When I’m feeling down there are three books I turn to: Matilda by Roald Dahl, Alice In Wonderland by
C.S. Lewis Lewis Carroll, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion. This has been pretty consistent throughout my life. When I was 14 and all my friends decided they didn’t like me in one of those ways that only needs to happen to you once to scar you into thinking that large groups of girls are terrifying, I locked myself in my moodily painted deep purple room and read each one of these in a row. When I was 18 and my boyfriend dumped me three days before prom to go with another girl, I once again turned to these books. When I was in college and I walked in on a guy I thought I was in love with having sex with another girl (his argument was because he didn’t know her name it didn’t matter), the first place I went to was the library. And now, once again, I’m turning to these books to help me through a breakup.The first book that I pulled down from my cedar shelves was Matilda (yes, I still keep a copy near me). From the moment I read this book as a third grader, this tiny girl with a large marvelous brain has inspired me to take on my adversaries without fear and to use my “psychokinetic” powers. Also, you can read it in about an hour and come out feeling very accomplished.
Alice in Wonderland reminds me that taking risks is the only way that I stumble into incredible worlds. True, unless I start seriously dabbling in drugs, mine won’t be filled with talking rabbits and puffing caterpillars, but still, the world I exist in is surreal in its own manner. And no matter how far I fall down the rabbit hole (right now that hole being the one in my heart, corny to say but also true), I will find my way.
I read Slouching Through Bethlehem not because I want to emulate the characters, but because Joan Didion reminds me of who I strive to be. True, she also makes me depressed, knowing I’ll never have the talent to write like her, but phrases about the California winter sunlight also remind me why writing (when it’s good) is a force to be reckoned with. Focusing on what I love (other than my ex) allows me to remember that my real life goal is not him or even marriage; it’s that I become a force to be reckoned with.
I’m dressed a little like Alice today. Which, if you know me and my usual cut-off jean shorts, baggy T, shirt and filthy Keds, is rare. I’m wearing a new dress and I’m feeling OK except that I have to admit something to you. Against everyone’s good advice, I talked to my ex. And sure, it was terrible, but you know what? For the first time since we broke up I saw him and didn’t sob. I was even able to drop jokes—yes, mean, bitter jokes, but there was a hint of laughter. And let me add, before you start thinking I’m not listening to you and the book—I am. Against every instinct in my stomach and every hair that stands up on my arms when he is around, I asked him to not contact me for 60 days. I explained I want him in my life, but in order to do that I need this space here and now. He said he understood and we hugged goodbye. Knowing him, he won’t contact me—so now I just need to hold myself to this rule. I’m thinking my future holds quite a lot of friend drunk dialing.
This month Maude is road-testing our new book, The Frisky 30-Day Breakup Guide, written by Jamie Beckman, documenting her experience along the way. For more information on the book (including where to get your own copy!), click here!