Memoir: Lit – A Memoir by Mary Karr

I enjoy reading memoirs because they usually portray a personal tale of finding meaning and purpose in life. They are usually about overcoming life challenges and in doing so, they remind us of the amazing power of human spirit.

While reading memoirs, there are many instances which make me wonder how connected we are as human beings, yet how separated we are in our circumstances. We could be anywhere in the world but at some level we are all trying to achieve peace and harmony in our lives besides other things. Almost all of us at some point in our lives are faced with the task of learning how to channel our inner being to achieve a peaceful and harmonious life in true sense. It may be difficult but unachievable.

Reading Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr brought me to above realisation. Born to alcoholic parents, Karr struggled to emerge out of the shadows of her unhappy childhood and find a place for herself in the world. In Lit, Karr describes her struggles with alcoholism and how she overcame her addiction and become a bestselling memoir writer. While describing her journey, she also talks about a failing marriage which resulted in a divorce. This may sound like a story of many who fight addiction to get sober and take charge of their life, however, what is powerful about Karr’s memoir is the emotional tone with which she writes her life story.

Her life story keeps moving at a steady pace and as a reader you keep experiencing the various emotions. It is easy to empathize with her when she is drawn towards a drink, you can feel her anxiety, her impulses and her inability to control her behaviour. At the same time, you also feel somewhat angry at her preoccupation with herself and her tendency to destroy a near-perfect life. You question – why is she continuing on the path of destruction? And then as things start getting better and she starts taking charge of her life, you suddenly marvel at her inner strength to carve her own path. This empowerment comes about by having faith and trust in her own abilities. This transformation is accompanied by a certain sense of gratitude and acceptance of challenging life situations. Finding a community or a group of people who help and advice her are crucial to her recovery. It is important to rely on loving and caring people.

Her memoir reaffirms to me that when we start connecting with our loving self and expressing that loving self, we feel empowered.

Although I am not a literary critic but I do feel that her memoir is written lucidly. It also gets quite intense at times, I had to take a break even if I didn’t want to. The intimate way in which she describes her life situation makes you wonder how she can so clearly remember what she was feeling when she was so drunk that she almost passes out. I sometimes wonder, if these memories are what one experiences in that instance or later on when reflecting on the situation.

Whatever the truth, it is a memoir worth reading. It is definitely an emotional read.

Lit is Karr’s third memoir, before it she has written The Liar’s Club and Cherry. Perhaps I should have read the earlier two before embarking on this one. Perhaps I will read them now.

If you have read it, let me know what you thought about it.


The broken bracelet and impermanent nature of things

Yesterday, I was reading Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart. In the book at some point she talks about the impermanent nature of things. She says that if we remember that everything is impermanent, it is easy for us to overcome grief and sadness. The thought stuck with me.

I kept thinking how easy it is for us to get attached to things, people and the time spent with these people. We want to hold on to things and people without realising that nothing ever lasting. Our mind wanders to the time spent with people and dwells in the memory. Whereas in reality, nothing ever remains the same. The moment that we are living now is the only reality. The moment that’s gone is past and the moments in present and future are not going to be the same.

Yet, we keep wishing and keep feeling sad.

As if on cue, today morning as I was getting dressed to go out one of my bracelets just dropped on the floor and broke. I felt sad, since it was a new bracelet. I had just worn it once.

The broken bracelet reminded me of the impermanent nature of things. Sometimes we make a lot of effort to get something or be with someone. Despite our efforts the results don’t turn out to be as we desire. In such situations, having awareness about the impermanent nature of things can be very useful.

It helps us forgive and forget easily. We know that these attachments to things and moments are not lasting.

Minimalism: Organising books

Today, I decided to compile my books – mainly Kindle collection. Ever since, I bought my kindle I have been mainly buying Kindle books so that I don’t have to part with my books, when I move away. I have always led a pretty nomadic life moving countries, cities, jobs, apartments so have always had to give up my book collection.

Since I have a habit of buying a lot of books, I generally tend to collect a lot of books. Hence, it is not surprising that I have over 300 books on my Kindle. I have yet to count how many I have actually read. Some are reference books so I use them as reference. Currently, I have created an excel spreadsheet to organise the books by name, author, subject and date. That way, I can easily search the books on a particular topic. I am also putting a status as read or not read so that I know which ones I have yet to read. I am sure there will be many that I have not.

This is my mission of organising my Kindle books

  1. First, to see the kind of books I have bought over the years
  2.  Second, how many have I read or not read. So instead of buying new ones, I will try reading the ones I already have
  3. Third, make it easy to search my book collection by names of books, authors or subject. There are many times I need to reference books but because I can’t remember all my books it becomes difficult to search on kindle. This was I will know which one to look at
  4. Fourth, is to write some reviews on this blog. I had written reviews of some of the books on my old blog, which is now lost. So I am going to write more reviews here

It will take me a couple of days to get this done. I am hoping after organising my books, I will be better able to enjoy reading them

How do you manage your digital library?


