Thirteen Reasons Why: I Used to Think… But Then I Learned… And Now I Think…

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.There is something very empowering in the following train of thought: I used to think… But then I learned… And now I think…

How often do you hear people speak like that? It doesn’t happen often in my circles. In fact, maybe never. That includes coming out of my own mouth, by the way. And when I talk about the state of civil discourse in our country, a lot of it, for me, is people being able to take in new information and adjust their beliefs accordingly. I’m tired of people digging in their heels on one perspective and never changing or growing. I’m tired of digging in my own heels.

How Jay Asher changing my mind about Thirteen Reasons Why

I watched Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix to see what the fuss was about. I mean, I knew the fuss was about a show focused on teens and suicide, but did the controversy go further than that? When I learned it was based on a book, a book almost ten years old, I was surprised. When I learned from my design co-op at work that the book had been required reading for her in the seventh grade, I was even more surprised.

Fortunately, I was able to read this book just in time for a talk from the author, Jay Asher, at my local library, giving me the opportunity to process the written story and the televised version of that story alongside thoughts from the author.

I used to think…

My opinion going into the talk by Asher was that the Netflix show was pretty shocking. I understood why it had people upset, but wasn’t sure what to do with that information.

The book was less dramatic to me. Had I flip-flopped the order of consumption, I may have had a different perspective. The book just felt… so much more vanilla. I found myself asking several times, “Wait. This? This got you that upset?” That said, what the book did better than the show for me was to demonstrate that Hannah, the main character, was working from a false construct. Many times she would say something like, “And no one would talk to me.” Or, “No one would understand.” In the book, the other main character, Clay, would reply, “You never gave us a chance to try.” Or, “Yes, I would have. I wanted to.” Things like that. It stood out to me. If those moments were in the show, I missed them.

And then I learned…

"If our society did a better job of taking about issues like this, there would be a lot less need for books like this," Jay Asher said about Thirteen Reasons Why.Asher, has been going to schools and libraries talking aboutThirteen Reasons Why for ten years now and has his talking points down pat. He made a lot of comments that resonated with me. I think they helped me reframe his book and the show based on it.

“If our society did a better job of taking about issues like this, there would be a lot less need for books like this,” he said.

Agreed. That’s an important point to ponder. One mom in attendance at the library talk, with her teenage daughter sitting next to her, asked the author if he was familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s argument about suicide in The Tipping Point. I’ve not read that book, but the argument essentially states that data around suicide is much like fashion trends. When teens are exposed to suicide, whether the conversation point or the actual act, they are more likely to copy the act. So by talking about the act, you are opening up the option for more suicides. Maybe. But probably not. When leaving the library, I heard two people talking and comparing that argument to the idea that we can’t teach sex education because it will make teenagers want to have sex. Both arguments presume that the thoughts aren’t already there and that teens aren’t discussing it. That is just plain wrong.

Asher made the point that he felt like he owed it to people who have experienced suicide attempts first- or second-hand to pay respect the bigness of the act. He wrote about the suicide scene intentionally, and encouraged Netflix to show it intentionally in the televised version. His argument was that in film and books we’ve been fading to black on the hard moments for decades and that’s not working. We’ve been trying to not show the things, but the things keep happening.

He talked about the schools who were sending notes home to parents telling them to not let their children watch the show or to not talk about the show at schools. Assuming the tried and true adage about forbidden fruit being sweeter – so people were likely watching the show in spite of school and parental warnings – wouldn’t it be ideal to have adults talking about it with students instead of pretending it doesn’t exist? When you don’t do that, you remove the adult from the conversation. I think back to my Catholic grade school’s decision not to teach us sexual education. Then someone got pregnant in the seventh grade and they had to play catch up. It was too late for one student and the adults’ task was much bigger. Rather than laying the foundation for healthy behavior, they had to address a big roomful of misinformed youth.

And now I think…

Suicide is too big, too scary and too way final to not engage in discussions about. Both Asher and Kurt Dinan, the writer in residence at the Cincinnati Library who led the Q&A, said that when schools and organizations encourage reading of Thirteen Reasons Why, it’s a sign that they are open to the discussion. When they bring in the author, it’s a sign that they are open to the discussion. When adults are present, it’s a sign that they are open to the discussion. And the discussion is so important.

