Reading is one of my favorite things to do to relax. It can do a number of things for those who partake, including providing insight on a topic that on which you may not have knowledge, helping its reader to form an opinion on a particular topic or just providing an escape to a different world (God knows, sometimes we need that right now with the state of the world). I have been an avid reader in the past; I’m not kidding when I say that I read over 50 books in one year a couple of years ago. I stepped away from reading books after I had the twins since life was just one big ball of chaos. However, since the world has largely hit the pause button due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, it seemed like a great time as any to get back into one of my favorite pastimes. I tend to reflect on each book that I read to see if there is a lesson that I can get out of it, no matter the genre. There are three books in particular that I have read consecutively throughout quarantine and the Coronavirus pandemic that have caused me to shift thinking and self-talk: The Gift of Forgiveness by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt, Called Out: Why I Traded Two Dream Jobs for a Life of True Calling by Paula Faris, and Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore. These are just some of the realizations that I have had after reflecting on these books; I hope that they will help you too if you are going through a little bit of a breakdown.
I started reading The Gift of Forgiveness just about when quarantine/Coronavirus/stay-at-home orders started. This book details numerous stories, including those from Elizabeth Smart and Mark Kelly, in which people have had to seek forgiveness for either themselves or others because of tragic events that may have happened in their lives. I had to think a little harder about how this book affected me once I finished it, considering my state of mind. One of the most important lessons that I took away from this book is to be more forgiving of myself when I am feeling anxious, depressed, or just not feeling well mentally. Sometimes, the journey to self-improvement, self-help and positive mental health is an uphill battle; there will be good days and bad days and I’m not perfect, that’s for damn sure. It’s the way that you work through it that shows your strength.
Called Out: Why I Traded Two Dream Jobs for a Life of True Calling gave me insight that surprised me. I bought this book since I am a fan of Paula Faris as a reporter and a former co-host of The View and was interested in her story. Faris details how she got to this point in her career as well as the five events that happened to her in one year that were God’s way to showing her that she needs to slow down and take a step back from her career (she was anchoring Good Morning America Weekend, co-hosting The View once a week, and submitting stories for GMA during the week). She discusses the difference between your faith calling and vocational calling and how these two are essentially mutually exclusive. I will be honest: I am not a person of faith and gone back and forth on the presence of religion in my life as an adult. This book has shown me that the presence of faith and religion can be a good thing in finding a way to stay centered and balanced, especially during times of crisis. This book has also changed my way of thinking about this pandemic. Yes, this pandemic has been a huge pain in the ass for everyone. I am a self-proclaimed control freak and dealing with the state of the world that has robbed me of my control of things that I would have thought about without a second thought has been difficult. I have realized that all I can do is control what is in my life. I am meticulous with cleaning surfaces, belongings, and hands once I return home if I must leave the house and hope that this will keep the Coronavirus at bay. I would be so scared that no matter what I do, nothing would help, and I was damned to get the virus anyway. However, there is only so much you can do. I will be honest: it still makes me anxious to leave the house and I have developed a little bit of agoraphobia because of the pandemic. Again, as I said before, it’s an uphill battle to feel centered, even if you must leave the house in the time of a pandemic (I’m not sure what I would do if I was an essential worker and had to go to work every day. I commend those that are doing this). It is important to continually remind myself that it’s a matter of having faith in God’s plan that things will get better, this is a temporary (albeit LONG temporary) situation, and hopefully, we all come out of this better for it.
Oona Out of Order also surprised me in the way that this has affected my way of thinking. This book told the story of Oona (of course) and the fact that every New Year’s Day, which also happened to be her birthday, she would jump to a different age in her life. Oona would have to find out different things about her life from people like her mother, among others (only her mother, her assistant, and husband knew that she would jump from age to age). The lesson that I can take from this book is to live in the moment because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It is easy to think that everything is doom and gloom and that the days mesh together but aren’t getting any better. However, time is our best friend right now. We are closer to vaccines, better treatments, and an eventual end to quarantine and this pandemic with each passing day. Enjoy the moments that we do have with loved ones while you are quarantined with them or maybe just on a FaceTime call.
Don’t get me wrong…I am angry about how this pandemic has been handled by our local, state, and federal governments, mainstream media coverage on the pandemic, and the return to normalcy. I want a return to normalcy just as much as the next person and I think there’s a smart way to do that some are not realizing. I want people to go back to work that are furloughed or whose businesses have closed and be able to provide for their families; I can’t imagine the feeling of degradation some may feel having to go to a food bank for the first time in their lives. I can help as much as possible to make sure that people are feeling comfortable during this crisis through altruism, but it may only take it so far.
I’m choosing during this time to finally take my mental health by the horns and help myself to be a better person, whether this be my ways of thinking, self-talk or my overall purpose in this world. It doesn’t take a supposedly cutesy news story or repeatedly being told “We’re all in this together”; to be fair, we’re all doing the same thing, but it’s debatable whether we are all in this together (just go to the grocery store; that may prove my point). Nevertheless, when life gives you lemons, even though they may be effed up lemons, make lemonade. Also, open a book. It could provide a new lease on life.
(Picture Courtesy of Pixabay)