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Field Notes, vol 16

December 14, 2014

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I’ve been avoiding you. At first, it was because of physical health challenges, but then it became more about shame. I have these grand visions for what my life could look like; full of thoughtfulness and learning and discussions with clever, loving friends. Full of poetry and novels and curiosities of nonfiction and telling everyone about the marvelous new bookish treasures I’ve stumbled across. Full of walks, on which I’d understand more and more of the natural world around me, and the scent of baking, and teaching Thistle new tricks, and endless pots of soup. Full of beautiful photographs, knitting projects, a cosily decorated apartment. Even the occasional adventure. And of course I want to share all of this beauty and good fortune and interest here.

But the truth is, I am disabled. There are days when lifting a mug of tea to my lips is almost more than I can bear. There are days when I have to decide whether to cook a meal or do the dishes, because I don’t have the energy for both, and I daren’t bake scones and contribute to the sink clutter. There are days when I get Thistle out for her walks because I have to, bribing myself with audiobooks to get through it. And somehow these days can turn into weeks, and a month has flown by, and I have not much to show for it, which breaks my heart. I thought I’d made my peace with this, with the limitations bad health imposes. But I’ve had to learn that lesson again this past month, as the blank slate and hopefulness that a move brings morphed into a desperate attempt to keep my head above the water, wondering why I felt so exhausted and couldn’t seem to quite get out of the flare up cycle.

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Luckily, as December arrived, I began to put into place new routines, less ambitious than before, that are allowing me to continue living alone. Joy has snuck back in, exhaustion is less, and I’m once again gentle with myself, instead of wondering why I can’t fit more in to the seemingly endless hours of my days. My currency is not time but energy, which is anything but endless. I can have a little bit of everything I’ve already mentioned but the active moments must be buffered with much downtime. There is no use in lamenting this, or castigating myself for not being able to do more. Instead, I am just grateful that I am bookish, and have always been so, as books easily expand to fill that down time. And as always, I’ve decided this blog and book blogging in general is precious enough to use some of that energy on. So I’ll be headed back for the limited schedule I laid out in my last return, but this time I’ll be writing in the afternoons that always feel ripe with potential, instead of waiting until evening when I’m already counting the hours until bedtime. I’ve been wanting to return to blogging for the past fortnight, but I worried that the passing glances I’m able to manage about the books I’m reading aren’t good enough, that as they deserve so much more, it would be better if I said nothing. But that’s what I’ve done for so much of the past few years, and it’s not better, for me at least. So today I just sat down and started writing, as the only way to return to blogging is to in fact click the ‘add new post’ link!

As I struggled to pull myself out of the malaise that ended November for me, books have been my constant companions. I’m almost done with Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, and each book manages to be both a comfort and a challenge at once. I love her for that. I’ve been rereading too, of course; the ultimate comfort. But I’ve also been craving novels featuring smart, bookish heroines facing challenges of their own, or at least engaged in trying to sort out what life is about. These women, both the characters and the authors who write them, are my tribe, and I am happy to have so much excellent companionship. Their stories helped me find my way back to myself.

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I shall tell you more about them soon, but for now I’m curious: which books do you turn to when you’re feeling lost? Are there particular authors you turn to or genres or just specific books that have not only touched your soul but somehow told you more about how to live?

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56 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2014 2:39 pm

    Aw, Eva, you’ve certainly got nothing to be ashamed of. I think there’s more than a few of us in all different circumstances who could admit to getting caught up in our ambitions and thinking we’re able to do so much more than our time or energy or ability will allow us to do. I’m no stranger to that disappointment of realizing that even the best goals (and sometimes even pretty modest ones) that I’ve set out for myself are beyond my limitations even when I give it my very best. You’ve moved across the country and started a new life, and I so admire how you’ve followed you dream even though it’s not necessarily an easy thing to do. I think you can afford to be gentle with yourself, and I hope that even learning to live a good life within your limitations will prove to be rewarding even if it’s not quite what you’ve imagined.

