This Month in Reality: Tidying Up

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When I get home tonight I’m going to take off my shoes and thank them (they are super cute and have done the hard work of keeping my feet out of the mud today). My wallet, essential oils bag (yes, I’m that kind of dirty hippie that brings her own aroma therapy with her everywhere she goes), my planner and the notebook I always carry with me will be taken out of my purse and I will thank them and put them in their new spots. I will hang my purse up and thank it. Then, I will feed my hungry, hungry monsters. Finally, I’ll try not to feel silly for expressing gratitude to inanimate objects. Hey, you know how I said I was done reading self-help books? Well, I lied to both of us. I read The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. All of this thanking is Kondo’s idea. I’m down with expressing gratitude as a regular practice. It’s allegedly good for you. Thanking things isn’t a problem. (It feels weird, but I do all kinds of weird things so what is one more?)

So, I read this book and now I feel like I need to divest myself of half of my possessions. Which, on the whole, is probably not a bad thing. I am kind of a pack rat so I hang onto things longer than I need to. (And, I’m on the job market expecting that a move is in my future if I want to stay in my field, so having fewer things to move would be pretty awesome.)

The Konmari method seems to work as follows: Go through all your possessions one category at a time and get rid of anything you don’t need. Don’t move it to your Mom’s. Don’t put it in storage. Straight up give it away or sell it or throw it away. No longer have it within your reach. Keep the stuff that makes you happy. Not the stuff you feel like you should keep, not the stuff that you have “just in case”. Just the stuff that makes you happy. If you use your stuff as a barrier between you and the world to keep you safe, this is going to be an awful process. However, she gives you something to deal with the anxiety-inducing trash-fest. She wants you to start by thinking about what you want from life. How do you want to be seen? How do you see yourself? What are trying to radiate? How does your space reflect that? So, the life-changing art of tidying up is not just about divesting yourself of possessions. It is also about divesting yourself of ideas, thoughts, and patterns that no longer serve you.

In short, this is going to be a rough ride.

I think this is a great way to approach tidying up your space and your life. But, I also think that confronting your feelings and thought patterns is rough work and that it might be easier when you have Kondo there in the room with you. So, I recommend this book. It was an interesting read. But, if you’re going to use the Konmari method to get rid of stuff in your life you may also want to be in therapy or keep a journal of the process so you can work out your feelings as you throw out your stuff.

 

 

This book counts as my book by an Asian author in the Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Reading Challenge.

Review: Live it! by Jairek Robbins

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I don’t want to be a soda can. Metaphorically speaking, whether or not that can is full or empty, I don’t want to be it.

I have to stop buying self-help books. There was nothing new or interesting in this book. There was a lot of dialectal behavior therapy stuff and with some magical thinking thrown in. But, you know, DBT without any of the psychological support that you’d get from doing DBT with a therapist. But, if you don’t need the support and you think you can get by on 30 day challenges from an author alone, then do it. This book might be for you! Get in there! Or, something

It wasn’t for me. I picked this up in a BOGO sale from audible and I’m happy to report that I actually liked the other book I picked up with it so this wasn’t a total waste. This book, however, is dull and unoriginal. I even managed to doze off while listening to the part where the author describes his own personal brush with death. I don’t know if that makes me an exceptionally callus human being or if it makes him a bad storyteller?

Plus, Robbins reads the book as if Every. Sentence. Is. The. Most. Important. Sentence. In. The. Book. It irritated me. And, it made it hard to focus on what actually have been important.

I’d give this book a 2/10. I wouldn’t recommend it but if you read it and loved it I wouldn’t ruin your gushy good mood by telling you how much I hated it.

This Month in Reality: It’s Just a F*cking Date

I picked this up in a bogo audible sale. It’s not my usual fare but Greg and Amiira seem to be doing well together and other people seem to enjoy their books so I figured, why not?

My feelings about this book are ambivalent but not because I didn’t enjoy it. Greg and Amiira are funny, smart and endearing. I think they gave me some great advice. But, some of their advice was off-putting because it meant accepting things about the world that I think need to be changed. So, my ambivalence is less about my feelings toward the book and more about my feelings towards society as a whole.

But, let’s talk about what I liked first. One of the premises of this book was that you set the bar for how people treat you. So, you have to be conscious of what you put out into the world. Potential partners not giving you a second look? Then you need to think about what you’re giving them to look at. They really hit the whole “get a life to have a life” idea hard. And, I really like that (and do that anyway). It makes sense to me to have a life I love and to invest time in making a life a love. And, if it means that I seem cool and mysterious because I’m a complete person who is not willing to drop everything to be with someone then, great. Total win. I liked the advice sections that focused on building you up. And, I liked the advice sections about how to date multiple people and to be explicit about your commitments when you are wanting to make them (and not expecting them in return).

But, all of the advice about deferring to men and letting them chase you and letting them take the lead in a conversation, blech. It’s probably something I need to hear and I probably should listen to it. (Although, that being said, ladles and jelly spoons, “So, that thing you do seems cool, tell me about it” is an imperative, not a interrogative. It’s easier to answer a question than give a speech about cool shit I do. So maybe instead of saying, “tell me about it” or “what’s that about?” say, “How did you get into that?” Just a suggestion.) I’m fine with waiting after a first date and letting the dude take the next move. (I mean, I do have a life and I expect you to have one, too. So, if you text me immediately or call the next day I might wonder about you.) I didn’t take good notes on this one so I feel like I should have better examples but suffice to say that most of my problems weren’t with the book but are with society.

So, that’s it for this one. It was pretty cool, even if society still has weird gender relations.

This Month in Reality: New Year, New…Resolutions and Goals to Achieve!

