“The Friends We Keep” (2019) | Book Review (Feb-March 2020)

Book Review THUMB


Chosen Book:

“The Friends We Keep” (2019) by Jane Green


Trigger Warnings:

Substance use (particularly alcohol, diet pills, cocaine), addictions, domestic violence, eating disorders (details, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, almost like a “how-to”, competitiveness), abuse, toxic relationships, verbal abuse, abortion (p. 105), sex (p. 95), depression, mental health, glorification, childhood sexual abuse, character death, trauma, PTSD, sexual assault mentioned in passing, pedophilia comment (said without any basis in fact, i.e. used as an insult against a main character), bar tending, gas-lighting, stigma, anorexia with bulimic tendencies (p. 80), dementia.


Themes:

Betrayal, families, friendships, grief, closure, moving, gay relationships, university, adults, growth, lies, deceit, deception, shame, hiding, secrets, recovery, modeling, entertainment industry, acting, happy masks, culture, 1980s-2019 timeline, author, book sub-plot, marriage, relationships, sexuality, body language, putting people on pedestals, perfection vs struggling behind closed doors.


Summary:

This story follows three main friends, Evvie, Topher and Maggie, from university in the 1980’s to their time drifting apart over the years and then slamming them together again in their fifties in 2019. They become strong and unique friends in college in England until they go separate ways after graduating. Evvie is struggling with an eating disorder that no one knows about; Topher is dealing with trauma from his childhood and being switched off from exploring his homosexuality and intimate relationships (although he is able to sustain a few romantic-like relationships over the years); and Maggie has married Ben, her love at first sight from college, not knowing that his alcoholism would take their future together into a nosedive to only be left as a fantasy.

This book is heavy in terms of all of its mental health focus, so if you’re looking for a book that’s light and airy, this may not be it. I honestly had to take a few mental health breaks while reading because it was so heavy with its depictions–which is legitimate and real and also something I wasn’t entirely suspecting. I almost quit very early on because of the eating disorder related information in this book but luckily I stayed through it and really fell in love with the characters and wanting to know what happens next!

Evvie has a secret relationship with someone and winds up having one abortion and raising a son that never knows his true father. Evvie pulls away from Maggie because of this and the secret she is harboring until one day when they’re all together again in their fifties, the truth is uncovered, and yet at the same time of it being horrible and emotional, it proves to help Maggie immensely deal with her grief and find closure and peace on once hard, raw and tumultuous memories and a past relationship. It’s the secrets coming out that leads to her greatest sense of peace.

This book dabbles with the idea about “perfection” and “perfect lives” to reveal that there really is no such thing. Everyone is battling something behind closed doors and a lot of willfulness, shame, guilt, what-if’s and more come into play when it comes to these mental health challenges.

I do wish that there was more coverage on the dangers of eating disorders and the physical/medical/psychological ramifications of intense eating disorders–hell, even more mild ones–which unfortunately was not covered, described or depicted in this book, which is too bad.Β  Evvie just doesn’t seem to have any lasting/damaging effects/physical ailments from her ED which may be a problem for the representation in this book.

Overall though, Maggie, Evvie and Topher, have all gone through a lot of hell in their life and still they remain, friends and together again in the end. They have all sorts of dreams that they uncover again and it’s so, so wonderful. They grow together and grew apart but came back to be cheering one another one again.

I think this book has a big strength when it comes to ending chapters and pulling the reader along. I definitely got invested and emotionally manipulated, so to speak, while reading this book.


Recommendation Score:

4/5

Long lasting friendships


Remarkable Quotes or Comments I’d Like to Add:

  • p. 57: Evvie would have had more luck explaining why she thought Ben wasn’t the right fit for Maggie or why she didn’t think highly of him than purely just trying to pull Maggie away from having feelings for Ben because of Evvie’s own bias and mistrust. Like, Evvie was looking out for Maggie but the way she acted about it was unhelpful and dis-empowering. It also pushed Maggie away rather than if she had used I statements, it could have helped to bring them closer together. πŸ˜› Just my thoughts!
  • p. 63: I feel bad for Evvie because she was brought up in a household where love and affection had to be earned and she felt that her Mom judged her more than Topher’s Mom seems to judge him (or give him unconditional love, as it were).
  • The most Evvie vocalized her ED at the start of this book was on p. 64 which is truly saddening because she was struggling and didn’t have people around her that saw that she was or could help her to help herself. That sucks. 😦
  • p. 65 is especially fucked up when Topher’s Mom tells Evvie what she uses to keep herself slim and I felt that it was a dangerous detail for vulnerable readers, again, like that ‘how-to’ kind of thing. Also it’s just fucked up in general. I feel like discussing the darker sides of mental health are intrinsically very, very difficult.
  • p. 65 continued: I think it was incredibly irresponsible, dangerous and damaging for Topher’s mother to suggest these pills to Evvie, that while yes, she didn’t realize E has an ED, still in general is messed up. Joan (Topher’s Mom) just didn’t get it or realize how problematic it could later be for E. 😦
  • Evvie was presenting with a lot of warning signs that something was “wrong” with her, that she was suffering and struggling but sadly no one really noticed or at least didn’t know how to verbalize it. 😦
  • p. 66: We catch glimpses of how deeply into her ED Evvie is because of how she prides herself on not needing to eat as much as her peers. This detail reminds me of what I try and achieve in my ED related fanfic: “Distorted & Disordered” </3
  • p. 70: Here, we get more of a description of what Evvie’s side effects are from the slimming pills she’s taking as physical ramifications and it’s overall so fucked up and reminds me how helpless, sad and concerning it all is just as someone who is reading the struggles. Freaking EDs, man. I thought it was a pretty accurate depiction although, something I’ll be noting elsewhere, I don’t think there are ever any long-term side effects/physical illnesses that Evvie has to live with as a consequence of her disordered eating in her young adult and youth life. This, I feel, continues to glorify the conditions and play with how dangerous of a topic it really is, sorta downplaying the whole thing. It kinda reads like there are no physical or psychological consequences to engaging in ED related behavior which definitely isn’t a good message to put on blast. Again, just my thoughts. πŸ˜›
  • I also wondered here if D&D my fic conveys these intense emotions when readers read through it. And of course, Evvie is lying to feed her ED. Damn.
  • p. 75: This is later addressed by Maggie herself but yes, Ben’s drinking problem was clearly well established early on in the book and it was staring them all in the face, they just didn’t want to believe it, sadly.
  • p. 80: Trigger Warning for anorexia with bulimic tendencies. Includes a purging scene, just FYI. Also, the lie that it’s just a “one time thing”. That’s what they always say. :/
  • p. 95: Sex scene
  • p. 96: I hoped that Evvie learning that Ben was attracted to her at her “larger” size would be a good wake-up call that her brain was lying to her and that she was already worthy of love and respect regardless of where her size landed her. ❀
  • “(Evvie) would miss Maggie, but the truth was it wasn’t the Maggie of today that she would miss, it was the Maggie of their university days, a Maggie she really didn’t know anymore” — Green, (2019), p. 140

  • I thought the above quote was so excellent and relatable, it perfectly summarizes how relationships change and shift in life and how when we’re grieving the end of those relationships, sometimes we forget that who we thought we once knew maybe we didn’t know as well or we’re missing X version of them which may not be who they are anymore. I don’t know, I thought it was pretty profound and worthy of mentioning! Sometimes we miss one version of a person but people grow and change and transform and we have to grieve that loss of who they once were but may no longer be. ❀
  • “…this was the way {Maggie} saw it: it was her responsibility to stop {Ben} from drinking, her responsibility to make him sober” – Green, (2019), p. 143

  • My thoughts on this quote: It’s definitely not Maggie’s responsibility, it’s really only Ben’s. That’s a choice that he has to make and it cannot be forced on him (and expected to stay/be maintained by Ben) and it can only be him who really wants treatment and to begin recovery and to get better. Maggie is placing over-responsibility onto herself and it would never truly work out the way she wants it to. Maggie cannot change him and sometimes we are not enough to blockade someone from acting on their self-destructive urges. Unfortunately, that’s life and that’s the reality of the situation. By all means, try and help and support where you can and also recognize that you cannot control another person’s actions, only your own. Tread carefully out there, peeps. ❀
  • p. 144: Maggie uses a lot of “you” and “you’re not…” as argument points which, those of us who have learned DBT, know that that’s not effective communication skills. Instead of using “you did, you won’t, you should”–use “I statements”. Use “I statements” to express how it makes you feel when someone behaves a certain way, how you feel about a situation, how it affects you, etc. That way you’re showing more responsible behaviors, you’re voicing your strengths and empowering yourself and showing yourself and the other person ownership of thoughts and feelings.