    In answer to your question, whenever I’m feeling lost, I find myself reading the Bible. It sounds cliche, but I can’t imagine I’ll find a book that will touch my soul or teach me how to live more than that one.

    • December 15, 2014 4:39 pm

      I don’t think I was ashamed, so much as disappointed/frustrated in not being able to make the blog into exactly the space I’d like, you know? I’m glad you could relate, although of course it’s always sad when our dreams come up against reality and reality wins. ;) I think part of growing up is learning how to pick up the pieces and make new dreams, despite our past experience!

      The Bible and I have a tricky relationship, but I adore Barbara Brown Taylor’s books. Have you read her?

  2. December 14, 2014 3:58 pm

    When I’m feeling lost, I don’t tend to go for books that can tell me how to live, but books that comfort me and make me feel that life is manageable. Because I like to be in control, I am inordinately fond of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and fanfic (in the fanfic category I include all latter-day imaginings, with Laurie King’s and a recent book entitled Moriarty among them). There’s nothing like seeing another mystery solved to make me feel that my own life will prove equally manageable.

    • December 15, 2014 4:41 pm

      Hmmm: maybe I phrased it wrong. I’m definitely not reaching for self-help types of books. It’s just that sometimes in a novel a character is facing (or not facing) challenges that feel parallel to my own life, and my emotional reaction to that story arc can give me insights as to how I might want to tweak my own way of living.

      I adore traditional mysteries as comfort reads (in fact I’m in the middle of Laurie King’s Art of Detection right now, because I woke up this am in a lot of pain & wanted something soothing) for exactly the same reason you like them. :D

  3. December 14, 2014 3:59 pm

    great have you about even in little bits Eva and i always find life is best taken a day at a time , hope december finds you more energy than last month

    • December 15, 2014 4:42 pm

      Thnx Stu!

      I’m been trying the day-to-day approach, but sometimes it’s terrifying how quickly those days add up into weeks & months! I think I need to start scheduling a few weekly/monthly activities to make sure I don’t get into a homebound rut.

  4. sallyjanevictorious permalink
    December 14, 2014 4:19 pm

    Eva, we have barely met, and that only on this page, so please accept my support without wondering why this stranger cares. A few years ago a mysterious disease struck me down, a disease that turned me from a strong, smart woman to someone who could not move without a walker and whose mind was so damaged that I needed a GPS system to get from my house to my son’s house, a journey that was three miles long and required three turns, two of them at t-intersections. Like you, I moved three thousand miles in the midst of all this. Please care for yourself, and do whatever pleases you. And, do not lose hope. As to what I read when troubled…I love Elizabeth Goudge’s books. They are about the glory to be found in ordinary life lived by ordinary people of good will who rise to greatness when the world demands. It is comforting to know that this is possible.

    • December 15, 2014 4:43 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear about your health challenges Sally Jane. I hope you’re in an easier place now! And I think people who meet via blogging certainly aren’t strangers; sometimes I write more intimately, or at least more thoroughly, than I would talk in a conversation! :) I’ve never heard of Goudge, but I shall certainly give her a try.

  5. December 14, 2014 5:13 pm

    I just stumbled across your blog via bloglovin – you write beautifully, and as soon as I saw mention of ‘tricks’ I figured there must be a dog involved here. Thistle is just beautiful – my kind of mutt! <3

    My 'old faithfuls' are stupid fantasy books, and Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood. If I feel like crap, I start re-reading something with a Chosen Child, magic powers, swords and horses.. or Cat's Eye.

    • December 15, 2014 4:44 pm

      Thank you Allie, for the kind words about my blog & Thistle! She’s curled up on a heating pad, warming up from a snowy romp, as I type. :) Cat’s Eye is so intense, but I do love Atwood. I haven’t heard of Chosen Child. Have you read Tam Lin by Pamela Dean? Comfort fantasy reading for anyone bookished, I suspect.

