might not be looking so good. Now you could beat yourself up about not meeting your goal, but maybe it is time to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective.

Here’s a radical idea: maybe failure isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, failure might be the best way to succeed, the kick-start you need to find true love, the cornerstone of scientific progress and the best thing about competitive sports. Don’t take my word for it though, check out these books from your local library and see for yourself.

Failure, the Key to Success

Alright, let’s face it, you have failed at something. As the experts say, admitting the problem is half the solution. Also, take a look at these three books to gain some perspective and move forward.

F1

Very Good Lives: the Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling
Failure is not a term you would normally associate with the creator of Harry Potter, but it has been a key component of Rowling’s life and success. Learn all about it in this commencement speech she gave at Harvard University.

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chödrön
Another commencement speech, this time given at Naropa University, that stresses the importance of failure as the way to becoming a complete and fulfilled human being. In addition to being a prolific author, Chödrön is also a Buddhist nun and resident teacher at Gampo Abbey Monastery in Nova Scotia.

Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from their Mistakes–but Some Do by Matthew Syed
For Syed, failure is inevitable for everyone at some point. The problem comes when mistakes aren’t acknowledged and people refuse to examine their failure and learn from it. Much like the black box of a commercial aircraft, the data needs to be analyzed to find out what went wrong when a failure occurs.

Burning Love

Things don’t always work out. Happily ever after can be a long time coming. While you wait, take a look at these books to help you cope with a failed relationship.

F2

It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright.
While a relationship crashing and burning is never a pretty sight, Wright points out that there is always a historical example of something far worse. Each chapter title pairs a specific romantic blunder with an appropriate historical example such as “If you have just sent your ex a very intense emotional email, Read about Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron.”

Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Ever After by Katherine Woodward Thomas
If you want to take the high road when it comes to a breakup, this is the book for you. Promising to show you how to ‘break up in a whole new way’, Thomas advises both parties to avoid bitterness and anger and focus on what was positive in the former relationship.

Dump ’em: How to Break up with Anyone from your Best Friend to your Hairdresser by Jodyne Speyer
Sometimes you have to be the one to end things. Not an easy task, but this book has got you covered. Chock full of personal stories, useful scripts and interviews with experts, Speyer’s book will show you how to break up with almost anyone.

Blinded with Science

The discipline that brought you successes such as medicine, technology and a way of building knowledge about the universe is fueled by a surprising concept: failure. Take a look at these books to find out why.

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Failure: Why Science Is So Successful by Stuart Firestein
The image of an infallible truth-dispensing scientist in a white lab coat is an illusion, argues Firestein. Instead science is a process of trial and error that produces many failures. These failures are crucial in producing an ultimate success.

Brilliant Blunders: from Darwin to Einstein–Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists that Changed our Understanding of Life and the Universe by Mario Livio
It is not only the humble that make mistakes, many of the scientific greats did as well. Charles Darwin, Lord Kelvin, Linus Pauling, and Albert Einstein all made significant blunders on their way to genius status. Clearly there is hope for all of us.

Discarded Science: Ideas that Seemed Good at the Time by John Grant
This book is a true rogue’s gallery of failed ideas and bogus theories that were once deemed plausible. From the flat earth theory to phrenology, every dubious theory that was once thought of as ‘scientific’ is examined and explored.

The Agony of Defeat

I’ve never been much of a sports fan, but I have always had a soft spot for teams, and the fans who support them, that almost never seem to win. Call it the nobility of continual failure. Here are three examples.

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Shipwrecked: a Peoples’ History of the Seattle Mariners by Jon Wells
Since the team rarely finishes a season above .500, Mariners fans are a long-suffering, but in my view, admirable bunch. Learn all about their trials and travails in this colorful history of the team. The author has been covering the Mariners for over 15 years and has his own theories of why the team can never seem to win.

We Believe [DVD]
The Chicago Cubs are arguably the original sports team that never seems to catch a break. This DVD, narrated by Gary Sinise no less, documents the few ups and many downs of the team and its fans. You know there will be a clip of Harry Caray, preferably after having a few beers after the seventh inning stretch, singing ‘take me out to the ball game’.

Green Bay Packers: Trials, Triumphs, and Tradition by William Povletich.
I know the Packers currently are far from being failures, but when I lived in Title Town (the late 70s and 80s) they, quite frankly, sucked most of the time. It was hard not to have a grudging admiration for the fans who stuck with them through all those fallow years. Interestingly, the team starting doing really well once I left. Coincidence? I think not.

So clearly, as all of these materials demonstrate, you have no reason to feel bad about any recent failures that might have come your way. As always, the EPL has got your back.

Oh, you lovely book

Do you know the feeling of picking up a book and within just a few pages feeling like the book was written precisely for you? The way the words form, the characters who feel like best friends, the descriptions of how the dinner table was set, and the way she fell in love last year? Sometimes it’s even so precise that you feel as if you wrote the book yourself? Like your heart and soul poured onto the page with an elegance that exists deep inside you but is seldom revealed? 

Gourmet RhapsodyMuriel Barbery‘s Gourmet Rhapsody was just that book for me. It’s the story of ‘the world’s greatest food critic’ who is about to die and must decide his final meal.

What I found so wonderful about this book, however, was not so much the storyline but its poetic language and magical characters. Even with these delightful underpinnings, it is also the kind of book (my favorite kind) that is fabulously political and prophetic at hidden turns — reminiscent of such literary pleasures as Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon and the visual delight of Babette’s Feast

Barbery fills the book with exquisite sentences, such as, “That is sashimi: a fragment of the cosmos within reach of one’s heart, but, alas, light years from the fragrance or taste that is fleeing my wisdom, or is it my inhumanity…”

Exactly. If those words touch the depths of you like they did me, you will love this book.

Kara