REVIEW/PERSONAL ESSAY: Furiously Happy

I could easily write a standard review for Furiously Happy: applauding Jenny Lawson for her sense of humor, sensitivity, and bravery for writing about mental health in such an open way (all true). But, if I left it at that, wouldn’t I be a hypocrite for not taking this kick ass woman’s personally inspirational bravery and using it to fuel my own? Yes, the answer is yes. So I’m going to take a deep breath, put a smile on my face, and for the first time, publically speak up for myself, and whomever else this piece may speak to.

The second half of 2015 I battled the most severe bout of depression I had ever encountered. Like Lawson, clinical depression and general anxiety are a norm in my life, and I have spent over ten years learning how live with and through it; but what I went through last year scared me. It was the first time since I was originally diagnosed, where I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I fought, and I fought, and I fought against my brain in every way I could. Using every single coping mechanism accrued over my 10 plus years of mastering the art of war against depression, but I was stuck. I had been through multiple heartbreaking and emotionally tragic events in an unfortunately short span of time, so I knew the root of this particular battle, I knew it didn’t come out of nowhere; but, as much as I told myself “your body and mind just need time to heal…this too shall pass…you aren’t crazy…try exercising more to release endorphins…watch movies to make you laugh…he’s the idiot not you…cry it all out…you are woman hear you roar…give yourself a few days to be miserable…it’s not that big of a deal you feel dead inside” there I stood, armor on and fully determined, yet still in the same empty place I was a month ago…two months ago…5 months ago.

After an obnoxiously dramatic moment of “rock bottom,” which turned out to be a blessing in disguise (for me…not for anyone within earshot of my mini breakdown), involving wine and a roomful of people I should not have surrounded myself with, I started to almost see a glimmer. From that moment on, I made a pact with myself: 2016 was going to be about me. About me pushing myself out of my comfort zones. About me taking on seemingly crazy projects and adventures. About me not being a victim. About me being furiously happy.

I was through with coasting through life in between bouts of this chemical imbalance in my brain. I was through with seeing these issues as my downfall. From now on I was going to use them as my reason for being a BAMF.

Had I not been through #hotmessgate2015, I wouldn’t be writing this post, or celebrating that I read my 55 books in 52 weeks (guys, I DID IT!). I wouldn’t have gotten through recovering from surgery with a wicked sense of humor. I wouldn’t have conquered playing one of my all time dream roles, and biggest challenge as an actor yet. I wouldn’t have hiked and camped in the Grand freakin’ Canyon alongside complete strangers. I wouldn’t have fallen in love with myself. And I wouldn’t have re-fallen in love with all the amazing people I have in my life (parents, brother, “big sister,” aunts, my 800 awesome cousins, SJ, BC, BB, KS, CN, SDC, FS, AJ, LM, RR, JD, AF, BH) who give me strength, motivation, and inspiration, push me to explore my potential, and believe in me even when I can’t see the light. And, I wouldn’t have ousted the ones who were big dull negative toxic duds.

The concept behind my new approach to life was to make the most of the time when I was in the neutral or above neutral state, so when I hit my lows and have to suit up again, I would have those experiences to hang onto and to look forward to.

Halfway through Lawson’s Author’s Note in Furiously Happy I burst into tears because it was the first time I ever fully thought, “This person gets it. She gets me. Completely. She understands my battle, and my strength. This is exactly what my mindset was coming into this year, and she gave me a name for it. I am now obsessed with her.” After that touching and cathartic moment, I proceeded to burst into laughter through the rest of the book, because Jenny Lawson is that funny and brilliant, and her ability to tackle her ups and downs and ridiculousness through the lens of humor is a lesson we could all learn from.

Obviously this book won’t speak to everyone on the same personal level it spoke to me, but regardless of what your everyday battles are or aren’t, reading Furiously Happy will most likely make you a better and stronger person.

Rating: 5 Stuffed Raccoons

I dedicate this post to Jenny Lawson, Carrie Fisher, and every other woman who hasn’t been afraid to speak on behalf of the mental health community. We all burn a little more brightly thanks to you.

