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Words I Just Finished Reading

The Kitchen House
The Atomic Weight of Love
We're All Damaged
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Wishful Drinking
News of the World
The Forgotten Garden
Out of My Mind
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love
My Not So Perfect Life
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency
The Lost Wife
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
Anna and the French Kiss
Little Bee

Julie's favorite books »


Finding the Joy

I’m a word girl. 

I love words.  Words are powerful: they slash, save, cut, birth.  They name our experience; they give shape and texture to our nebulous thoughts.  I love that language – even figurative language – can be specific.  And lately I’ve been more and more drawn to these precise words, the words that go further, adding weight and heft to the rough form.  Precise words are three-dimensional.  They can be held in the hand and examined in the right light.  I appreciate precise words. 

The downside of being a wordy bird is that I am constantly, forever thinking.  My mind has an abundance of low pressure systems and it is raining words.  It’s drizzling, pouring, sprinkling; I’m thinking, analyzing, mulling, ruminating.  Occasionally there’s a rainbow moment when the words keep falling but the sun breaks through, like finding the right words to describe the way the fog glows on a fall morning or the tangy sweet smell of a newborn’s scalp.  Catching the right words is forever satisfying. 

Rainy days are nourishing and necessary, but we all require Vitamin D.  And after this year, I’ve found myself looking for more sunny days, when the clouds of words can drift apart and leave me to simply lie there, soaking up the sun, relishing the now.  Ironically, I recently discovered a word for that: santosha.  It’s a Sanskrit word, the loose translation of which is “content in the now.”  

However, I’ve discovered that santosha is not a passive word, not indicative of a mystical clearing to reveal an azure sky on a picture-perfect day.  Santosha is work.  To be content requires commitment and intention and humility.  Contentment demands that I am present and mindful without thinking or overanalyzing.  But because my mind is a habit machine, it feels that the weather is fine, thank you very much.  My mind will tell me that worry and analysis and worst-case scenario predicting is precisely what I should be doing.  My negativity bias wants to make sure that I remember that I need to have a crown replaced instead of remembering that my both my boys hugged me today.  I fret about the future instead of thinking of all the miracles and grace and transformation I’ve seen and known in this life.  The clouds gather too quickly and too often.

The great news is that in this case I am capable of controlling the weather.  I can push out the clouds, but it requires attention.  It’s work.  And this year has been hard so my little habit rabbit brain is pushing in extra clouds, reminding me there’s another front right behind this one, and that if there’s not I should probably get my rain boots out, just in case.  But the only thing worse than constant rain is doubting it will never lift.  And it will lift.  But it will require time and discipline and commitment: the work requires me to keep turning my attention to the skies, to keep only the right words, the right thoughts.  I need to notice, to understand, to let the heaviest clouds drift away because I refuse to fix them in place.  I must allow them to drift past, unattached as they are meant to be.  I’ll keep a few small clouds around since watching the white puffs drift through a blue sky is a lovely way to pass an afternoon.

I’m listening to Stephen King’s memoir right now (oh, just one of the three books I’m currently reading because I have a little problem).  In On Writing, he describes returning to writing after getting sober.  He put it this way: “Little by little I found the beat again, and after that I found the joy again.”  And oh, how I love this.  Throughout our lives we will lose the thread, lose the beat, lose the sunshine.  And it can happen more than once.  But we can find it again.  And the joy when we do is as sweet as we hoped it would be. 

So this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to have found the joy again.  I’m grateful for a mix of clear and cloudy skies (and for a tiny bit more control over the weather).  I’m grateful for the precise words to describe this life that is so rich and so hard and so full.  

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.