  6. LauraC permalink
    December 14, 2014 8:22 pm

    Eva, I’ve been worried about your absence but I figured it was health related. I would be happy if you just left a few notes about what you are reading if you feel like sharing and can’t manage a long post. Also, please do not hesitate to contact me if you need anything. We live 15 minutes from you at most. I hope that you have a lovely and healthy Christmas–are you still going to Texas? Contact me when you get back (or before if you need to). I have what I call my cozy books to read in tough times: Miss Read, Della Lutes (like “Little House” books for adults), a couple Angela Thirkells, Anthony Marshall’s Trafficking in Old Books and Fossicking in Old Books, Elizabeth Goudge’s Pilgrim’s Inn, and Elizabeth Howard’s The Light Years.

    • December 15, 2014 4:45 pm

      Thank you for all of the support Laura! I am going home for Christmas, but we’ll meet up again next year (I’ll return your email very soon; sorry for the delay). :) Thanks for listing out all of those books; I haven’t heard of any of them, so lots of new books for the wish list.

  7. December 14, 2014 9:31 pm

    My currency is not time but energy, which is anything but endless.

    Perfectly said.

    It can be the hardest thing in the world to be gentle with yourself. On a purely physical level, I’ve been chastised by doctors and dentists because I want things now now now and I think the best way to do that, on some level, is to punish myself. (One time, a dentist told me she could see that I was flossing way too hard because she could see the marks I’d gouged into my teeth over the course of my life. Ouch.) Being gentle takes so much effort and practice, but it is so worth it.

    When I’m lost, I tend to go back to the texts that have resonated with me for the longest time. The Lord of the Rings (I was reading some excerpts earlier for a project and I already feel calmer), Natalie Angier’s Woman… things and lines that have shown that they can center me. When I feel lost, it tends to be a very visceral thing—I feel like I can’t get a grip on anything, including myself. Rereading those kind of texts is a way to reconstruct myself and reconnect myself to myself.

    • December 15, 2014 4:48 pm

      Oh I really should reread Woman. I even bought a copy from Better World Books so I could have it easily available! And LOTR is lovely. My lost feelings are very visceral too; I completely connect with your last two sentences. That’s exactly how I feel, and I’m so impressed you worded it so tidily.

      Being gentle is definitely a learned skill; I thought I’d gotten quite good at it in Texas, but I’m having to relearn it all over again after my move. I suspect because I’d idealised by new life so much I’d overlooked the facts of my physicality, if that makes sense.

      P.S.: I’m vaguely mulling over a train trip to NYC in the next few months. I’d love to get some tips from you! :)

      • December 21, 2014 1:58 pm

        Aw, thanks. I’ve started seriously journaling this year, and I’ve been thinking about the process of assembling yourself as of late.

        That makes total sense. It’s very easy to think that everything will be better once Objective X is complete, but it’s all part of a process. I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been in my life right now, but I still have things that I need to work on.

        P.S.: Scream! I am happy to offer tips and company. Let me know how it shakes out!

  8. Jenny permalink
    December 15, 2014 12:38 am

    I’m so sorry you’ve been feeling lost. Be gentle with your own expectations. Chronic illness (something both my husband and I suffer) can take so long to adjust to, because in the end it’s adjusting to our own mortality. Not an easy task, and not one that American culture encourages! But worth while, I think.

    I’m surprised that two people have already mentioned Elizabeth Goudge. I turn to her books again and again when I’m sick or sad. They are luminous.

    • December 15, 2014 4:51 pm

      Thank you Jenny! I’ve definitely to them over the years, but before my context for adjusting was living with other supportive people (roommates, family) who could pick up the slack for me. Living alone has meant adjusting all over again I think. I agree that American culture does *not* encourage this; it’s much more difficult to accept limitations in a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ kind of place. So many well meaning people have said the most obnoxious things over the years from that kind of spirit, as if I could will myself well.

