Monday, November 5, 2012

Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

Finally, I recommended a book club book that everyone else hated! I think this has got to be some sort of odd rite of passage.

"Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow" by Elizabeth Lesser was my pick. Well, it was sort of my pick in a way but not really.... See, I bought a copy as a birthday present for my friend, C, who loved it. C then recommended it to our book club as her pick, before she had actually read it. Turns out, C and I were the only ones who liked it. But C did not show up to book club, so I was the only one present to defend the book that everyone else hated. Hence it suddenly became "my pick" to defend.

It felt damn strange.

Defending it made me feel vulnerable, due to the subject matter.  The basic thesis is more complex than what I'm about to describe, but here goes: we're all just a bunch of bozos on the bus, and nobody is perfect. Yet almost everyone puts on a capable face and tries desperately to act like they've got it together all the time. Then, usually when something pretty bad happens in their life, they find their old capable face has to go, and they choose to start behaving more authentically.

Ok, not the best sales pitch anyone ever did for a book, I admit.

What can I say. This is not a book for everyone. INFJ-types like me will probably like it or at the very least appreciate it. Anti-therapy types who belittle the idea that people can go through a Phoenix Process after something bad happens to them will not care for this book. And people who cannot abide the story of a mother who cheats on her husband and ends a marriage for what our larger culture construes as frivolous reasons also will not like this book. Folks who don't want to think about aging, death, and dying will hate this book.

So to the 1% of the population I have not already described here: go ahead and read it!

I loved it, and am finding it hard to articulate why. Perhaps it is because I found one message of the book so appealing - and that's the encouragement to stop playing it so safe. Stop clinging to your most closely held judgments about the way you think others are living their lives so incorrectly. Instead, be flexible, be vulnerable, trust the universe, look for the signs that are there.


Anonymous said...

I'm probably in that 99% there. In reality, "authentic" seems to be synonymous with "irresponsible and selfish." At some point when everybody has forgotten about get rich slowly, we'll post our rant on the topic (and why true authenticity is more like the penny-arcade guys, why we prefer focusing on reality to "inspirational" seminars).

hush said...

@nicoleandmaggie - I suspect I'm going to enjoy your post as usual (though I'm not immediately catching your references to get rich slowly and penny-arcaders).

"..."authentic" seems to be synonymous with "irresponsible and selfish."" Yes, that! There's certainly this brand of new authenticity out there currently and it has a very bad name: "Whatever I did, it was justified." "Eat, Pray, Love" and the odd writings of Sandra Tsing Loh come to mind as examples of when keeping it real goes wrong. Honesty without caring and/or self-awareness = selfishness. Doing whatever feels good without understanding causes and effects = irresponsibility.

I'll have to think about what it is exactly that for me so clearly distinguishes the kind of authenticity lauded in "Broken Open" from some of the aforementioned pieces of Authenticity Drivel. Maybe it has to do with the process of how authenticity is attained - something to do with the degree to which the author is willing to scrutinize her inner motives, almost to the point of self-flagellation, and to be able to reach a point in that self-analysis where she can finally make healthier life choices and can clearly articulate how and why she fucked up - and take ownership of it. Hmm...