 

  • p. 144: Ben resorts to gas-lighting, geez, great, and totally reveals how much of an alcoholic he is by trying to say how he doesn’t get hungover and can stop at any time, riiiiight.
  • p. 149: The idea of a fresh start somewhere else is great and all, like the whole theme with New Year’s but the thing with that is that all the problems you had before are still there if you’re refusing to address them and work through them. So yes, Maggie and Ben getting a new house some place else is great and environment can definitely play a big role, however Ben can still find ways to use while in a new place and his using may not change even when his geographical location does. Like, he’s still himself and he’s battling something within himself that won’t just disappear if he moves locations. His brain is always with him, unfortunately. He has to start working on the internal stuff to better accommodate his outer world experiences.
  • p. 187: The chapter ending for Evvie and in regards to her ED TOTALLY reminded me of the way I end chapters in D&D, it was pretty uncanny!
  • p. 192: Maggie grapples with the idea that she missed Ben’s warning signs with his alcoholism from the beginning and didn’t see them even if they were screaming at her because she was wearing “rose colored spectacles” and was so in love with him that she would have ignored it otherwise. Sad. So, like, the signs were there but she wasn’t ready to admit it and not enough to stay away, either.
  • p. 198: I honestly hadn’t interpreted Topher’s admission in his book subplot as him having gone through childhood sexual abuse so I was a little confused in this chapter when the interviewer was asking about it and using the collective term “we” are not alone as a whole.
  • p. 198: Dickie (Topher’s partner except not so much sexually) validates and explains himself well here to encourage Topher to look into his trauma and abuse and come to terms with it all through therapy and such, which I think is so huge and important, he tells Topher he loves him and wants the best for him and that Topher has been shutting down his sexuality for years because of the trauma. I don’t know, I thought it was so important to bring awareness onto these struggles and to deepen Topher’s character and in a way that felt real and earned and empowering; it’s something I haven’t seen before in books. Also, it felt like 0 – 100 real fast for me but that’s probably because it wasn’t even on my radar when I was reading this page
  • p. 201: Evvie has gained weight by this point and misses the attention she would get from her appearance when she was younger, the pride she would feel over her body and being praised for it, as well. The only issue is that she was unhealthy and deep in the throes of an ED so it wasn’t something she could realistically maintain because it wasn’t like she was always slim as her body naturally would be, she was instead forcing her body to be a way and that wasn’t sustainable.
  • p. 216: Maggie reveals the character death causation and how much shame she feels over it because of the stigma around mental health and substance use disorders. I honestly can’t relate too much to that although I can kinda understand it, to a degree. I think it sucks that Maggie feels so much shame that she felt she couldn’t voice what actually killed her partner because of the judgment she fears may come along with the truth. She wants to believe the lie of their marriage being perfect but if there’s one thing that’s a theme in this book is that a lot of people hide behind a ‘perfect’ li(f)e when really they are deeply struggling and we can’t guess what struggles a person faces just by looking at them. It’s a hard hitting and sobering realization. Sometimes one we’re very afraid to face or leave behind as truth. I do like the way this book dealt with grief and depression and how they showed Maggie’s descent and her guilt and what if questioning that came after her husband’s death. It’s very raw and relatable, I think. It’s talking about something openly with characters closed off about the reality and truth which is a very interesting tale to tell. It allows the reader to recognize their own avoidance and their own grappling with stigma in their life and realize that it’s okay not to be okay and that everyone has something and no one is perfect. It makes it okay to talk about, okay to write about, okay to say I’m not okay. It’s okay to get support and help, too. ❀

 

  • p. 217: I found it very frustrating that Maggie hated lying about how Ben died (alcoholic liver disease (truth) vs a heart attack (lie)) and that it would bring her more guilt and shame when she lied but then she keeps lying about it. Like, you’re the one in control of the narrative here and you could just tell the truth instead of lying about it, etc. Like it was very frustrating for me to read about how she continued a harmful behavior that she was in full control of spinning or taking a different narrative. She had the power to be a survivor when instead she was choosing to be the victim. I know it’s a bit harsh, I suppose, and it was incredibly frustrating. Like, if it’s causing you that much pain, then tell the truth. Standing in your truth is more powerful than lying about your weaknesses, especially when it’s causing damage.
  • “{these people} had the confidence you had when you were in your thirties, before life became a grind, throwing obstacle after obstacle in your path, taking away the things you loved and making you realize that the only way to ease the hardship was to move through it” — Green, (2019), p. 223