My reaction to my co-op saying Thirteen Reasons Why was required reading for her in the seventh grade was wrong. I was shocked and I shouldn’t have been. She had teachers engaging her and her peers in an important, life-saving conversation and its one more people should be having.

The Epic Adventure: From Cincinnati to Utah and From Japan to Dreamscapes

I approach what I read with such little thought that I sometimes wonder what the connecting thread is. Throughout August I kept coming back to a common theme: epic adventure. While I myself was planning for and going on an adventure in Arizona and Utah, some of the people I was reading about were having adventures of their own. Some were EPIC tails like I used to read in English class, while others others were epics of a much, much smaller scale.

The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Benjamin.The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Benjamin

I received a copy of The Anatomy of Dreams as part of a payment for cat sitting. (The best kind of payment, BTW.) I picked it off my shelf for the cover art only. I mean, it’s beautiful. The tale inside though … its horrible. Good horrible! Like good to read but god forbid it happens to you.

Sylvie Patterson meets her boyfriend, Gabe, while away at boarding school. He and her school headmaster Dr. Adrian Keller play a crucial role in her life trajectory. Keller is conducting research about the subconscious mind, dreams and the human psyche. And what you think is real, is not.

With that last line, I sort of spoiled some stuff. But goodness! The book unexpectedly turned into a thriller and I couldn’t put it down! Was it an awesome book? Not really. Will you enjoy it? Yes, and even more so during the last third or so of it.

The Suitcase by Anne Hall Whitt.The Suitcases by Anne Hall Whitt

Anne Hall Whitt was only 53 when she wrote The Suitcase, but it reads like the memoir of a much older woman. An advocate for foster children, Whitt wrote about her own experience as a foster child. It’s heartbreaking, but also a very real glimpse into real life. It was sort of cute reading the things she marked time and change by. Access to toys and candy, freedom to play and souvenirs from her different homes.

After the reading The Suitcases, which has inexplicably been on my To Read list for years, I looked up more information about it. According to the author’s obituary, a condensed version of the story was distributed by Reader’s Digest in 21 countries. As a means by which to further the discussion about foster care, she accomplished her mission.

The Last Hiccup by Christopher Meades.The Last Hiccup by Christopher Meades

The Last Hiccup has also been collecting dust on my To Read list. I suspect I added it because I liked the cover art? It was not what I expected.

Set in Russia in the early 1900s, The Last Hiccup focuses on Vladimir who, at age 8, catches a case of chronic hiccups – chromic like they never go away. The search for a cure takes him on an epic adventure that helps him grow up but does little for his hiccups. Twelve years later, Vladimir comes home and the story only gets more interesting.

My only concern about this book, and maybe it’s a touch of a spoiler, is that I know the end will frustrate some folks. My mom asked for some books to read and I included this but think she will be so angry if she gets to the last page. I expect phone calls.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko has gotten a lot of press and space on bestseller shelves in bookstores. When my local library suggested it via my audio book app, I was all over it.

Following four generations of a Korean family, starting in the early 1900s in Korea and ending much later in Japan, Pachinko reads like an epic adventure of sorts. Rather than a hero on a quest, it’s about a family questing for a place to call home.

Author Min Jin Lee does a beautiful job of weaving together family members’ stories, with moments of great joy but also moments of great sadness. I was especially struck by the discrimination  Korean immigrants faced in Japan. It simply wasn’t something I had any familiarity with.

If you’re looking for a meaty novel – one that will help you “read harder” – check out Pachinko.

A Million Junes by Emily Henry.A Million Junes by Emily Henry

Books by the Banks is a Cincinnati literary event happening in late October. I like reading books by some of the authors visiting so I have a connection to some of the speaking panels and an opportunity to meet authors of books I like.

A Million Junes didn’t turn out to be for me so much. I liked it, but I definitely didn’t love it. I think the magic described in it skipped some necessary details for me as a reader to follow along. If I look past that, what author Emily Henry created is a very pretty story.

Jack “June” O’Donnell is growing up without her father but with all of the stories he told her before he died. These include stories of magic, ghosts and coywolves, as well as a deep-rooted hatred of the neighboring Angert family. June goes on an adventure to discover if there is any truth to the stories and to resolve the family feud.

A Million Junes is a young adult book. If you have a young reader in your life who likes a touch of magic or fantasy, they may enjoy this novel.

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

I am very okay reading young adult novels (see above), but This Raging Light was young adult. The upside of that is that I read it in just one day. The downside is that it sort of left my head as soon as I was done. So … I can’t say much more.

