An Open Letter to Myself on my One Year Blogging Anniversary

Dear me,

You did it – you’ve been blogging for a whole year. I know that when you started this, it was because you love to read, and you wanted an outlet to share all of your thoughts about one of your favourite hobbies, but I also know that you probably didn’t anticipate lasting this long so I’m really proud of you. Although ‘this is one for the books’, it’s also become one for the life lessons, new friendships, and everything in between. This is a space where you can talk about whatever you want, and I like that you never shied away from that, even when it made you vulnerable and nervous to be so open.

In the past year especially, you have been growing into such a strong and beautiful person even though you don’t see that a lot of the time. Between you and me, I think the one year ago you who started this blog would be really proud of the person you are now, and if you could see yourself through her eyes, I bet your perception of yourself would be a lot different. Reading has helped you through so much, and I’m glad you could find a community of people like you to share that passion with. When you first started one year ago, I don’t think you understood how impactful your blog would be on your personal life. You have made some amazing friends, both online and off, and read some of the most eye-opening and life changing books this past year which have enriched your life in ways you may not even be fully aware of yet.

If your experiences last year are any indication of what’s to come, I’m excited to look back this time next year at all of the new adventures you went on because of all the great books waiting to be discovered by you right now in this very moment. I know that these days it’s become difficult to finish books as fast as you used to, and sometimes even to pick one up at all, but my wish for you is that in the next year, as you get to know yourself more deeply, that you get to read even more books that change your life for the better. Happy one year of blogging; I can’t wait to see all the wonderful things and books in store for you next.

Always & Forever,
Catherine

“One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”


Capture

Advertisements

Review// I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

39391177

Author: Vivek Shraya
Series: Standalone
Genre: Nonfiction
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Book Length: 96 pages 
Publisher: Penguin Books Canada
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century.

Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she’s endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak.

Now, with raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I’m Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of colour and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.

My Review:

I would be lying if I said that the title didn’t have a huge influence on my intrigue in this initially, however, this book ended up giving me way more insight than I could have ever guessed. Exploring masculinity from the perspective of a trans woman through her experiences both pre and post transition, Vivek Shraya delivers a very raw take on how misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia has impacted her life.

A particularly insightful part in this for me was Shraya’s take on the ‘good man’:

In spite of my negative experiences, I’ve maintained a robust attachment to the idea of the “good man.” A common theme in my encounters and relationships is my certainty that the men I have admired were “good”, a synonym for “different from the rest.” The attachment to the promise of goodness is what left me bereft when, in various ways, I discovered that each of these men wasn’t “one of the good guys.” 

She goes on to talk about how instead of categorizing men (or anyone, really) as ‘good’, that we value specific characteristics one possesses such as communication, dependability, and the like. If we are to focus on specific characteristics as opposed to categorizing people as generally ‘good’, it not only eliminates the elevated image we’ve created of them, but unlike how being ‘good’ cancels out when one does something ‘bad’, these character attributes can coexist alongside one another.

Although I can’t speak to experiences one faces in the LGBTQ+ community, I can relate to the experiences and scenarios presented that affect women on a daily basis. What I liked about this was also that it didn’t skip past the fact that women who defend or feed into misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia are equally to blame. Overall, I thought this was very well written, and at 96 pages, the only thing I wish is that it was longer.

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


Capture

Review// Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head & Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop

32738672

Author: Gary John Bishop
Series: Standalone
Genre: Self Help
Release Date: October 22, 2016
Book Length: 221 pages 
Publisher: Harper One
Review: 2.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Have you ever felt like a hamster on a wheel, furiously churning your way through life but somehow going nowhere? It seems like there’s a barrage of information surrounding us in our everyday lives with the keys to this thing or that thing, be it wealth, success, happiness or purpose. The truth is, most of it fails to capture what it truly takes to overcome our greatest barrier to a greater life…ourselves. What if everything you ever wanted resided in you like a well of potential, waiting to be expressed? Unfu*k Yourself is the handbook for the resigned and defeated, a manifesto for real life change and unleashing your own greatness.

