I was able to pop into Crate and Barrel to see the Draper James collab. We never get the full range of goods in Canada, so I was happy that they had a few of these Totes Y’all tote bags in store since they won’t ship them to Canada. (You can buy them on the Draper James site, but with shipping and all, it gets spendy.) I’m going to be hinting hard for one for Mother’s Day to unlock my inner southern belle. Y’all, Dolly has this bag.
Ok, so I’ve promised some book reviews.
Kevin Kwan’s Rich People Problems is a scream. The passage on Zion Estates is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while. Just read it already.
The next book has a more personal connection for me.
Back in late 2003, I was a new mom living in Toronto. Although I lived a hop, skip, and a jump from the Rosedale subway station, they had no elevator: meaning I had to push my daughter’s stroller to St Clair or Bloor if I wanted to take the train somewhere. And then, sometimes, the elevator at the stations would not be working. I wanted to let other mamas know not to make the long walk, only to be disappointed. So I made a website. I started to write about other baby friendly places in the city and chronicled my mothering experience, which was something not a lot of others were doing at the time.
I looked around for other mamas in other cities who were doing similar things and found Andi Buchanan, a Philadelphia mom who was a few years ahead of me in her parenting. She was a pioneer in the mommy blogging scene. She’d written Mother Shock, a book that, to me, felt like oxygen. Her work launched me on my own mothering writing journey and, over the years, we loosely kept in touch.
Now, she is pioneering in a new area: writing about her year recovering from a serious illness. In 2015, while sick with the flu, she had had coughing spell and ruptured her dura mater, which is the tough membrane covering the brain. Apparently, it’s more common than you might think. From that, she developed a CSF leak: the same thing that causes George Clooney’s debilitating headaches. In Andi’s case, the leak was much more severe and she ended up losing a year to pain, bedrest, and medical procedures.
She has captured her experience in her beautiful new book, The Beginning of Everything: The Year I Lost My Mind and Found Myself. She is forging a path yet again.
The writing is exquisite: she brings the same discipline she cultivated as a concert pianist to the page. She explores the way our narratives – about our trauma, our healing, our lives – affect the way we live. She challenges herself – and the reader – to question the things in our lives we believe to be true, and to ask how well that truth serves us:
What’s the payoff for believing this particular story right now? What’s in it for me to believe the story I’m telling myself?
This kind of self-analysis can be freeing, particularly if your experience has been shaped by trauma, grief, or pain. Her biggest breakthrough comes when she lets go of her belief that she could have prevented her injury. She writes, “I didn’t have to keep holding myself accountable for failing to prepare for a thing that I didn’t even know could happen.”
This is a book about resilience and restoration. It’s about grabbing on, and at the same time, letting go.
She realizes that even if there is not a reason for suffering, there is purpose to our pain: “I have had a million second acts, each one evolving out of complicated periods of pain and worry and vulnerability and acknowledgement that I didn’t know exactly what to do next, and each one of them bringing me to a new, deeper understanding, of realizing that I never feel more like myself than I do when I’m in the midst of learning what I need to do and where I need to go by doing it, by going there.”
Writers are always terrific observers of others, but its takes particular skill to be able to observe your own experience with both detachment and self-compassion. Buchanan is a master. If you know anyone coming back after a significant setback, this is a perfect book.
Have you checked out Draper James? Read any great memoirs?