“this is how” {and a little bitty giveaway}

book-clubEvery once in a while we need a good kick in the butt, something that knocks us off course so that we notice what’s going on outside of our little world. This is How by Augusten Burroughs did that for me.

I flew through the 230-page book, jumping from chapter to chapter, covering everything from “How to Finish your Drink” to “How to Lose Someone You Love.” Burroughs writes with an honesty that I {and most people, probably} crave. He presents somewhat off-the-wall ideas but supports them with evidence so basic that you wonder why you haven’t considered it before.

I purchased this book a couple of months ago, yet choosing now to finally crack it open proved to be somewhat meaningful. Like most people in chronic pain, I’ve spent too much time trying unsuccessful treatments. There are many reasons for these failures, some over which I have little to no control, but there’s one that falls completely on me.

I am not ready to get better. I have lost faith not only in Western medicine but this-is-howalso in the idea that my pain will subside. With this in mind, it doesn’t matter what I do, because nothing is going to work. For me to see meaningful progress I have to put my head on the pillow each night knowing that what I’m doing will work and that I’m on my way to improving. That confidence has to be there.

Although I’ve known all of this for a while, I wasn’t quite sure how to get there if other factors in my life didn’t improve. How was I supposed to change my way of thinking if nothing in my life actually changed? But then I read This is How and a switch sort of flipped. Not immediately, mind you, but by the last page I looked up with a different perspective. Burroughs made me consider what, besides my lousy excuse for hips, is in the way of my recovery. Because let’s face it, I have to assume some level of responsibility. Chronic conditions are complex and messy, like a horrible knot you must untie. You can’t just look at one little section and pick away at it for a while then wonder why you still have a knotted mess in front of you. You have to deal with the entire thing, figuring out where each twisted strand is stuck. It’s complicated and time-consuming, but there’s no other way to do it. {Ok, I promise that’s the end of that metaphor.}

I hate to inflate this book beyond what it is. My reaction could have been a result of an uplifting consult with a new physician while I was reading. Or my positive response to the physician and his treatment plan could have been because of the book. Regardless, I have a new modified way of viewing my world, and perhaps someone else could, too.

For reasons I cannot remember, I did not purchase this book on my Kindle. I purchased it second-hand from someone I found through Amazon. This is feeling a little serendipitous at the moment, so I’d like to capitalize on it and pass the book on to one of my readers.

So, if you’d like to receive my copy, please comment below or tweet @annedoussan by this Friday 30 September. I only have one to share, but perhaps the recipient will pay it forward once they’re finished.

 


 

This is How book cover image courtesy of https://smile.amazon.com/This-How-Molestation-Spinsterhood-Decrepitude/dp/B00E32632K/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1475073535&sr=8-2&keywords=this+is+how.

“if at birth you don’t succeed”

book-club

It’s weird, but my reading rate has significantly slowed since the puppy arrived one month ago.  She’s just so….what’s the word…time-consuming. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m just using her as an excuse to explain why I haven’t finished a book in weeks, yet I’ve somehow managed to re-watch nearly every 30 Rock episode. It’s so strange how that happens.

When I discovered Zach Anner’s If at Birth You Don’t Succeed I felt compelled to immediately begin reading, even though I was enjoying (and nearly finished) another book. I saw it advertised in a list full of titles I already knew and loved, so I figured the odds were high that I would enjoy Anner’s book, as well. I sent a sample to my Kindle and was hooked.

51ZGlEesnDL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Zach Anner first became “internet famous” when he auditioned for Your OWN Show, a 2011 reality series on Oprah’s network which featured eight contestants vying for the chance to star in their own reality show. Anyone interested was asked to post an audition tape on YouTube, and  Anner’s went viral. He went on to win (or rather tie for the win when, in typical Oprah fashion, the last two contestants standing were equally deserving and amazing so they both won the grand prize).