My Review:

Not the worst self-help book I’ve read, but not the most memorable either. I do have to say though that Gary John Bishop was very motivating – I liked the 7 personal assertions he broke each chapter down by:

1. I am willing
2. I am wired to win
3. I got this
4. I embrace uncertainty
5. I am not my thoughts; I am what I do
6. I am relentless
7. I expect nothing and accept everything

The main idea this book presents is that you can’t just sit around waiting for life to hand you things or for you to be ‘ready’ to face certain challenges that come with making positive changes. Although the message is a good one, the manner in which the author conveys it does come off as a little bit aggressive at times, and I could see how one could be turned off by that. Usually with these types of books, there is an ‘aha moment’ for me, and even though some of his insight was important and something I needed to hear, I just didn’t feel that. For this reason, I have given it a 2 on Goodreads, however, if I really think about it, it was probably closer to a 3 as I did enjoy it for the most part – I just didn’t feel as strongly about it as I would have liked.

Don’t let your mind control you any longer. Stop letting it hold you back with its excuses and distractions and worries. You are not your thoughts. You are your actions. You are what you do. And your actions are the only thing separating you from where you are and where you want to be. This isn’t just about seizing the day; this is about seizing the moment, the hour, the week, the month. This is abut seizing your fucking life and staking a claim for yourself as though your life depends on it. Because, the reality is, it does.


Capture

3 Favourite Quotes from 3 Favourite Books

There is something about revisiting an old favourite that feels like coming home – whether that be a memory, a food, a hobby, or book. Something I haven’t done in a while is revisit a favourite book, so in this post I thought I would take a trip down memory lane and dig up three of my favourite quotes (in no particular order) from a few books that are very close to my heart.

“…I can be myself around you, even if I don’t know who I am yet.”

23677341

Ever since I read this a few months ago, I have not been able to stop thinking about that quote. It’s such a simple, innocent statement, yet it holds so much power. As a teenager, I really did think that I would have it all figured out by now – that I would be so sure and confident in my life, choices, and path that I was taking to accomplish all I set my mind to. The harsh reality check is that I could not be farther from that place, and the even harder pill to swallow is that that’s okay, because newsflash: you are always kind of going to be a work in progress. But the sliver lining is that through all the chaotic mess of question marks that is your life, there is a good chance that the stars will align just right in order to bring you people with which you feel you can be your true self around – regardless of if you even know who that is yet. And maybe you will never really know who you are just yet, because once you think you know, life throws another curve ball, but sometimes finding someone you can be the work-in-progress ‘you’ around while you try to make sense of it all is one of the luckiest, most magical things one could ever ask for.

“The world, my friend Govinda, is not imperfect, or on a slow path towards perfection: no, it is perfect in every moment, all sin already carries the divine forgiveness in itself, all small children already have the old person in themselves, all infants already have death, all dying people the eternal life. It is not possible for any person to see how far another one has already progressed on his path; in the robber and dice-gambler, the Buddha is waiting; in the Brahman, the robber is waiting. In deep meditation, there is the possibility to put time out of existence, to see all life which was, is, and will be as if it was simultaneous, and there everything is good, everything is perfect, everything is Brahman. Therefore, I see whatever exists as good, death is to me like life, sin like holiness, wisdom like foolishness, everything has to be as it is, everything only requires my consent, only my willingness, my loving agreement, to be good for me, to do nothing but work for my benefit, to be unable to ever harm me. I have experienced on my body and on my soul that I needed sin very much, I needed lust, the desire for possessions, vanity, and needed the most shameful despair, in order to learn how to give up all resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in order to stop comparing it to some world I wished, I imagined, some kind of perfection I had made up, but to leave it as it is and to love it and to enjoy being a part of it.”