 

 

 

 

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave.Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

I already shared a review of sorts of Hello, Sunshine that goes into enough about the book. No need to write more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie.Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Selected both for book club and because the author Catherine McKenzie will be at Books by the Banks, I was excited to read Fractured. It’s set in Cincinnati and a sort thriller whodunnit. I’ve recently tried to embrace crime novels as an extension of my love for television crime dramas. So far, it’s not translating too hot.

In Fractured, author Julie Prentice and her family move to Cincinnati so they can escape a stalker. Almost immediately, the new family doesn’t fit in and Julie makes an obviously romantic connection with a neighbor. Drama ensues, including a death. That’s established early on, using a flashback style of narrative. But who died? And who did it? That’s what you have to read to find out.

McKenzie does wrap up the crime well. But then I felt like she played a cheap trick with the reader by closing with a question. If I ignore that question, four stars! With it, three stars and I feel like that’s generous. It irritated me so much! But I don’t know how to explain it without giving away too much plot. What I will say for McKenzie is that she nailed the Cincinnati setting. I’ve read other authors’ attempts at the same with much worse results, so I was very pleasantly surprised. I read the book in just a handful of days and, as I made my way further into it, couldn’t wait to find out the answer to the mystery.

Just that last question…

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen.Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen

Among the shows that Netflix suggests I might enjoy are Murder She Wrote and Columbo. I suspect they’re right. I like rather old-fashioned crime dramas. Bonus if they’re British dramas, which usually come with steady pacing, funny insults and much less violence. I’ve only recently acknowledged that my love of a televised murder mystery could translate into liking mystery novels. Time of Fog and Fire is from the middle of the Molly Murphy  Mysteries, which I have not read before. Much like my British crime dramas, I found this book delightful, entertaining and a little forgettable, which, for a vacation read, was fine by me. Are these books something I would put at the top of my reading lists for the future? Nope. Would I read more of them? Absolutely.

A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins.A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins

Another of my books-as-payment-for-cat-sitting reads, A Working Theory of Love helped span different areas of my life, in a way that seems to happen so often. At work I am learning more and more about augmented reality, virtual reality and smart machines. None of these are topics about which I would independently seek out material, but they’ve turned out to be interesting and relevant to my everyday life.

In A Working Theory of Love, Neil Bassett is helping to create artificial intelligence, based on the detailed journals of his deceased father. The goal is to create a computer that can beat the Turing Test, which was established by Alan Turing in 1950 and says that for a computer to achieve artificial intelligence, it needs to convince a person that the machine is actually a person more than 30% of the time. Neil’s business partners work to code different aspects of personality into their computer and then it’s up to Neil to do the testing. In essence, he is seeing if the computer is convincing enough as his deceased father. This leads to personal conflict and deep dives into a painful past that are fascinating because of how intertwined they are with technology.

I really enjoyed A Working Theory of Love for its exploration into artificial intelligence. There were other plot lines involving romance and cults that were … less enjoyable. Still worth a read, though, and definitely an excellent form of payment for pet sitting!

Our Modern Reality: Living a Curated Life

In Hello, Sunshine, Laura Dave makes the case for curation slowly chipping away at what is true.When you share a picture of yourself on social media, you select one that presents you in the best way. Where you look the cutest, where your adventure looks the most epic, where your skills, friends and life look the best.

When you keep up with current events, you make choices about where to get your news. You choose who is the most credible and whose perspective you care about.

As you select who to follow, friend and connect with on social media, or who to block and unfollow, you influence what stories you’ll have access to.

All of these choices are a form of curation. On the one hand, it’s positive. We have choice. We are presented with many options and that access expands our knowledge and power. But what are the downsides of curation?

In Hello, Sunshine, Laura Dave makes the case for curation slowly chipping away at what is true. What you carefully select what photos you share, who you tag and what conversations you join, you’re making choices about how to present yourself. And while your choices might be flattering, are they the real you? As you create your digital persona, does it come at a loss? When you make choices to consume news that validates your existing opinions, are you learning or digging into a false construct?

Hello, Sunshine was, if I’m being completely honest, sort of awful. It’s about an unlikable person doing unlikeable things with other unlikeable people. But, it did get me thinking about the cost of my curated life.

Here are some quotes from Hello, Sunshine that resonated with me:

“He was hoping that I’d remember who I used to be. You know, before the world was watching and I lost it.”

