January 2020

After a four month hiatus, here we are. Four months in Franklin. Four books read in January of 2020.

#1 Jericho Brown’s The Tradition
I met Jericho at Babson College last year the day this collection was released and was so moved by his work that I immediately bought a copy. I let it sit on my shelf for a year because I wasn’t ready to delve into the honesty he presented. This is one of my favorite poetry collections – a voice so needed.

Notes on Franklin: It rained almost the entire month here, which was exhausting in the weirdest way. I understand cold keeping me inside, but the overabundance of rain made me feel soggy. Is it too much to consider trading my car in for a boat?

#2 Tara Westover’s Educated
The day I read of Tara’s first glimpse of the Holocaust & the Civil Rights Movement is the day the NYTImes released an article stating that history textbooks vary by state, often dependent on who holds the money or political power. I was shook. And have been dealing with that truth since. This is a common theme throughout this memoir: who writes history? And what is true?
Tara’s story is probably unlike anything you’ve ever read before and can feel at times like a well-written fictional family drama, at testament to her writing and how shielded we are from other people’s life stories. It’s difficult to read about the abuse and shame she experienced. In the harsh light of her wrestling, I saw shadows of my own story.

Notes on working from home: I don’t know how I was ever productive in the office. Working from home has been a game changer for my stress/anxiety level and for my ability to knock out my to-do list for work. The hardest part is getting people to answer emails, but I’m pretty sure that’s just adulthood.

#3 Dalai Lama XIV & Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s The Book of Joy
What a thought-provoking, delightful read. There are so many wonderful truths here about seeking joy, living in humility, and practicing compassion, but I am also struck by the profound friendship between these two gentlemen. Kindred, indeed.

Notes on Tennessee: I saw Celine Dion in concert, which was unparalleled. Top 3 favorite concerts ever in my life. She is a queen.

#4 Annie F. Downs’s Remember God
Let me walk you through my journey with this book: I bought it in December of 2018 with 100 Days to Brave. I started it (the first time) early in 2019 in Boston. Never finished, but picked it back up in 2020 in Tennessee.
This time. I read the whole thing though tear-filled eyes. Maybe #thisis30. Maybe I felt shockwaves on every other page because it felt like I was reading excerpts from my own story.
In chapter 11, Annie includes a section from her actual journal and, y’all, it is concept-for-concept pages from my journal (and this post from 2017 and this post from 2018): I feel untethered, like a balloon that will float away at any moment. I tether to people. I buy heavy furniture. I have tattoos of trees with roots because being rooted and grounded is something I feel to my core. And then in the epilogue of Remember God, Jon says to Annie, “you’re not too much.” – Y’all. If I could replay for you conversations I”ve had with my dearest friends in the last decade, those words would echo.
I’m frustrated because there’s no bow at the end of this book. My life doesn’t have a bow either. I’m still waiting for God to show up, wondering if He’s going to spend my entire life breaking my heart and unsure if He’s going to turn all this mess into something redemptive. But I know that He’s kind, even if that doesn’t look the way I want it to, and I’m real glad there are mighty women in this world like AFD.

Notes on where we go from here: January felt impossibly long and unending, especially with the rain. Perhaps February, the shortest month, will feel a little less grueling.


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