52036

Okay that probably isn’t even considered a quote, it’s more like a passage, and if you read it all, I’m impressed. Hopefully you came away from it thinking really hard about what it means, because I know I did. I feel like I say this a lot, but this book changed my life and searching through my copy for quotes made me want to read it again, ASAP. I will never forget New Years Eve in 2014 going into 2015, there was this wall that everyone was writing their wishes for the new year on, and all I wrote on the wall was, “to be happy.” “To be happy” – what a general, vague statement, that of course means different things to different people, but at the time (and even now), is really all I wanted out of life. When I think about it now, it’s silly that I wished for something I had in me all along, and that I knew that no matter what happened, I would always have somewhere. I didn’t need a new years wish to hope that my year or life would be happy, because it was and is, just as it’s miserable and seemingly unbearable too. What Siddartha is saying is that you need both – you need to experience both extremes in order to appreciate the full picture. As difficult as it is to see sometimes, Siddartha is right when he says that everything that exists is good, because everything that exists makes up the full picture that is your life, and as far as I know we only get one of those, so I hope the picture you make of it is one that’s beautiful.

“When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.
“Oh, sure you know,” the photographer said.
“She wants,” said Jay Cee wittily, “to be everything.” 

6514

This book. Not even going to lie, reading this book was like inviting a dark fog to form around my perspective of the world to the point where it suffocated me. Why, then, is it one of my favourite books of all time? Because Sylvia Plath puts into words thoughts and feelings I have never known how to express myself. I have never connected so much to the words of an author, which, when you read about her personal life, is really sad, but there is just something about her writing that gets to me and this quote is no exception. The main character in this book, Esther, is extremely overwhelmed by life and by the finality of making choices that affect it. Like Esther, I have always felt that way too. Sometimes I wish that I could experience everything – that I could be and do and live out every path to see which one suits me best, to see which one brings me the “best” life. I don’t think Esther meant it when she said she didn’t know who she wanted to be, I think she just wanted to be so many things and didn’t know which to choose, because choosing one path means missing out on all the others. But the thing is, the choosing and risking having regrets about it isn’t the scary part. The scary part is actually the not choosing of anything because you’re too afraid and having every option rot at your feet because you took too long to decide. Being everything like I wish I could be doesn’t have to come from living all versions of my choices out side by side to see which one is best; contrary to my belief, being everything can actually come from making tough choices that lead me to better than I could have ever dreamed on my own.

To anyone who made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope you find a book whose words impact you as much as these ones did for me.

❤ Cat


Capture

Review// Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life & Love From Dear Sugar

13152194

Author: Cheryl Strayed
Series: Standalone
Genre: Non-fiction
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Book Length:  304 pages 
Publisher: Vintage
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

My Review:

It’s hard to think of the perfect thing to say that would accurately convey what this book has done to me but the one thing that I know for certain is that it was life-altering. I’m better for having read this, and that, to me, is what all the best books do—they make you feel changed for the better.

This book is a compilation of advice columns answered by a woman who goes by the name, ‘Sugar’. It is what the title says it is—advice on life and love—but for almost the whole book, I wondered why it was called Tiny Beautiful Things. It’s not until I finished that I understood that it is sometimes the tiny, beautiful, seemingly-meaningless things about life that you don’t think matter that much in the moment which are the things you look back on as some of the most profound of your life.

The letters written to Sugar over the course of this book come from people of all ages, backgrounds, religious beliefs, and the like—people who are lost, confused, lonely, desperate, and scared, looking for someone to give them answers. Sugar isn’t some all-knowing fortune teller with a crystal ball who can see into your future, and she doesn’t claim to be; she is a real human being like you or I who has also been lost, confused, lonely, desperate, and scared. That is what makes her advice so good.  That is why thousands of people write to her—because even if she hasn’t been in their particular situation, she makes them feel understood by bringing up her own experiences and never saying that they are wrong for feeling what they do. And feeling understood feels really, really good, especially when you are going through tough situations that make you feel alone, as many of these people were. Even though I can’t say I have experienced half of the exact things that the people who wrote to her were going through, I can say that I have experienced the same emotions, which made the stories feel relatable regardless.

This was eye-opening and, at times, a heavy and emotional read. I really cannot recommend it enough, and I will be giving it a reread in the future for sure.


What would you tell your twentysomething self if you could talk to her now?

There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.


Capture