“It’s about taking those moments when things are fine and making them amazing, because those moments are what make us who we are, and they’re the same moments we take into battle with us when our brains declare war on our very existence. It’s the difference between ‘surviving life’ and ‘living life.’ It’s the difference between ‘taking a shower’ and teaching your monkey butler how to shampoo your hair.’ It’s the difference between being ‘sane’ and being ‘furiously happy.’” – Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy

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1,000 Things to Say About My Aunt

I am very lucky to have grown up around many strong-willed, intelligent, creative women; so as I was desperately seeking inspiration and ways to challenge myself in 2016 it didn’t take me long to think of my aunt, Susan Goldfein. 

Susan has had a passion for writing through much of her life, and upon retirement decided to indulge that passion (and talent). About 6 years ago she started a blog of essays (originally titled 1,000 Things to Say Before I Die, now called An Unfiltered Wit); tackling everything from married life, to pop culture, to her dogs and all that’s in between with a sharp sense of humor and unique insight. Once Susan had accumulated a significant number of essays, and a numerous loyal and appreciative following (1,000 and counting) clamoring for more, she published her collection of essay’s in a book entitled How Old Am I in Dog Years which has subsequently received various accolades.

Speaking as one of 12 winners of the Delray Beach Library Author’s Showcase in January, Susan awed me with her accomplishments and the ease with which she was able to command the audience. Her pithy, whimsical observations had us all laughing out loud.  

I was so proud, moved, inspired by her fearlessness. It is Susan who gave me the courage to break out of my comfort zone, start my own blog and run with it as far as I can.

Creating and challenging myself to complete a book list was one thing, but, having the courage to put my opinions and writing out there was anxiety provoking. Susan, you are a large part of why I started this challenge, and the main reason I haven’t given up. Let’s make a deal: as long as you keep going, so will I.

Follow Susan’s blog: An Unfiltered Wit

Purchase her book on Amazon: How Old Am I in Dog Years

Accolades include:
Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY Award): Silver Award in the humor category
Featured author in The Transition Network’s national online newsletter
Delray Beach Library Author’s Showcase

REVIEW/PERSONAL ESSAY: The Tao of Pooh

About 20 pages into Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh I said to my mother, “This is exactly when I was meant to read this book.” Because Winnie-the-Pooh is my favorite book of all time, it is surprising that it took me so long to pick up The Tao of Pooh. But, there it sat on my TBR shelf for years.

Coming off of a traumatizing 2015 filled with battles over heartbreak, grief, and the tedious aftermath of both; I struggled with my ability to let things go, clawing for a chance at some semblance of closure or understanding of “how did I wind up here?” and “how did things get this out of balance and cruel? Why can’t we all treat each other a little bit better?” The truth is, I was depressed; I was more lost, and more vulnerable than I had been in years; crushed, alienated.

I came into 2016 determined to turn things around, to find new ways to bring back my, now dimmed, but obnoxiously persistent spark and love for life, learning, and people. I decided to create ways to challenge myself:  body, mind, and soul. I made this book list. I created this blog.

Taking a moment to give myself a little credit…the plan worked. The spark came back full force, I gained more clarity, got excited about things again. I still struggled with some residual anger, still wished for that ounce of closure. But, my day-to-day life became full.

The past few weeks I have been laid up in bed recovering from ankle surgery; a downer, but I’ve powered through. However, one’s mind does start to wander when you have this much down time. I wasn’t going to let myself backslide, even though I found those unanswered questions and unresolved feelings starting to stir again.

Then, I picked up The Tao of Pooh.

Benjamin Hoff brilliantly uses the stories and characters of A.A. Milne to bring Taoism to life. He incorporates Milne’s sense of humor, with his own, to explain the Taoist belief system. The foundation of which is that “Things Are As They Are.” Hoff explains how our use and value of cleverness and intellect can end up causing more harm than good; it can be more effective to be a Pooh than a Rabbit. Break things down to their simplest forms and ideas, learn to go with the flow and accept what is, and you’ll be more content and have a fuller life.

This book clearly spoke to me on an incredibly personal level due to my current state of being, but, I promise you this: everyone should read this book, and everyone could benefit from its teachings. We all get too caught up in the “what ifs” and trapped in our own brains with the hustle and bustle of our ethos. Who isn’t an over thinker at this point, at least some of the time? Just as importantly, The Tao of Pooh is a fantastic, light, and humorous read. I know I will go back to the Tao many times; every time I need to tell myself to stop being such an Owl or Eeyore, whenever I need to remind myself that life is more easily navigated when you are a simpleminded bear.

Rating: 5 Jars of Honey