The Alternative

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that I was in the middle of a new book, and that book would be, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. I chose this book on a whim of a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” deal at Barnes and Noble (which, I must say, is an incredibly crafty way at getting people to spend more, when they think they’re saving. Well, it worked for me).

I naturally navigate towards the psychology/self-improvement aisle when I’m not continuing my love of all things Meg Cabot-ish authors. Before Heidi, before therapy (and even now), I have books. Hundreds of them. Hundreds of them I haven’t had time to begin to read yet, and even so, I know if I step foot inside B&N “just to browse,” I’ll walk out with 2 of more new, intriguing reads. Looking at my stuffed bookshelves, I have enough variety to perhaps start my own family/personal psychotherapy business. I kid. (Sort of.)

Tiny Beautiful Things hooked me from the very beginning. I always pour over the advice column in any magazine I read, connecting with parts of the story the reader tells, feeling their anguish and confusion, just looking for a hand to hold and console them. More often than not, I am going through or have gone through many of the same experiences. In a weird way, I feel relieved to know I am not the only one. Tiny Beautiful Things was just that: the 3am, I-can’t-sleep phone call you make to your best friend of decades, just in the comfort of hearing that familiar voice. It’s the consoling hug you get from your Mom after having not seen her in months or years. It’s the sparkling light at the end of this dreary, never-ending tunnel we’re all wandering down. We all need help and we’re smartest and most savvy when we give up the arrogance and ask for it.

Dear Sugar started out as a column online at The Rumpus, known nation-wide as the ever-present, gracious, kind, but full of soft kicks in the ass about reality that we all need. Her loyal readers write in about, literally, everything. Some are battling grief over a Mother’s death; some readers are in love with a dear friend, although still married to someone else; some are wanting to leave relationships, travel the world, start a new career, go back go school, or have kids and be a single parent. Or all.

Every situation is different, obviously, because each of us has a unique story all its own with wicked twists and turns, romantic plots, daring adventures. And some of us are in college! But the mainstay, what I hear echoing in every single response from Sugar, who is so aptly named, is this: self-respect. Respecting yourself to choose what will benefit yourself the most. Not the easy choice, but the best choice. So I began to think: what if anytime I hit a crossroads in life, I thought solely of respecting myself so I could best respect other people, not do things half-assed to half-completion? My guess is if we all acted in this manner, we wouldn’t need to use alcohol to soothe us. Or fast-food. Or over-working and any other avoidance activity. Or cheesecake. Even if that means standing up for ourselves enough to lovingly kick the adult kids out of the house and watch as they swim on their own, make amends with a brother who has only wronged us in the past, but keeping boundaries for communication, or even having the moxie and courage to walk out of a dying marriage when its no longer serving us (or our spouse). We could go about our lives and our problems with a clearer head, more peace, and eventually, more happiness.

Isn’t that what we’re all after anyway?

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