      I’m sorry both you & your husband have to deal with similar issues.

  9. December 15, 2014 5:40 am

    I have MS and struggle with fatigue. I also had a stroke in January but have recovered. I just use different words once in awhile. It’s funny. I learned a trick through the MS Society. On Sunday night I look at the week ahead and make an energy budget. I look at the whole week and slot in the things I really want to do. The priorities. If I’m out at night I don’t go out in the morning. If I’m out all day I don’t go out at night. I have two days a week where I just veg and play candy crush, read Facebook, sleep, do little. Other days I might do a lot in the city, errands, chores but the next day is off. Once my week fills up on paper that;s it and I don’t do anything else until I schedule it for the following week. I am coping with the MS fatigue much better and I find I get my blog done and the things I really need to plus have time.
    You also just moved to the north in winter. The weather and darkness may affect you. You just do what you need to do and don’t worry about the rest of us. None of us will judge you. we’ll just be happy when you get the ability to come back to the blog and visit us all again. You take care of yourself and that definitely means not worrying about what anyone will think. After all it is your life. Good to hear from you.
    When I’m exhausted and down I can’t even read a book.. I get a pot of tea and some magazines and find they motivate me. I get pretty magazines, not the trashy gossip ones. The nice stylish, makeover home, cosy stationary stuff types of magazines and bookish magazines like Bookmark. They inspire me. Take care of yourself. Without your health you can’t share anything with anybody. :-)

    • December 15, 2014 4:54 pm

      I’m glad you’ve recovered from your stroke!

      You know, I do a less formal version of your scheduling idea; I make sure not to make outings two days in a row, or more than 3 days a week (maybe 4 if I’m pushing it), I leave myself plenty of time in the morning (that’s when the pain’s the worst), etc. Perhaps if I made it more formal, I’d be able to better fit in a few fun outings; thank you for the idea!

      I actually really love the winter weather & darkness, so luckily that’s been perking me up/helping my moods/making my walks more enjoyable. :)

      I don’t have any magazine subscriptions, but they sound like a lovely time. I am sometimes too exhausted to read (and I often have to set aside more involving books and switch to comfort reads when my brain’s too tired for anything else) & generally turn to Netflix or internet browsing, but magazines would be quite nice too. Any title suggestions?

      • December 15, 2014 9:42 pm

        I’m sorry as I am in Australia I don’t know what magazines are on sale in USA. I only read Bookmarks and another Bookish magazine I pick up when travelling there. I subscribe to Bookmarks. If there is a large newsagent or store like Barnes and Noble or similar I guess you’d have to search through them or search online at Amazon. They have a big list but I can’t get magazines in Australia through America Amazon. Copyright laws or something. Take care of yourself and always LOVE hearing about/from you and your darling little dog.

  10. December 15, 2014 9:10 am

    My heart goes out to you. If it’s any consolation, I know exactly what you’ve been going through and have to re-learn over and over the limits of my own energy. It seems so unbelievable, still, that I can’t just get out of bed and do everything I imagine doing in my mind. I agree with the others – being gentle with yourself is a really hard thing to maintain over any period of time. I turn to crime fiction when I’m low, because it’s comforting. Ann Cleeves has been my latest discovery, her Vera Stanhope novels (though I’m working my way backwards through the series, never can manage to read in the right order!). But I also love novels of wry gentleness as they restore my sense of humour – anything by Barbara Pym or Jane Austen or even David Lodge. Look after yourself. You are your only resource so you have to treat yourself with all the tenderness such uniqueness deserves.

    • December 15, 2014 4:55 pm

      Thank you Litlove for such a kind comment. And I’m sending my sympathies back to you. :)

  11. December 15, 2014 10:05 am

    Eva, thank you for this post. It is a perfect expression of what a couple of my friends with chronic illness are experiencing and helps me understand their struggles.This past summer, after going through a great upheaval in my life, I found I could not read fiction at all so turned to audio books. Pema Chodron’s work helped me find the ground and gain my footing. Once able to read Ursula Le Guin and Kate Atkinson became constant companions. Be kind to yourself.