His reality travel show Rollin’ with Zach lasted only one season, but Anner has maintained a solid fan base using his charisma, likability, and infectious positivity in regularly uploaded videos on his YouTube channel. He also caught the attention of Reddit and Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake movement which resulted in a second travel show and a web series titled “Have a Little Faith,” respectively.

While his works are all fairly different there is a common thread binding each series; Anner has cerebral palsy, which he deems “the sexiest of all the palsies.” Neither his book nor his videos harp on this topic, but he also doesn’t downplay the role that CP plays in his day-to-day life. In If at Birth You Don’t Succeed Anner writes with a certain honesty about his body, struggles, and shortcomings that make me comfortable with this foreign topic. His frankness and transparency put you at ease, no matter how outlandish the circumstances he’s describing may seem…or at least that was my reaction. He toes the line between being completely overbearing and failing to address what it means to have something like CP. Sure, Anner makes one too many penis jokes to deserve “hero” status, but he has a lot to say and makes it easy to listen.

While there is quite a bit in this book that would be particularly meaningful to a person with a chronic condition, the message that resonated most with me could pertain to anyone. Anner felt as if the unwritten rules of the world did not apply to him; he couldn’t find a place in which he fit. Instead of changing who he was or forcing a fit, he decided to “change the game entirely.” Sure, he struggles to do things that other people may find easy, but he has carved his own path to success, making me feel increasingly inspired and full of lame excuses with each chapter.

And I have to hand it to him with that title. In less than six months I’ll be thirty and my blog will need a new domain. Zach, if you’re reading this I’d appreciate any and all suggestions!

“so you’ve been publicly shamed”

book-clubReading is one of the few hobbies I could continue after my hip pain became an issue. I’ve always been an avid reader, but now the activity is about more than just the joy of reading. I pick up the book, and if it’s good (or simply entertaining) my pain is the farthest thing from my mind. Few hobbies do that for me, and reading is definitely the only one I can do regardless of my pain or where I am, and it barely costs a thing

This week I opened So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson and was immediately hooked. You may be familiar with Ronson, a Welsh reporter whose most popular works include The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Psychopath Test. I feel as if the title is fairly telling of the book’s subject matter, but I’ll give a brief synopsis anyway. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed describes the somewhat new trend of individuals using social media as a platform to ruthlessly, and anonymously, criticize others. Ronson interviews people whose careers and sometimes lives have been destroyed by public shaming, and goes into the science and psychology behind why humans find these behaviors acceptable and, even at times, deserved.

so you've been publically shamed

Ronson holds true to his “gonzo journalism” style in this book, using his own emotions and experiences to recount each narrative rather than acting as a traditional journalist might and providing a nothing more than the facts. His work on this heavy topic is informative, yet somehow light and a fun read. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I have a proclivity towards trying to understand the human brain as a way to gain insight into human behavior, but I think that even if I wasn’t a psych nerd I would still love this work. (I mean, let’s face it, this is a New York Times bestseller…everyone who has read it can’t possibly be like me in that way).

The only downside to SYBPS was that I blew through it. Have you ever counted down the pages as you got near the end of a great piece of writing, dreading its conclusion? That’s what happened here. My only consolation is that Ronson has quite a few books under his belt in addition to a blog and a follow-worthy Twitter account, and has a Ted Talk (that’s not it…he’s kind of everywhere…I’m a bit embarrassed I hadn’t heard of him before this year). I’m wondering right now if I should test the waters with one of my other Kindle sample books, or go ahead and buy everything this man has ever written.

Whether you’re inclined to pick up this book or not, I hope that reading does for you what it does for me. You don’t have to have chronic pain to want to push aside life’s problems for a little bit each day; I’m pretty sure that’s something every person wants. I’m not always immersed in what I’m reading, thinking throughout the day about how I can’t wait to get home and dive back into my book, but reading will always provide an opportunity to escape whatever is plaguing me (and it makes me look really smart to read while I’m waiting for my to-go order instead of playing Candy Crush on my phone).

 


 

Book suggestions are always appreciated! If you have any feel free to Tweet them @annedoussan or comment below.