Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stitches - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 37

The book I chose for the 37th week of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge was Stitches - A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair  by Anne Lamott.

The only version available through the library system that I could find was on disc. Anne Lamott read her book. She read it at a rather fast pace which doesn't allow much time for processing what she was sharing. For this reason, I would much rather have read the book than listened to the disc.

The author reviews life’s losses, searching for those threads that enabled her to press on. She shares stories about her upbringing in a swinging household loosely held together by alcoholic parents whose chaos impacted their sensitive daughter. There are no major epiphanies in Stitches. Rather, the book is a humbling journey of asking for help and learning one’s limits.

At any rate, there are six pieces or chapters in this book - basically, as the author describes, a “patchwork of moments, memories, connections and stories.” There was a particularly moving chapter about a husband and wife whose husband had memory issues. It reminded me of the journey my dad and mom took after my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

Another chapter focuses on Pammy, Lamott’s best friend who died at 38 from breast cancer. Lamott kept the linen shirt that Pammy gave to her shortly before she died. Threadbare after many years, it needed to be let go. Yet, it took the author several attempts, until she finally was able to tear the shirt to pieces and let it float down a river in Laos.

There were some things that I took away from the book that I found interesting:

- Stitching with the same color thread translates into our lives as regular contact with a few trusted people; and daily rituals, practices, and can decrease can decrease shock. The unifying thread can provide respite from the worst of the pain.

- Order and discipline create meaning. The author talked about the importance of having a routine or rhythm throughout the day.

- There is meaning in focus and concentration. Pay attention to the simple things in nature - like butterflies and birds.

- The author wants people - especially children - to cling onto hope. She does by looking at the life cycle of butterflies with children. She has them do craft projects with a butterfly theme, listen to a passage about butterflies, and go out and find butterflies.

- It's important to stick together in times of chaos.

There were a few quotes that I liked:

- Ultimately we're all just walking each other home. Ram Dass

- There can be meaning without having things mean sense. - Anne Lamott

- Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion. - Barry López

Anne Lamott shared part of a poem called "Briefly It Enters, Briefly Speaks" by Jane Kenyon. This is the poem in its entirety:

I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper....

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . .

I am food on the prisoner's plate. . . .

I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . .

I am the heart contracted by joy. . . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . .

I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .

I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .

Basically, the book sums up that heartbreak will happen, and there's no certainty that people can overcome it. We simply must carry on.

“We clean up beaches after oil spills. . . . We return calls and library books. We get people water. Some of us even pray. Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice.”

Stitches is kind of a spiritual self-help book about how to handle tough times and persevere even when it’s difficult to discern any purpose and meaning to the chaos of one's life. By trying to stitch things up, even patchwork-style, we can help ourselves cope. “We live stitch by stitch, when we’re lucky,” writes Lamott. “If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching.”

Although there are some interesting parts to this book, I feel like it glosses over the surface issues and doesn't dive as deeply into the challenges of life as I had hoped. Would I listen to or read the book again? Probably not. Yet, I'm happy with the information, quotes, and poem I gleaned from this book...and for that it was a worthwhile use of my time.

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