Friday, June 24, 2011

Life is a Verb.

My Kindle and I finished reading Patti Digh's Life is a Verb a few nights ago. It started off strangely for me, to be honest. I wasn't crazy about her tone, and when she mentioned things like "fair trade coffee" and "organic grapes," her snobbery seemed to overshadow the purpose of her book. What is the purpose of her book? Well, her stepfather was diagnosed with lung cancer, and 37 days later he died. She was struck with the thought: what if we lived each day as if we only had 37 days to live? Comprised of three parts, "Life as a Verb" starts with an introductory section which basically explains her reasoning behind writing. For her, writing things down creates a sort of memory box, preserving her stories and experiences for her children and their children. "We are all only one step away from losing the stories of our lives. I write to remember." I think that pretty well sums up part one.

Part two holds the bulk of the writing. It is a series of short stories that expand upon Digh's "Six Practices for Intentional Living." Each one of the six practices is a chapter, and each chapter consists of six stories which approach that chapter's practice from a different angle. Here are her six practices:
1. Intensity: Say Yes
2. Inclusion: Be Generous
3. Integrity: Speak Up
4. Intimacy: Love more
5. Intuition: Trust Yourself
6. Intention: Slow Down.
Now, through this entire part, my Kindle's "highlight" feature got pretty tired. See below... I've listed maybe 1/4 of what I highlighted. Good stuff.

What I really loved about this book is that it pulls in quotes from all different sources. From Hermann von Helmholtz to Franz Kafka to people you've probably never heard of. Here are several of my favorite quotes from the book:
   -"Engage with intensity. Say yes. And dance more."
   -"Stop yourself from judging others in order not to be judged yourself. Then you'll be free to dance wildly in your car. . . Practice being curious, not judgmental." 
   -"When you take charge of your life, there is no longer need to ask permission of other people or society at large. When you ask permission, you give someone veto power over your life." (Albert Geoffrey)
  -"The trick is not how much pain you feel but how much joy you feel. Any idiot can feel pain. Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live, excuses, excuses, excuses." (Erica Jong)
  -"Sometimes taking flight takes letting go. Letting go takes faith. Faith takes letting go. It all requires wings. And so it goes."
  -"How do geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we humans know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if only we would listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown." (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross)
  -"Sometimes. . . life just comes down to showing up, or sitting upright, or at the very least flinging one leg at a time off the bed."

Part three is titled "Life is a Verb," just like the book itself, and it contains a short section on becoming who you're truly meant to be. More than becoming, being. It's one thing to be aware of who you are, and another to completely embrace that person; to become the best version of yourself, rather than the best imitation of who you think you should be. "Live an Irresistible Obituary. . . Live an extraordinary and irresistible life to ensure that when you die, the people who are left have the feeling that with your passing the world has become a duller place."

This book really turned around for me. At the beginning I was very unsure- is it a self-help book? If so, that's relatively new territory for me. I'm more of a novel or textbook kind of girl. Now that I've finished it, I'm not sure what to categorize it as. Maybe self-help, but it's so full of stories I have trouble assigning that label (not to mention the stigma it carries). Overall, I'd really recommend the book. I think it's incredibly inspirational, and it definitely made me stop and think about how I approach things. A lot of things. And after all, that's why we're here, right? To learn, to think, and to expand and grow. This book made me do all of those, and I'm still feeling the aftershocks several days later. I'd say that's a sign of a worthwhile read.

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