Book 20 and catharsis: Tiny Beautiful Things

Courtesy of Goodreads

Title: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar

Author: Cheryl Strayed

Genre: Non-fiction, autobiography, self-help

Summary: (From the back cover)

“Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.”

Edition: Kindle

Eaten Thru On: September 7, 2014

Thoughts and more:

This is part review, part personal confession, which is a testimony to how powerfully healing and cathartic this book was.

The endless flow of troubles, worries, heartbreaks, woes from those letters made me understand this clearer than ever: everyone is living with their personal hell, everyone is dealing with their own demons. And Sugar is a blinking, imperfect, but ever-shining light in the midst of this deluge of dark waters. We have to have a light like that in our lives, whether it be a family member, a friend, a therapist, a pet, a book, or that undeniable strength in ourselves. This is how we smile and laugh through our messed up, crazy lives.

Perhaps it is because all the letters are from real people dealing with real problems. Perhaps it is because the stories are so raw and honest. Perhaps it is because they are all so human and therefore relatable in a soul-quenching manner. Whatever the reason, this book is poignant, intense, tear-inducing, and ultimately, cathartic.

Which is why, I can only take in two to three stories at most each time I open the book. After each story, I had to put it down and inhale deeply to calm the weeping and swallow the heaviness caught in my throat. I had to inhale all the humanity and healing and exhale all the tears and heart-wrenching empathy toward strangers whose horrors and behemoths are much greater, darker, scarier in comparison to my own. I was afraid I might break if I didn’t close the covers.

The finale few stories I read while sitting in the library. Its quietness, its public privacy was once sanctuary to me and my bibliophilic tendencies. But on that day, after each story, I had to pause, close my eyes and lift my head up. I was so afraid of what would happen otherwise. The silence was deafening. The presence of strangers was near unbearable.

I was fearful of the tears that would brim over. I was fearful of the heartache they would carry out of me, forcing their way into my conscious acknowledge of their existence. I was fearful of the monsters that strengthened with every drop out of my eyes. I was fearful of the overwhelming hope and gratitude and compassion and joy that rose out of me despite the trauma I had witnessed and experienced with my own family earlier that day. I was afraid to own up to the hope and serenity I felt I shouldn’t and couldn’t possibly feel after something like that.

I should be heartbroken. I should be in pieces. I should be hopelessly sorrowful.

But I wasn’t.

Not completely.

A part of me was and always will be deeply hurt at the shattered illusions I had mounted against the dark, relentless waves of reality crashing at my feet. A part of me will always mourn for the naive, childlike, wide-eyed innocence that once filled my being. But those monsters don’t stop me from smiling when I see children running and playing without a care in the world. Those wounds don’t stop my heart from pumping blood that will inevitably spill out and make a mess of things. Those tragedies are and always will define me and remain part of my story, because they are a necessary, visceral part of identifying my happiness. They form the bluish-black messy backdrop on which my bliss and hopes stand out ever bolder. I’m not saying that I am a masochist who relish in the pain, but I realize that without one cannot be the other. Bolts of soul-cleansing catharsis usually result from episodes of harrowing pain and excruciating reality checks.

So I take a deep breath, release, and smile at all the tiny, beautiful things in my life.

Favourite Passages:

“Don’t chase joy at absolutely any cost.” -Forgot the page.

“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue.” – Page 351

“Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naive pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.” – Page 352

Final Verdict: 5/5 honey bees.

Recommended For: Everyone. Seriously, go pick this up. Try out just one or two stories if you are a skeptic or not into all this “gushy-mushy feely-touchy self-help” stuff.

Next Target: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro


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