“It?”

“Me.”

I’d spent so much time playing make-believe, I’d lost the thread between who I used to be and the person I’d been presenting to the world. How do you begin to trace it back to when everything you did wasn’t a perfectly calibrated extension of who you thought you were supposed to be.

That was the cost of my curated life. I had no clue where I’d gotten lost.

 

“Are you Sunshine Mackenzie? The Sunshine? Like … of A Little Sunshine?”

“Maybe.”

“Maybe?” Her smile disappeared. “Well, either you are or you aren’t.”

It seemed like a smart thing to say, except it wasn’t true. We are and we aren’t. We try and we fail. We tell the truth and then we lie. We want to be a part of things so badly that we’ll pretend to be anyone to get into the room. And pretend to be someone else just to stay there. We want to be seen and we want people to guess. We want them to understand. We want to be forgiven. We forgive ourselves. We start again.

Have you ever read a book that you didn’t like but which got you thinking in a way that you did?

Summertime and Stacks of Books: The Perfect Match

I associate Summertime with very specific things:

  • Fresh vegetables from my garden or local farmer’s market
  • Weekend walks downtown with frequent stops added in to explore new places
  • Trips to the pool where the smell of chlorine and the sounds of splashing makes everything okay
  • Ending hot days on a porch swing with a book in my lap and a beer in my hand

With long days and my favorite kind of weather – hot – I spend as little time as possible at my computer. This means I have a lot of reading under my belt and so many books to tell you about. There were some duds that landed on my reading list, so I’ll skip those.

Organized by how I read them, here is how I’ve spent a lot of June and July:

1984 by George Orwell.1984 by George Orwell

The problem with missing out on what is typically required reading in high school is that when you finally get around to reading a book a classic book, you miss out on the expert guidance and interpretation of a great teacher.  When I told people I was starting George Orwell’s classic 1984, they told me not to. They said that in our current state of political affairs, it would freak me out. What does it say that it didn’t?

There was one section of the book that did sort of get me thinking. In the dystopian world described in 1984, there is a perpetual war underway, and this war is necessary to maintain balance, economy and progress. Orwell explains that the war is over the “disputed area,” which encompasses much of Africa because it is a source of slave labor and natural resources. This rings too true to me. If ever there were a resource-rich area of our world that was constantly being battled over, you would have to call out Africa, right? I’ve gone down some wormholes of conspiracy theory that I won’t go into…

I’m glad I read this book. I still wish I had read it in school, but better late than never.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy.The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

A recent cat-sitting gig earned me a fresh stack of books, including an advance copy of The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy. While I likely would not have picked this book up otherwise, I’m glad I read it. Levy is a writer for The New Yorker and she knows how to tell a good story. I liked that she was willing to be really honest, which oftentimes presenting herself in not the best light.

The Rules Do Not Apply is the story of Levy’s first marriage, how she briefly became a mother and how her life fell apart. Cheery stuff, right? It offers some interesting commentary about motherhood and where we do and don’t have control, as well as insight into the different roles of women and career.

Levy was a guest on a recent episode of Fresh Air, where she discussed this book with Terri Gross. She makes some interesting comments about feminism and shares the true ending to her own story, which isn’t included in the book. There are spoilers, but it’s worth a listen:

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny.Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

This book was also a reward for cat-sitting and one I only picked up because the cover art was quirky. The story Katherine Heiny shares in Standard Deviation is equal parts odd and funny. Told from the perspective of Graham Cavanaugh, it’s about his relationships with his first and second wives and his son Matthew. My favorite parts were all focused on Matthew and his forays into a local origami club, who takes their interest in origami very seriously.

The reviews I’ve read of this book are pretty mixed, but I liked it. I enjoyed reading how Graham described his complicated relationship with his pretty awful-sounding wives and how he explains his struggles raising a child with special needs.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Falling squarely into my Read Harder category is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. This 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning book explores eviction culture, which is not a phrase I’m familiar with but which totally makes sense. Just like poverty begets poverty, so does a cycle of evictions beget more of the same.

In Evicted, Desmond explores the relationship between evictions and poverty. His research included living in a trailer park, shadowing landlords and in-depth interviews. The end result will change the language future researchers will use when talking to people about evictions.

