The Right Book at the right time

The Right Book at the Right Time

It really can make all the difference in the world, reading the right book at the right time.  Maybe it was luck, or maybe it was just people knowing enough about me to know what I would like, I don’t know.  It could even be a case of just seeing what I wanted to see where I wanted to see it.  I don’t know what it was, all I know is that the last two books I read happened to be the perfect books at the perfect time.

I’ve been pretty down in the dumps lately.  Down on myself for all the failings I have, picking at wounds that never really heal.  The old classics about how I’ll never make it, never achieve my dreams. How I’m awful at everything I do, how I just shouldn’t bother any more.  It’s tough trying to chase a dream, especially when that dream is as lofty as getting published.  It’s even harder when you’ve been working at the dream for years and are not even an inch closer to achieving it.

It takes a lot of self-delusion and positive self-talk for me to keep going.  It takes even more when people tell you how awful your work is.  It takes even more when you compound failure but trying to start something new and watching that fail.  Sometimes I just run out of energy and I can no longer keep pretending, sometimes I end up pretty down on myself.  Stuck in a hole that I can’t get out of.

That’s where these two books come in.  The first one I read was “The Art of Racing in the Rain” a book that should be titled “Now I’m crying on the subway”.  It’s told from the perspective of a dog, watching his master endure tough trials as he chases his dream of becoming a professional race-car driver.  The book is heartbreaking, even more so because it stars a dog who does what dogs do.  Who loves unconditionally and tries to help the only way he can.

Sure it was sappy, sure it was a little melodramatic, but it was what I needed.  I really did almost start crying as I read this on the subway, I can’t say what parts without dropping some spoilers but it was all because of the dog.  I’m a sucker for dogs, we don’t deserve dogs, they are too good for us.

Reading about a person enduring extreme tragedy and coming out of it really helped me.  It wasn’t enough though, I still felt down.  It lifted me a little bit, gave me a little hit of the drive I needed to keep going, to keep doing what I do, but I still felt like shit.  I still couldn’t stop dwelling on how terrible I am at everything, how no matter what I do I can’t seem to make it.  How the problem with my dreams is that I am the one having them.

Then I read “When Breath Becomes Air” a memoir of a doctor written as he dies from terminal lung cancer at 38 years old.  On the surface it seems like a pretty depressing book to read when you’re already depressed, but it was what I needed.  Reading about a man’s drive to do something in the face of death.  About how hard he tried to change the world, knowing that he didn’t have much time left.  One line, a line about how we all know we will die, just for most of us it’s a far off concept, really helped.  Being diagnosed with cancer changes nothing except that it moves up the clock.

When Breath Becomes Air helped me out

Reading about a man dying and his acceptance of that, his ability to face it and know it and live with it helped me.  It helped draw me away from that edge, helped move me back to a place where I could accept my failings and keep moving.  A place where I realized that life has no meaning except for the meaning we give it.  That I can keep going and that nothing will change if I give up so I might as well keep trying.

Both books were the perfect combination for me and got me a little out of my slump.  I’m still a little down, I probably always will be, it’s just who I am.  It’s hard to think good of yourself when all you see is trash.  It’s even harder when others tell you, or imply that what you do is trash, but I have to keep trying.

If I sit still, if I quit, it will never get better.  If I keep trying there is a chance, a tiny, nearly invisible, so small it’s hardly a real number chance that I can reach what I keep striving for.  The only option that ends with me reaching where I want to be is the one that involves still moving.

So if you find yourself in a tough spot I recommend taking a look at these books.  They helped me and they might help you.  Remember that in order for things to get better you need to keep trying, that’s what I learned from reading these.

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