497 of 527 people found the following review helpful
This book contains a radical thought: Your life is bigger than headline news,
This review is from: Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally (Paperback)
In the beginning, this book really annoyed me.
Here's the set-up: "In October of 2003, my stepfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died 37 days later."
Tragic. Though I can't imagine, I can empathize. But then comes the goopy stuff:
"The time frame of 37 days made an impression on me. We often live as if we have all the time in the world, but the definite-ness of 37 days was striking. So short a time, as if all the regrets and joys of a life would barely have time to register before time was up...."
"I tried to reconcile the fact that this fearful death was happening with the understanding that I needed to make something good out of it. What emerged was a commitment to ask myself this question every morning: What would I be doing today if I only had 37 days to live?"
Well, you know the answer. Savor every second. "Enjoy every sandwich," as the dying Warren Zevon put it. Buddhism 101. The punch line of a million self-help books.
So was I moved by Ms. Digh's approach to her theoretical last 37 days --- pumping out reams of writing so her young daughters would have some idea who Mom was? No. And not because I'm hard-hearted. It's just that I've heard all this. Many times, most recently in "Improv Wisdom", which I consider the last word on Showing Up and Being Here.
But I stumbled on, past the beautifully designed pages with the lovely art and the super-sincere poems by poets I'd never heard of, until I achieved the entrance to Part One. "Inhabit Your Story." The predictable moral arrived on schedule: "Find the change you can make and make it."
On to Part Two: "The Six Practices for Intentional Living." Which includes: "Dance in your car", followed by "carry a small grape" and "always rent the red convertible" and "say wow when you see as bus".
What was I doing in this Birkenstock gulag, surrounded by Good Thoughts?
But then I hit the story of Ms. Digh sitting on a plane next to a boor, and how they became close friends. The next page brought another compelling story. The Jungian analyst Marion Woodman, sick in India, is bothered by a large brown woman who crowds her on the couch of the hotel lobby. For days. On the fourth day, the woman's husband shows up to say he had been sending his wife there to pour her warmth and life energy into the body of the dying Woodman. The woman had, Woodman decided, saved her life. And then came the story of Digh's college lover, back in 1978. Richard was African-American. Her parents were less than thrilled. The relationship withered. Flash-cut to now. Richard is now Amanda. He wears his old girlfriend's earrings.
Tell me enough stories, and one will be an arrow to the heart. Richard-and-Patti was, and then, suddenly, they all were --- and advice like "Go to a black barbershop to get your hair cut if you're a Caucasian" no longer seemed monumentally trite. Reading on, I learned about hikaru dorodango --- shiny Japanese mud balls --- and how to make better ones simply by making more. I learned how to disagree by saying, elegantly, "I don't see the truth in that." I was reminded what a dollar can mean to the person ahead of you in the supermarket line. I encountered some very wise quotations, like this, from Eric Hoffer: "You can discover what your enemy fears by observing the means he uses to frighten you."
In short, as I read on, I found myself getting sharper and smarter. I considered why it might be better to make a mistake --- and learn from it --- than strain to get everything right. And I read the obituary Patti Digh wrote recently for her father --- who died in 1980, when she was in her teens --- and misted over.
The stories in the news these days are so big. Tectonic plates are moving. History is being made. But then, it always is. "Life is a Verb" is a reminder that our lives are bigger than the stories in the headlines. A small thought? Not to me. Now I have to go back to the beginning and start again....
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Showing 11-19 of 19 posts in this discussion
Posted on May 25, 2011 10:48:01 AM PDT
Wonderful, insightful commentary. I think this reviewer should write a book!
Posted on Aug 9, 2011 7:32:10 AM PDT
Enjoying life says:
I read your excellent review, clicked on comments (which I never do) to tell you how much I enjoyed it, and was amused and gratified by how many other people had the same impulse. I loved this book and wanted to buy it for my sister but like you, she is more likely to be bothered by the "birkenstock gulag" start of it. After reading your comments I'm now going to buy the book for her AND print out your review to include. Thank you for such an excellent summary and critique!
Posted on Dec 14, 2011 12:36:00 PM PST
R. Hanna says:
I got goosebumps reading your review...can't wait to see what happens when I read the book! Thank you for being honest!
Posted on Jan 7, 2012 1:47:21 AM PST
W. Puckett says:
Fabulous job Jesse. Thank you.
Posted on Feb 22, 2012 5:01:25 AM PST
Its hard to improve on what has already been said. I love Patti Digh's books. May I add my thanks to you for such a well written, thoughtful, kind and illuminating review
Posted on Mar 26, 2012 1:31:30 PM PDT
Anita Castillo says:
What a well-thought-out and beautifully crafted review. Thank you for taking the time to do this. You have certainly inspired me to read this book with great care and an open heart.
Posted on Dec 8, 2012 7:14:25 AM PST
Linda M. Gabosch says:
I read Life is a Verb about 2 years ago and loved it because it "reminded" me of what I have known all along. But we all get distracted in everyday life and forget that Life is an active, not a passive verb. I have purchased this book for friends and am now on my second reading of it because sometimes, I still get distracted and need to be reminded.
Posted on May 5, 2013 11:36:43 AM PDT
Elizabeth Grainger says:
As many others here have said so beautifully, this is a truly marvelous, generous, and moving review. Jesse, I look forward to reading more of your work. I actually think I'd enjoy YOUR memoir/self-help/mindfulness/whatever-you
I love the way you approached this book as a collaborative effort. Bravo!
In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2013 1:01:49 PM PDT
Jesse Kornbluth says:
Very very kind. Everything I publish on Amazon was originally posted on my site: HeadButler.com. Do drop in.