Re-reading as Foundation

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks for this particular bookworm: I didn't spend a single weekend at home during the month of May, travelling for work and for family, and then I ventured to New York for a hectic, chaotic, wonderful trip to Book Expo. On returning from that trip, I gave my current employer two weeks' notice; this coming Friday will be my last day in advertising, followed by several weeks of funemployment and a new gig in the non-profit space. And a lot of travel mixed in with the rest of it.

This weekend provided an unexpected lull in the adventures of the last several weeks. I sat down to read yesterday and looked up to realize four hours had passed and it was well past my (and the dog's) dinnertime. I caught the newest episode of Orphan Black. I went to bed at 10 and slept for 11 hours. I'm sitting outside now, enjoying coffee, mangoes, and Tiny Beautiful Things, which I've been re-reading at random this week to give myself some kind of foundation as so many things I thought I had on lock-down shift around me. The shifting is that of my own creation, of course, which makes it wonderful; unlike some of those seeking Sugar's help, I did not lose a child or a parent, I do not have a life-threatening disease, I am not living without knowing where my next meal will come from.

But the beauty of Sugar's advice, as anyone who has read this book will know, is that it is so much larger than the subject matter at hand. In "A Shimmering Slice of Your Mysterious Destiny," Sugar talks someone through the pain and difficulty and sheer mass of detail involved in planning a wedding:
"We all get lost in the minutiae, but don't lose this day. Make a list of everything that needs to be seen to and decided and worried about between now and your wedding day and then circle the things that matter most to you and do them right. Delegate or decide on the other stuff and refuse to worry anymore."
Underneath this passage, I wrote:
"This is so applicable to so much more than weddings. This is all of life."
In "We Are Here to Build the House," a young woman writes to Sugar that she is broke, unemployed, and considering entering into an "arrangement" with a man to "rendezvous" once or twice a week in exchange for an allowance of $1,000/month. Sugar writes,
"It made me think about what's at stake when we ponder a gig. About what work means. About the fine balance of money and reason and instinct and the ideas we have about ourselves when we imagine we can be "meta" about our bodies and lives and the ways we spend our days. About what's at work when we attempt to talk ourselves into things we don't want to do and out of things we do. When we think a payoff comes from being paid and a price exacted from doing things for free. About what morality is. And who gets to say. What relation it has to making money. And what relation it has to desperation."
I am not desperate. I am not considering a form of prostitution, as the young letter writer was. I am not on the brink of poverty. I am not even unemployed. But Sugar's words on work and the power that work and our need to make money in life can have over how we spend our time and what decisions we make? Those words are meaningful to anyone who has ever put life on hold, even in some small, insignificant way, because work got in the way.

My copy of Tiny Beautiful Things still smells like the glue they use to bind trade paperbacks, and the spine has not yet broken. There are only a handful of dog-eared pages thus far, and a few dozen underlines through the entire book. But as I take this risk, and decide that I will move from the secure, comfortable world I have built so far and into something that carries more risk and promises a lower salary, but that offers the possibility of more reward, something tells me that this red cover will grace my nightstand more than it even did previously, that the pages will wear, that more underlines will appear.
"What's important is that you make the leap. Jump high and hard with intention and heart. Pay no mind to the vision the commission made up. It's up to you to make your life. Take what you have and stack it up like a tower of teetering blocks. Build your dream around that."
Or, put more succintly:
"The fuck is your life. Answer it."

Do you have a book you turn to over and over when things start changing? Or, more selfishly, I wonder if there are other books I should be picking up over the next few weeks of funemployment?


  1. I love this so much, Kerry. I go back to this book again and again, too, and even found myself giving into Wild a few months ago (after fearing it because I love TBT so much). As someone who keeps all of my books pristine, I love the thought of my copy of Tiny Beautiful Things being well worn several years down the road.

  2. Thanks, Shannon. I've re-read so many passages of TBT so many times that there are already certain sections showing more wear than others--and I kind of love that. I still haven't picked up Wild (for the same reason you delayed), but it is on my summer reading list for vacation.

  3. Beautiful, Kerry. I'm glad you're finding inspiration when you need it. Good luck with this new change! Here's hoping it proves as rewarding as you want it to be.

  4. Thank you! I am crossing my fingers and toes.

  5. Love this post and I wish I could think of another book to recommend during your weeks of funemployement, but alas. All I can think of is re-reading the books that you loved at some point to remind yourself why. It's nice to have something familiar when everything is changing. Good luck with the new job!! That's both scary and so exciting!

  6. Thanks, Alley! I'm looking forward to the change, though I'm also slightly terrified. But I think that's a good thing. (I hope.)


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