    • December 15, 2014 4:56 pm

      Oh I’ve become an audiobook addict since moving. Conservatively, I’m averaging at least 20 hours of audiobook listening time a week, much more when I’m in a flare up. I recently read one of Le Guin’s essay collections that made me want to read her fiction. And I love Kate Atkinson!

  12. December 15, 2014 2:53 pm

    Such an honest post, and we are lucky to have you by intermittence in this space. For comfort, I turn to books I have enjoyed years ago, like The lord of the ring, or a well-written cozy mystery for distraction. Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series was entertaining as well as kind-hearted.

  13. December 15, 2014 5:50 pm

    Eva, I’ve been a reader of yours for YEARS, but I think this may be one of the first times I’ve ever spoken up and reached out to you. And it’s to tell you that I admire you, the strength you have to return, time and time again, when you feel as though so much is stacked against you. As one of your loyal readers, I don’t care how often your posts turn up, because when they do they are full of intelligence and wit and compassion and humanity. All of which is to say that I hope that, through all things, you continue to come back to this space and share with us your photos, thoughts, trials, triumphs, and of course your amazing book reviews (which, irregardless of the length, always leave me dying to pick up whatever book you’re talking about!). I know already that you do as much as you can, but I don’t ever want something like shame or judgement to keep you from coming back, and I wanted you to know that there are those of us who will always keep you in the feed-reader, waiting and hoping to see more from you whenever you can manage. Now, to answer the question you already asked – when it comes time for comfort reading, for some reason the books I loved most as a child always seem to do the trick! Little Women is a book I’ve read dozens of times, mostly when I’m in need of succor and strength. Harry Potter can always be counted on for that dose of adventure, and Narnia for a feel-good lesson in other people and places. I’ve also recently discovered audiobooks, which I know I don’t need to tell you about, and sometimes listening to a collection of Auden’s poetry or essays by Ray Bradbury are just soothing enough to hit the spot. Excitedly looking forward to your next post!

    • December 16, 2014 5:39 pm

      Chelsea, thank you so much for leaving such a kind, kind comment. It meant a lot to me, truly.

  14. December 15, 2014 7:20 pm

    Hugs to you, Eva. I’m sorry you’ve been having such a rough time lately, and glad that you’re able to remind yourself to be gentle with yourself. In comfort books, I always come back to Dorothy Sayers’s Harriet Vane books — I love Harriet for being angry, for being damaged, and for trying so ferociously to get back to some semblance of normal. Elinor Lipman is a recent discovery of mine, too. Her book The Family Man is a total dear of a book, and it always cheers me up.

    • December 16, 2014 5:40 pm

      Oh I love Harriet for the same reasons. So clearly I need to read Lipman!

      • December 28, 2014 1:11 pm

        I second Lipman. The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman is also fantastic, sweet not cloying, just a delightful read.

  15. Amanda permalink
    December 15, 2014 8:13 pm

    Eva, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. I’ve been dealing with my own limitations recently as well. In October my grandma and aunt passed away within two weeks of each other. The exhaustion of death has been following me through November and the early part of December so far. My church family has been such a comfort to me. The bible is where I go for reading when all other books fail me. I also really found comfort rereading the Harry Potter series when I was struggling before. I’m thinking rereading The Lord of the Rings would do the trick as well. As always it is a joy to read your thoughts and musings, and I love the pictures.