Book notes: How to Love by Thich Nhat Hahn

These days I am trying to catch up on reading on spirituality. I have always found that reading books on spirituality has a calming effect on me.

As I was browsing through the Amazon bookstore, I came across Thich Nhat Hahn’s book How to Love. I have never read his books but have heard about him. I decided to try reading this one. I have to say that I loved reading the book and I felt a sense of calmness filling my soul.

The book contains lots of insights on managing a loving relationship. Although I don’t really believe in following any “should and musts” when it comes to relationships, I felt that his insights help to view a relationship from a different angle.

While Hahn gives short tasks to overcome the challenges couples feel in a love relationship, he also advocates finding a connection with the loved one. After reading his book this is what I learned from it.

As we go through life, it is easy for us to operate from an action-oriented approach of forming goals and accomplishing them. We see life as a series of tasks to be completed. This leads us to behave in an isolated manner. As if we are on our own little islands.

But when we operate from a feelings-oriented approach and live life with compassion our focus is on our own behaviour. We have more awareness to every being and everything around us. We understand the impact of our own behaviour on the world around us. Hence, we become more connected and attuned to others. With such an approach our behaviour leads to more success in the tasks we set out to accomplish.

Living from only an action-oriented approach makes us close to outside environment and other people. We tend to behave in a mechanical fashion, but living from a feelings-oriented approach makes us open to the world and people around us. While it is important to achieve the goals and enjoy the rewarding moments after accomplishing a task, eventually we learn that such moments are fleeting and transitory. It is only when we live from our hearts, we begin to enjoy life’s smallest moments and the journey of accomplishing those goals as well. In the process, we experience a variety of emotions and we find that our emotional journey has a lasting impact on ourselves and others.

By having more awareness and acceptance of our emotions, we learn how to manage our emotions so that they help us achieve harmony and success in our lives.

What do you think? Have you read any of Hahn’s books? And what did you feel about it?


Books that have inspired my minimalistic journey

In last few years, I have begun to enjoy reading books about personal change and transformation. I pick up these books when I want to do some light reading. I find it very inspiring to read about stories of personal change and transformation. Reading such stories fill me with a certain feeling of hope and positivity.

At another level, reading these books make me feel like I am talking to a friend. Thus, making the act of living by myself in a crowded city less lonely. I do enjoy my solitude but at times I crave for good conversations with strong people who have seen adversity or have gone through a personal setback and dealt with it in a positive manner with strength and commitment.

I started reading memoirs after I read Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. In my old blog, I had written a post about this book. If I find the original post I will link it here. This is the one of the first books that inspired me to look at life differently.

While I have read many such books, below is the list of books written by women about their journeys of change and personal transformation. These stories have resonated me at some or the other level and have inspired my minimalistic journey.

1. Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom by Colleen Saidman Yee – This book describes the personal struggles of Colleen Saidman, who battled drug addiction and became a super model but went through bad relationships and finally found peace in yoga. The honesty with which this book is written touched me and it really inspired me to begin my yoga journey earnestly. Although I read it a couple of years ago, the book still resonates with me about how important it is to take breaks in life and reflect on your life choices.

2. Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris: I picked up this book as I wanted to do some light reading and learn about life in Paris. However, some of the lessons in this book about how Parisian women consume food and clothes hit right at home. For years, I have been trying to overhaul my relationship with food and clothes. In very simple terms, through the life of women in Paris the author Jennifer L. Scott describes how easy it is to streamline your food and clothing habits. This book really helped me change my eating habits. It helped me become more mindful of what I eat.
3.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: The simple, effective way to banish clutter forever by Marie Kondo: Reading this book really helped me understand my relationship to stuff and it motivated me to declutter my wardrobe. Ever since, I have removed a lot of unused stuff from my life and it has been very liberating. This book also put me on the path to minimalism. Decluttering helped me with one obvious problem I have always struggled with. I have always found myself rushing, reaching just on time or sometimes even late. Decluttering helped me keep my mind free, make my routines simpler so much so that I found myself reaching everywhere earlier.
4. You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel: This book really helped me understand that often consumption becomes our main motivation to live, as a result we drown ourselves with stuff becoming overwhelmed. On the other hand, a life lived with simplicity and authenticity helps us retain our inner peace on a daily basis. How having less can add more meaning to life?
5. Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage by Allison Fallon: This book also talks about following our inner quest. However, to do that we need to peel the layers and look within ourselves about what it is that our journey is about. The whole concept of removing the extra stuff so that we can focus really made sense to me.
In the comments below, do let me know what you think of these books, if you have read them and if you have other suggestions!