This book is at times very hard to read, but moves long more quickly than you might think. Desmond focuses on eight families and two landlords. The backgrounds of each is very different, spanning age and race, which helps make the stories more universally applicable. While the focus is Milwaukee, it’s easy to make connections to any other city.

By reading this book, you will get a new understanding of poverty and economic exploitation.

Beartown by Frederik Backman.Beartown by Frederik Backman

Frederik Backman is one of the authors whose books I will always check out. They are rich on character development and deep backstories. For his past few books, I’ve listened versus read them. Joan Walker did the audio for both Britt-Marie Was Here and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and she’s wonderful. Her accents! So good. After confirming that Beartown was read by someone else, I moved to the paper version. It’s been nice moving back and forth between format, letting me see how it changes the experience.

I was most taken with how Backman describes community, values and culture: “What is a community? It is the sum total of our choices.” And “values is the fact that we trust each other. That we love each other.” And “culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit.” Isn’t that beautiful? I like it as a way to frame what’s happening in the world. If you look outside and don’t like what you see, you get to make a choice. Are you choosing to let it remain that way? Are you permitting behavior you don’t like? Because you get to help co-create your community and what you see is as much the result of your actions as your inaction.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline.A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Every piece of art has a back story. Be it a picture, a song, a vase or a photograph – the finish piece is influenced by a story. In A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline shares the back story to Christina’s World, a painting by Andrew Wyeth. Heavily researched, though slightly fictionalized, A Piece of the World  is the story of Christina Olson. Her life is very much confined both by geography and physical ability. Aside from a few brief trips outside of town, Christina spends most of her life on her family farm. An incapacitating illness makes everyday tasks difficult. Despite this small space in which she lives, or maybe because of it, Christina becomes very close friends with artist Andrew Wyeth, who later paints a picture of her.

That much plot summary is enough, I think, for you to look at Wyeth’s painting with a new set of eyes. And the more f this story that you read, the more you will be able to read into the painting. Just this one painting had so much back story. And if you assume even half as much inspiration behind other pieces of art, than there are so many more incredible stories to be told.

Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris.Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris

I love David Sedaris. I have read all his books and many of his essays. I go out of my way to listen to and watch interviews with him and will happily recommend his books. I hope that establishes my admiration of him so what I write next won’t be interpreted as dislike. You have to really like Sedaris to be into Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002. I enjoyed it, but think it also felt like a lot of inside baseball. Like, I was able to connect certain entries with other events, but read as a book straight through… without any knowledge of the author and his life… It would just be a harder read. So if you love Sedaris, check this out. Otherwise, go read one of his other books.

The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick.The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick

When I saw that Matthew Quick was coming out with a new book, I preordered it, which I do not do often. I’ve written before about how I love his writing and the way he is able to depict mental illness and mental quirk (not the same thing, I know) in a way that is both funny and respectful. It’s a gift.

What I enjoyed about The Reason You’re Alive is that the main character, David Granger, reminded me of a good friend who is polar opposite of me in terms of his political beliefs. We don’t ever talk about politics, or anything tangentially related to them, because we disagree so vehemently. Reading things from Granger’s point of view was nice because, while I thought most of what came out of his mouth was offensive, the Quick was able to write it in such a way that I could see the good in the person and even the logic behind some of the beliefs with which I disagree. I laughed out loud at several point and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

At Home in the World by Tsh OxenreiderAt Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider

This book is the story of how Tsh Oxenreider and her family traveled the world over the course of nine months. I enjoyed it more for the thinking it got me doing on my own travel then for the actual story, but that contemplation is worth four stars.

When I saw the table of contents and that she visited 19 countries in nine months, I cringed a little. It seemed so American, and not in a good way. More like a “let’s go on a 10 country tour of Europe in one week” approach to traveling. It’s been in resistance to that approach that I have developed my own style of travel, which is slower and tries to me more immersive. The only place where I didn’t feel like I was being forced acknowledge my own pudginess was in the Oxenreiders’ approach to Arica. Those chapters were hard for me to read. The second largest continent didn’t get much love from their travel itinerary. The logic for their choices was … logical, and theirs. It also seemed to barely scratch the surface.