Beth has started her series highlighting series that she’s enjoyed and that she feels have been neglected by the blogging community. After some discussion we’ve decided that my more or less regular series will be about non-fiction books. The world we live in is just so cool that I love to dip my toe into the realm of non-fiction (it’s a pretty huge realm) and learn all sorts of new things. No thing is safe from me reading!

For my first installment, I’m going to review/discuss a few self-help books. January is the time for resolutions and there are lots of things that you can read that will offer you advice on how to live better or healthier or smarter (whatever any of those things mean). In the past month, I’ve started two books meant to better inform me about how to be happy and healthy. In the past six months, I’ve read an additional book that I’ll be discussing on this list. In general I’m pretty skeptical about the usefulness of these volumes. It isn’t that they don’t offer interesting insight into theories and research about health and well-being. (Some of them do.) It’s more that there are no quick fixes to changing habits and your health. Regardless of the method you use, you still have to commit to a change and make that change work in your life. And, committing and working can be boring, slogging, grueling processes, not matter how exciting of novel your approach to them might be. But, I like the idea of taking stock of where you are and making a plan to move towards where you would like to be so I like the practice of making resolutions or goals. The first two books on this list are self-help designed to help you better manage your time and accomplish your goals. The first one focuses on your feelings and how you can get more desired feelings into your life and the second one focuses on time and how you can change how you think about time and the tasks you have to accomplish in order to get more done. The last book I’ll discuss is an overview of Chinese medicine and women’s health. At this point, I should probably say “spoilers ahead” (although, that’s probably a good thing since I’m panning at least one of these books.)

THE DESIRE MAP

I borrowed this book from a friend, so I feel pretty bad that I’m about to pan it.

This book was so poorly written. It was like reading someone’s notes or inferring a deeper meaning from a series of pinterest posts. The book is divided into two parts. The first is theory. And, after I got past her opening (it was painful) we got to the epiphany: how do you want to feel? how can you focus on how you feel and meeting the needs revealed those feelings and then use that to reach your goals? I have sympathy for this idea. I can be pretty goal-oriented and fall into patterns of thinking that have me so focused on end results that I miss not only how unhappy I am in the present but I fail to realize how unfulfilled I will feel upon completing the goal. And, I doubt I’m alone in this. So, focusing on my emotional needs and seeing how to meet them more directly so that I’m in a more comfortable place sounded great. It also sounds pretty realistic. Life is about the journey, right? Which brings me to my major problem of the book: I have heard this before. I’ve heard this before and some of the ideas she presents seem, well, appropriative (passing Buddhist philosophy off as a magical part of her system) and like they might be taken out of their context. When we take big ideas out of context like this they often lose some if not all of their depth and resolution. So, passing Buddhist philosophy off as magic made me uncomfortable. And, then failing to engage in a deep and critical discussion of the philosophy (or anything really) made me feel unfulfilled and annoyed. I’m not looking for magic. This is a self-help book! I was looking for a little help!

The rest of my beef with the book was formatting. Books are not power point slides. They are not flash animated videos on the internet. Do not have multiple fonts on the page. Just don’t. After awhile I imagined that this was done to distract from a lack of deep engagement and discussion of the subject matter. I was not fooled. Honestly, I skipped a hundred pages because I couldn’t deal with it and I knew if I kept on I wouldn’t get to the workbook part and I wanted to see if there were useful things there. The worksheets and activities were useful in the workbook portion of the book. But, again, there wasn’t anything novel about it. I’ve seen mindfulness exercises that had similar formats. So, this book could be useful. But, it was not great and it annoyed me way more than it helped me.

THE NOW HABIT

This book was so very helpful. The Now Habit was mostly about time management and how to be more mindful of your time. It had you think about where you lose time in your day (where you go off the rails and end up watching TV or facebooking or reading that novel on your phone) and what you’re avoiding (and why). Then, it had you make a calendar and schedule where you were going to be places, when you would be traveling, when you’d be eating or cooking. This created a really nice visual of how much extra time I didn’t which made time-wasting not all that appealing. The author had you include recreational time in your week so that you weren’t all-work-all-the-time and that also was a nice feature. Putting things like knitting and reading on my schedule was like giving myself permission to relax and do those things. There was also an element of mindfulness in this approach but it wasn’t sold as magic but rather practice that can help you achieve your goals. I’ve incorporated a number of elements of this book into my life and it has been working pretty great.

ANCIENT HEALING FOR MODERN WOMEN

I picked this up at a Half Price Books in its clearance section for two bucks. I think it was two bucks well spent. This book is a very general introduction to Chinese medicine focusing specifically on women’s health written by a doctor trained in both Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). After the opening chapter that discussed the Traditional Chinese system, each chapter takes a look at specific time-frames in a woman’s life. It begins with menarche and goes through menopause. I really liked all of the discussion on prevention. One of the things I learned from this book was that TCM is big on balance and preventative medicine. And, thinking of the body as a whole system where problems in one area can spill over into another area made a lot of sense to me. I also enjoyed the focus on how “healing” isn’t the same as “curing”. The author spent a lot of time highlighting how modern western medicine treats systems and doesn’t support patients. And, I’m sympathetic to that idea. If you’re not meeting your emotional and spiritual needs the physical can go way, way wrong. Striving for balance is a worthwhile goal. There were parts of the book that made me feel like I was being sold snake oil. She told some stories of women treated with Western Medicine who then found healing with TCM throughout the book. Some of these seemed a little over the top but the overall message of balance and trying your best to take care of all of your needs was good. I would have liked a more in-depth discussion of Traditional Chinese Medicine and all of working parts.

Have you read any Self-Help books in a lead up to Goal Setting for the New Year? What do you like (or hate!) about the genre? What are your goals for 2015?