    • December 16, 2014 5:40 pm

      I’m sorry for your losses Amanda, and I’m so glad your church as been there for you. I’m in the process of finding a church here, but as I’m such a liberal, it’s got to be the right fit, which can be tricky to find. ;)

  16. December 15, 2014 9:40 pm

    I second the Elizabeth Goudge recommendation! try “The Rosemary Tree”, (about an ex-con trying to find his way after being in prison — and other challenges in the lives of additional characters). Or for something lighter try D.E. Stevenson (she and Goudge are my ‘comfort reads’ authors….); “The House on the Cliff”, or “Katherine Wentworth”. I like “Mrs. Mike” by Nancy Freedman also (a young girl marries a Canadian Mountie and finds life in the wilds not as easy as she thinks it will be, but the friendships she makes helps her through it…) Or “How Green Was My Valley”, life in mining village in Wales….

  17. December 15, 2014 10:47 pm

    Oh, Eva. I know all too well what you mean, and yet like you I have to learn all over and over and over again. I understand and am deeply sorry. Thanks for writing about it, so we can all tell you you are not alone.

    I don’t have any suggestions to make the bad go away or even subside, except what you know about being gentle and scheduling and rest. But I can offer book suggestions.

    I just read The Mermaid’s Child, by Jo Baker. I thought of it as I read your post. I am currently looking for some more of hers.
    Also Attica Locke whose new mystery is good.
    The Food of Ghosts, Marianne Wheelaghan. Mystery on Pacific Island.
    I am currently reading loving Drusilla Modjeska. The Mountain. Not a comfort book but deeply engaging
    When the World Was Young, by Elizabeth Gaffney. Again engaging.
    The Brides of Rollrock Island, by Margo Lanagan. Australian fantasy writer
    True Murder, by Yaba Badoe. Mystery by African in England. wonderful
    Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson.
    I like le Guin’s later writing best.
    Enough. Stay gentle and know you are not alone.

    • December 16, 2014 5:43 pm

      Oh that Jo Baker sounds excellent. I’ve loved the few adult books I’ve come across featuring mermaids. & I’ve read that Lanagan twice; incredible but not what I would reach for when I want to cheer up, if you know what I mean. I adore True Murder; I’ve also read that 2-3 times! I’m popping the others on my list, except for the Willow Wilson. I read her memoir a few years ago and did not care for it (to put it lightly), so I’m avoiding her fiction. That might be silly, but who knows?

      The le Guin novel I got out is one of her later ones; I tried WIzard of Earthsea a few years ago and frankly couldn’t see the appeal. And I had a very mixed reaction to Left Hand of Darkness. So hopefully I’ll have the same reaction as to to her more recent writing. If nothing else, I love her nonfiction!

  18. readerbuzz permalink
    December 16, 2014 6:33 am

    My fall-back book is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It reminds me to stop thinking about living and live. To stop judging my life and live. To fall down and get back up and just live. Very comforting.

    readerbuzz.blogspot.com

    • December 16, 2014 5:34 pm

      Oh I read that in high school but haven’t revisited it since! Good to know it stands up to rereads. :)

  19. Beth F permalink
    December 16, 2014 7:07 am

    I don’t know if I have comfort reads, but I do know that life can be rough sometimes and you can’t beat yourself up over it. This seems to have been a difficult year for many of us. I like your new attitude: Use that energy bank wisely and treat yourself kindly.

    • December 16, 2014 5:34 pm

      Thank you Beth. I hope that the upcoming year is better for you! I don’t think 14 is a terribly nice number, to be honest; I remember that being 14 was difficult too.

  20. aartichapati permalink
    December 17, 2014 12:20 pm

    So good to hear from you, Eva! I am sorry that things have been tougher than you expected. I can imagine that the isolation and cold weather can sometimes be hard, and I’m so glad that you have found ways to be kinder to yourself. I miss you! I should send you an email, but I don’t want you to feel like you have to spend your energy typing a response.

    I often turn to mysteries and fantasy as my comfort reads. I think I like to immerse myself in a different world, particularly at this time of year. As for smart women – have you ever read the Sarah Tolerance books by Madeleine Robins? I think you would enjoy them. I also LOVE the Flavia de Luce mysteries, but I think you have already read those.

