Reading is by far one of my favourite forms of therapy. There’s nothing quite like the stirring of emotion and relief when I open a book and find out that there is another person out there, somewhere, who knows what it feels like to be me.

As someone with a chronic illness, I turn to books on a regular basis to make sense of the pain or emotions that coincide with a lingering malaise. It’s a special feeling when I discover that sentence, paragraph, chapter, or even entire book that understands me and that reminds me that things will be okay, by and by. When another human being finds a way to word the things I cannot say for myself, it sparks, for me,  an almost spiritual connection with them. It’s a hint that no matter how dark it can get sometimes, I am never truly alone in my darkness.

I’ve been reading a lot of Joan Didion lately, and the story of her life kind of knocks the wind out of me because there consists in her 79 years acres and acres of pain. She lost her husband suddenly, followed by her 39 year-old daughter, not to mention the fact that she lives with Multiple Sclerosis. Yet, amidst all of the grief, there exists this staggeringly unyielding woman who kept getting out of bed, kept writing and kept living a meaningful life. She’s quite an inspiration to me. Didion’s book “The White Album” details the chaotic time in her life that led to psychiatric evaluations and her ultimate diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. It so eloquently describes the thoughts that go through someone’s mind at such a climactic stage in one’s life. I read it and cannot help but cry, but I also feel comforted when I read her stories. Even though our stories are not the same, I can relate to parts of hers. And that’s enough, really. Sometimes that is all we need.

Isn’t it nice to find someone who can tell you what it feels like to be you?

As much as I enjoy reading laugh out loud funny memoirs I have been really latching on to these impassioned, inspirational reads this month. What better way to remind yourself of the strength of the human spirit than to read real life stories of people, no different than you or I, who hold on and find the possible when faced with the impossible?

I would like to share with you a few quotes from authors that have offered me a sense of reprieve and remind me why I write about my experiences:

“This is my attempt to make sense of the period that followed, weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself. I have been a writer my entire life. As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish.”
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

“Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”
Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

“Because secrets do not increase in value if kept in a gore-ian lockbox, because one’s past is either made useful or else mutates and becomes cancerous. We share things for the obvious reasons: it makes us feel un-alone, it spreads the weight over a larger area, it holds the possibility of making our share lighter. And it can work either way – not simply as a pain-relief device, but, in the case of not bad news but good, as a share-the-happy-things-I’ve-seen/lessons-I’ve-learned vehicle. Or as a tool for simple connectivity for its own sake, a testing of waters, a stab at engagement with a mass of strangers.”
Dave Eggers – A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

“We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it.”
Susannah Cahalan, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

“Someone once asked, “If you could take it all back, would you?”
At the time I didn’t know. Now I do. I wouldn’t take that terrible experience back for anything in the world. Too much light has come out of my darkness.”
Susannah Cahalan, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

“Do not wait for the healing to arrive. It will never come. The holes will never leave or be filled with anything at all.

 But holes are interesting things.”
Augusten Burroughs – Help for the Self

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
Joan Didion, The White Album

Share with me some quotes that inspire you! And please recommend books that make you feel connected to the author – no matter the genre!

6 Comments on Read It and Weep: Finding Strength in Books

  1. escharae
    October 20, 2014 at 4:26 pm (8 years ago)

    I read Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and I was swept away by her writing, which can be so simple and eloquent at the same time. I had no idea she had MS or that her daughter also died. I must read her other books too.

    • lisermarie2013
      October 20, 2014 at 4:27 pm (8 years ago)

      Blue Nights is her memoir about her daughter’s death. She died not long after her father 🙁

  2. abodyofhope
    October 24, 2014 at 4:25 pm (8 years ago)

    “I’m not living the life I thought I would lead, but it does have meaning, purpose. There is love… there is joy, there is laughter.” Still Me by Christopher Reeve. I read that book almost 10 years ago and I still think of it. It was my inspiration for my first blog post come to think of it! Ha! I guess need to read some new books, girl 😉
    Thanks for this post. I enjoyed reading what inspires you.

    • lisermarie2013
      October 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm (8 years ago)

      I love that book! I bought it on a school trip in grade 10 and I think it was the first inspirational memoir I ever read. Great quote – thanks for sharing!

      • abodyofhope
        October 26, 2014 at 10:58 am (8 years ago)

        Really?! That’s awesome. I’ve gifted it to several people since.
        If you haven;t read “It’s always something” by Gilda Radner, that one is right up there with Still Me. The audio book is read in her voice right before she passed, but it’s also very inspirational as well as humorous even in her dark times, she found humor. As soon as my head issues permit me, I plan to read that one ASAP! Thanks again for this post 🙂

  3. jilrose
    October 25, 2014 at 2:26 pm (8 years ago)

    I love the Dave Eggers quote. One of my favourite books. Have you read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? It’ll change your life. It’s great. I read it, and it affected me so much that it became one of the only books I’ve ever leant to friends and forced them to read. They then went on to buy their own copies and share. Its wonderful. And I’m not a religious person really. It speaks to everyone. Religious or not.
    “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
    “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
    and my favourite:
    “We are travelers on a cosmic journey,stardust,swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”
    The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera is another need-to-read book.
    “Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
    And, of course, The Bell Jar (or anything and everything by Sylvia Plath really)
    “I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.”

    Okay, now my comment has turned into its own post. My apologies.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.