Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar  It is often harder for me to write about books I loved versus those I merely liked or didn't like at all.  I loved Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar and so not surprisingly, am not sure if I can adequately describe why.

Dear Sugar was (or now is asThe Rumpus has resurrected the column) an advice column through which an anonymous writer eventually revealed to be Cheryl Strayed dispensed advice.  The questions people asked were rarely simple, easy, or straightforward.  Many times after reading a letter I was eager to read Strayed's answer in part because I couldn't imagine how anyone could answer it.  Even the seemingly simple questions were revealed to be more complex as Strayed dug deeper in her answer, nudging people to examine why they felt the way they felt or acted the way they acted.  In letter after letter she encouraged people to set and respect boundaries, to go when it was time to go, to be kind and accept kindness but at the same time to realize that at one time or another we can all be petty, mean and ugly because that is part of being human.

...boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you, and they teach you how to respect yourself. (A Glorious Something Else, page 227)

About twenty pages into the book I opened up a word document so I could keep track of the letters and quotes that particularly moved me.  Ordinarily I would underline and flag the book but the copy I have is from the library so I couldn't do that.  I plan to buy a copy of this because this book was that good and know I will want to reread certain letters again.  Actually I have already reread some of the letters.  There were times when I just sat and thought about the words that had just entered my brain.  This is the kind of writing that can stop you in your tracks.

Forgiveness means you've found a way forward that acknowledges harm done and hurt caused without letting either your anger or your pain rule your life or define your relationship with the one who did you wrong. (No is Golden, page 189-90)

I never read the Dear Sugar column when it was out, never even knew it existed.  I wish I had, in fact I wish it had been around when I was 20.  People often give books like Oh, the Places You'll Go! to high school and college graduates.  From now on I think I will give any graduating person I know Tiny Beautiful Things, for this is the kind of book that could causes one to take a hard look at one's own thoughts and actions.  It provides a different perspective than one might have had, or perhaps one always had it but didn't fully pay attention to, and in any case a change in perspective sometimes leads to change in one's life.

This is how you get unstuck...You reach. (How You Get Unstuck, page 22)

It is only January and I'm wondering if I just read the best book I will read all year.

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