    • December 18, 2014 5:40 pm

      I actually love the cold weather, that’s definitely one of the pluses and not one of the problems. lol And thanks to modern technology, I don’t feel that isolated, just overwhelmed by daily tasks that my mom must have been doing in Texas! I miss you too, and I will be e-mailing you. I know I’ve been a terrible correspondent in the past, but I’m trying to turn over a new leaf (for the umpteenth time; let’s see if it sticks).

      I haven’t read those mysteries yet, but I’ll give them a go! Mysteries & fantasy are a huge part of my comfort reads, and have accounted for a very high percentage of my reading this year. :D

  21. December 17, 2014 1:40 pm

    What a beautiful post! I especially love the idea of being gentle with yourself. :)
    A while ago you asked if anyone had any good snow poetry — the Writer’s Almanac is a really nice email that NPR in the US sends out every day, and today’s poem was a snow poem, so naturally I thought of you!

    Winter Grace
    by Patricia Fargnoli

    If you have seen the snow
    under the lamppost
    piled up like a white beaver hat on the picnic table
    or somewhere slowly falling
    into the brook
    to be swallowed by water,
    then you have seen beauty
    and know it for its transience.
    And if you have gone out in the snow
    for only the pleasure
    of walking barely protected
    from the galaxies,
    the flakes settling on your parka
    like the dust from just-born stars,
    the cold waking you
    as if from long sleeping,
    then you can understand
    how, more often than not,
    truth is found in silence,
    how the natural world comes to you
    if you go out to meet it,
    its icy ditches filled with dead weeds,
    its vacant birdhouses, and dens
    full of the sleeping.
    But this is the slowed-down season
    held fast by darkness
    and if no one comes to keep you company
    then keep watch over; your own solitude.
    In that stillness, you will learn
    with your whole body
    the significance of cold
    and the night,
    which is otherwise always eluding you.

    • December 18, 2014 5:40 pm

      Thank you! I love that poem & it seems to capture snow so well. :)

  22. December 17, 2014 4:30 pm

    Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind is a great book for moments of doubt, pain, and frustration. Wishing you a restful and healthy 2015.

    • December 18, 2014 5:41 pm

      Thnx! I have big & little plans for 2015, so I’m sure it will treat me well. 2014 was lovely too in its own way; after all I got to move after I’d almost given up hope!

  23. December 17, 2014 7:41 pm

    I have no suggestion which comes to mind, but TolstoyTherapy.com is filled with wonderful books for every mood, particularly those which encompass discouragement. I love her site, and might even go so far as to say that she would recommend War and Peace. Go and see why. xoxo

    • December 18, 2014 5:42 pm

      Oh thank you; I’ll go visit that site. I read W&P a few years ago & have been thinking about a reread. There’s a lot to love about that book, although I take issue with enough of Tolstoy’s theories (especially when it pertains to women) that I wouldn’t classify it as encouraging/comforting. ;)

  24. December 17, 2014 11:48 pm

    Everyone has been so supportive here so I just want to echo them all and send you lots of hugs! Here’s to finding a balance that is satisfying.

  25. December 19, 2014 7:14 am

    I’ve been just catching up a little with the blogs I try to follow regularly. I’m glad you’re returning to writing about books you’ve read, and whatever you feel up to writing is great! As an avid audiobook listener, I’ll be glad to hear your recommendations on those, too! I’ve been meaning to listen to that Lois McMaster Bujold series on audio. When I was younger, more your age, I turned to Laurie Colwin as comfort reading — her novels, but also her food writing, two collections of essays and recipes Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. They’ve just been released in ebook format for the first time.

