Whenever I finish a good book, I often feel out of sorts, a little heavy, worn out, peckish, hungover. I never feel this way when I’ve finished a bad book although to be honest, I rarely finish a bad book these days. My attention span for bad writing is markedly small. It is interesting though, isn’t it. Why would a good book unsettle me?
I suspect it’s a sweet little concoction–a dollop of joy, a swirl of connection, and a healthy dose of fear that I will never myself write something so tender, honest, and moving.
Last weekend, I read the final pages of Kelly Corrigan‘s brave, giant-hearted, open exploration of what matters in a life, Tell Me More.
Gobsmacked. Agape. Enchanted.
Enchanted while reading and still when I shut the book Sunday afternoon. Agape a day later, when I started copying quotes into my quote journal. Gobsmacked. Yes Gobsmacked from the time I dove into Tell Me More until the moment I swam out, a little out of breath, a little disheveled, a little in love.
That’s how a good book works.
The impulse at the heart of Tell Me More’s 12 chapters is, I believe, a reckoning with love. I say reckoning because it is impossible to love deeply and to be deeply grateful for and invested in that love without also being deeply and wholly vulnerable to devastation and joy, hope and fear, grace and grief.
If we want to love and be loved we must reckon with imperfection–in ourselves, in those we love, in our families, in our relationships with others, in the whole damned world, damnit.
Brené Brown calls this being wholehearted and defines wholeheartedness as : The capacity to engage in our lives with authenticity, cultivate courage and compassion, and embrace — not in that self-helpy, motivational-seminar way, but really, deeply, profoundly embrace — the imperfections of who we really are.
Tell Me More is a book about wholehearted living. Corrigan embraces these truths–
I just showed my ass, and (not but) you still love me;
You died, and it hurts like hell, and (not but) I wouldn’t give up one measly minute of loving you;
Dogs eat shit from toilets and back yards, and (not but) still we hold them in our laps;
Life is short, and life is short, and life is short.
Tell Me More is a road map of sorts. Both an examination of and an assertion about what matters–and the answer is love. And if love is what matters, then the 12 hardest things Kelly Corrigan is learning to say are a guide to cultivating, celebrating, and accepting love exactly as it is and where it is offered.
28 years ago, I married my husband with very little knowledge of what marriage and parenting would require of us. I grew up in a loving household, and because my parents were skilled practitioners, I didn’t know how hard love could be. I’m still learning.
In the first chapter of Tell Me More, Corrigan writes about teenagers fighting, and beautiful clothes not fitting, and heads aching, and lives ending–loss. She asks, “Shouldn’t loss change a person, for the better, forever?”
Who knows? Right? What we do know is that loss doesn’t sting without love. As my good friend, Lia, would say, “It is what it is.”
Kelly Corrigan writes, “It’s like this,” when she writes about love and loss …
“It’s like this . . . This forgetting, this slide into smallness, this irritability and shame, this disorienting grief: It’s like this. Minds don’t rest; they reel and wander and fixate and roll back and reconsider because it’s like this, having a mind. Hearts don’t idle; they swell and constrict and break and forgive and behold because it’s like this, having a heart. Lives don’t last; they thrill and confound and circle and overflow and disappear because it’s like this, having a life.”
This one, I’m going to remember.