When I wasn’t critiquing the plan by which some countries were experienced, or cringing at the lackluster experiences in Sri Lanka, my intended destination later this year, I was struck mostly by three thoughts:

  • One was Oxenreider noting that she travels to remember her smallness in the world. I love that. It completely resonated with me as I think about some of what I try to achieve when I leave home. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of life and it can take a brand new setting to remember how little of it matters or how unimportant so much of it is.
  • I love this line. “I meet feel more American than when I’m abroad.” Despite my knocks on Americans above, it’s only when I travel that I am challenged to identify by my country of origin. It is only then that I start really thinking about the privilege and costs that come with being an American.
  • Oxenreider and her husband travel with their three children and say this of the reason behind it. “We want to show them the world while they’re young. The earlier they see the world, the more normal it is for them. And the younger they start raving, the more normal it is for them. And the younger they start traveling, the better travelers they become.” So much THIS. I’m forever grateful for my grandparents giving me the opportunity to leave the country at 17 because of the pattern it set for the rest of my life. I hope I can help others in the same way.

If you’re a traveler yourself, I recommend this book as a sort of meditation about your own wandering. If you’re a parent considering traveling with young ones, I think this is a good example of how it could work and your reaction to their approach might help you know if it’s for you or not.

The Gig Economy: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want by Diane Mulcahy.The Gig Economy: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want by Diane Mulcahy

I am really surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I picked it up as a sort work-related professional development activity to help me better understand a work style I am uncomfortable with. I found myself marking pages and telling people about this book much more than I do many novels.

What struck me in this book were the exercises around defining your values and ensuring that your personal and professional activities both reflect and support those values. There were similar activities with finances, asking if you’re funding a life you want or a lifestyle you don’t even enjoy. As someone who struggles to define long-term, concrete goals, both personally and in my relationships, the way author Diane Mulcahy frames these exercises is great for me.

By the end of it, was I ready to run out and join the gig economy? Nope. Does it still freak me out? A little. But do I get it? Definitely. I’m envious of my friends who have already adopted this employment style and no longer as concerned about them and their future well-being.

Those are my books I would recommend. Have you read anything fabulous so far this Summer? Anything you think I should check out?

Taking the Time for Self-Care and Trying Not to Fly So Close to the Sun

Every now and then, you read something that really resonates with you. Five years ago, I read this post from Kristen Howerton on Rage Against the Minivan, which says: “Mark and I have a little phrase we use when we’ve tried to do something awesome that ended up being too much of a good thing: we flew too close to the sun.”

That phrase, flying too close to the sun, is my life so much of the time. Wonder Boy and I get invited to things and our discussion usually goes something like this:

We got invited to do XXX. Wanna do it?

Or

It’s been too long since we’ve done XXX. Let’s schedule some time!

Here’s the part of the discussion we almost never have: ”Hey, our schedule is pretty full. Should we just say no?” Or, “Hey, you look like you’re about to fall asleep walking you’re so tired. Why don’t we pass and take it easy?”

In short, we don’t often say no. When we do, it’s couched in reasons and apologies and niceties. “No” is a complete sentence.* I need to say “No” more often. It’s a part of self-care that I’m not doing.

Around the new year, I did something really unusual for me. I signed up for a daily subscription meditation, self-improvement thing from Daily Om called “A Year to Clear What is Holding You Back!” My reaction to it is about 80% skeptical, but the $10 I spent has been worth a few of the helpful nuggets. This week the focus is on self-care and the question today asked about types of self-care that take us out of our comfort zone. It’s a timely question for me.

Several months back I won a Snooze or Cruise at work, which is a half day you can use without dipping into days off. As a rule, I don’t use time off unless I’m going somewhere. Days off are like gold to me and I carefully protect them. This free half day has been burning a hole in my pocket, though, and I decided to be frivolous with it – at least frivolous by my standards.

Last night I went to the Tegan and Sara concert and it was wonderful. I sang, I danced and stayed up past 1 am on a school night. Before I went to bed, I didn’t set my alarm so I could snooze and show up at work late. You guys! I got out of bed at 11 am. It was glorious! I feel refreshed and happier than I did yesterday. That contest prize was one of the best ones I’ve won and it has me reconsidering (only a little!) my take on the best ways o use paid time off. Doing nothing but sleeping when I could be going somewhere instead is outside of my comfort zone, but this morning was also much-needed self-care.

I’ve been flying way to close to the sun and I need to make some changes. I need to say no more often and with less excuses and I need to take care of myself more.

How do you make time for self-care? And how to you keep from flying too close to the sun? Seriously, I need tips because I need to make this a priority.

*”No” is a complete sentence is not an original thought, but too many people claim it online and in print for me to attribute to anyone accurately.