  26. December 20, 2014 5:13 pm

    HI Eva – I’m so sorry that everything has caught up to you, though I wonder if you have realized how stressful and demanding moving is physically? Maybe it’s just catching up to you, and everything will ease as you rest. I have a friend at work who has a chronic illness and she uses the ‘spoon’ analogy. She has so many spoons to get through the day, and what will the spoon be used for? Once she has used her spoons, they are gone and she has to wait for the next day. I hope something like that helps you. I wish I lived closer so I could come do your dishes for you once in a while, and the groceries, and all the little things that do take ‘spoons’. You could feed me with scones then!! Hugs and I am so happy to hear that winter and the darkness are welcoming for you.

    As for books I turn to…..once I would have been able to answer that, but with my own kind of trauma this fall, I’ve been struggling to read anything at all. Most days just float by and I don’t know where the time has gone. I have taken up drawing to help with the nonverbal grounding, as reading takes a lot of concentration and I have too much anxiety. One day at a time is what I’m learning, and I have hope that I will get back to reading more as I heal. I have been able to get into a book at long last! lol

    Hugs from up here in Ottawa and I hope you enjoy your trip home for Christmas.

  27. December 21, 2014 8:54 am

    Eva, please know that I am aware of the fact that I cannot begin to imagine what you’re going through – I am privileged not to have chronic illness so I can’t sit here and say that I understand, because I do not. However, I think everyone can relate to being too hard on oneself and refusing to accept the limitations of our bodies, our lives, in whatever capacity they might show themselves. I so admire you for the decisions you’ve made to live your life despite your circumstances and to move across the country for your own happiness and your own personal purpose. Your blog has meant a lot to me over the years and it’s been such a pleasure getting to “know” you through the books you’ve read and how you talk about them. Please be kind to yourself – as you can see from the many supportive comments you have a ton of friends out there who care about you and want only the best for you. I’m glad to hear you’re going to stick around because I’d certainly miss you if you disappeared from blogging! Hugs to you!!

  28. December 21, 2014 9:40 pm

    You ask such an interesting question, authors who have told you how to live. At first it seems to me that we should all have a quick answer to this at our fingertips, since we spend so much of our time reading. But it’s a tough question. So many of us read to escape life, not to find ways to live. Books are such a big part of our lives, but can they show us how to live life?

    I think of Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl whenever this question comes up. Then I thought of Emily Dickenson, who I think does show me a way to live life, at least a way to find solace in life. The Great Gatsby and The Old Man and the Sea. To Kill a Mockingbird and Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man both provide role models, each in their way.

    I think for me, it’s not really question of particular books or particular authors, but of books themselves, maybe as a metaphor to live by. It’s not finding the answer that counts becuase you never really find it; it’s looking for it each time you begin reading that counts. The hope for discovery, the act of study, this is way to live life, yes?

  29. Leigh permalink
    December 21, 2014 11:42 pm

    I started thinking about your question and realized that I come to your blog and a few others when life is wearing me out. I work 60 plus hours a week and have an obscure joint problem and some days are so much worse than others. It is so nice to be able to relate to someone that loves to read as much as I do and talks about her personal struggles with chronic illness. Thank you so much for sharing your journey, I feel less alone because of it! As for books, I tend toward sci-fi for a true escape when I have enough downtime to read. I long for the days when life slows down and I can get back to wonderfully lazy times with books and tea.

  30. January 11, 2015 6:32 am

    Reblogged this on spiritofadventuredesigns and commented:
    I just found this beautiful blog that really resonates with me. Being ill all of the time, always trying to push myself towards my dream, and always feeling like I’m letting myself down when it just doesn’t happen. Very relevant to me this week as I had to travel to my office this week, spent Monday at the Doctors getting tests and more antibiotics, worked Tuesday though Thursday, spent the evening throwing up and Friday attempting to do the long drive home. I’ve finally accepted something has to give and have asked for a demotion. Devastated but I can’t be the best at everything in life all of the time. Time at home with my family is more important, and every time I work in the office I get sick. Trying to see this as a positive thing, more time for the kids, cooking from scratch, crochet and my writing. I’ll get there in the end I’m sure!

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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