  • I thought the above quote was a pretty accurate depiction of the difficulties faced in depression (as well as this chapter as a whole for showing Maggie’s downward decline) and also the effort that’s involved to have to move THROUGH hard times. I thought it was pretty hard-hitting and truthful.
  • p. 232: Back to Topher, mention of EMDR treatment, PTSD, therapy
  • p. 239: “(Maggie to Evvie) ‘You’re not enormous. You’re beautiful. Are you really still hung up on your weight? We’re fifty. You need to get over it'” — MT: Lol, I thought Maggie would be more validating and supportive and compassionate than resorting to ‘get over it’. Like it’s THAT simple. I guess the notion that not everyone will be perfect in how they try to reframe things is important to highlight rather than everyone always saying all the right things which isn’t reality. I suppose I can understand that. ❀
  • “‘Of course I knew. We were worried as hell but figured you were old enough to look after yourself'” – Green, (2019), p. 242

  • This is Maggie talking to Evvie, telling her she knew about the diet pills she was tossing back. Probably not to a super detailed extent but she and Topher knew. Again, I feel like there was a missed opportunity to confront Evvie with her ill choices and it balloons out this major issue that Evvie wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be able to properly take care of herself because she was struggling with a mental health condition that just so happens to have physical ramifications. It bothers me that her friends and her loved ones and people around her didn’t speak up on EVVIE’s true behalf, instead thinking she’d get over it on her own or that it wasn’t that big of an issue. Evvie is lucky it didn’t go further and that she didn’t have any long-lasting physical ailments because of her diet pill abuse, anorexia, bulimia, etc. Not that we’re ever told this flat-out. I feel that while tackling these issues is so important in contemporary literature, I wish more would have been explored for treatment or saying the right things or confronting these very real issues. I felt this was a little lackluster in comparison to how other things were handled. I think it’s also dangerous and important too because if we wait for the person to realize their issue themselves, we may we waiting forever and they may never fall into their “rock bottom” before they wind up dead or with life-altering conditions they then have to live with for the rest of their life. Plus it may also dampen the severity of these disorders for some people. Again it’s that glorification type thing and I don’t think getting through and over an ED was really well explained or depicted in this book unlike some of the other traumas and treatments.
  • “It was too late. [Evvie] wanted this, these people she loved, all back together, more than she wanted to keep hiding, more than she wanted to keep secrets” – Green, (2019), p. 255

  • Two things: 1. This is a HUGE turning point for Evvie and for everyone and it reminded me how invested I had become in this story. 2. She is risking a lot to jump back into Maggie’s life and live together with her and Topher again, especially with the secrets she’s harboring but even another line says she wants to choose happiness rather than secret keeping, which again, means she’s risking a LOT but that it’s worth the risk, which is totes relationship goals. ❀
  • p. 258: Topher talks about his abuse as a child from the hands of someone else and in trying to find closure, he discovers that his mother genuinely never knew about it or knew how it was affecting him (or that it was even occurring in the first place) and he talks about having a voice now and it’s just so powerful and sad because his Mom is dealing with some early stages of dementia now too and it’s .. FEELS man FEELS.
  • p. 266: A cardiophile moment, hehehe
  • p. 267: If Topher had just referenced quotes or otherwise made it obvious that he was gathering inspiration from another person’s work of art, I feel like it wouldn’t have been such a big deal but I guess that’s what this mini sub-plot wanted to achieve, I think you could take it out of the story and it wouldn’t make a difference, though.
  • p. 267: I really feel if you took out the whole portion of Topher getting under fire about plagiarism, the book wouldn’t be all that different. I suppose it serves SOME purpose for Evvie to swoop in to help Topher out, for Topher to leave the States, for a touch on bullying and online hate can occur too, but it just seemed like a dumb plot move, to me, at least. It wasn’t all that necessary, I think. This book also weaves a lot of fiction between nonfiction with specific famous celebrities and such which is particularly confusing to me because then I can’t tell what part is made up versus what part is actually occurring in this reality. Bit of a mind fuck.
  • (Evvie to Topher during the book subplot): “‘We all make mistakes, this one just happens to be in the public eye, but it doesn’t make me love you any less. A mistake doesn’t change who you are. I know you and I love you'” – Green, (2019), p. 271

  • I thought this was a really sweet and validating remark on Evvie’s behalf and that it could be true and applicable to other situations, too. ❀
  • P. 285: Evvie was bothering the shit out of me and causing me immense frustration because I knew if her friends found out, and they inevitably would, about her son and how he had come about, then it was all over. Gwah. Just tell the truth!! πŸ˜›
  • “‘(Topher about his Mom) And if she needed to be taken care of, he would do that, too, even though, all those years ago, she wasn’t able to take care of him” — Green (2019), p. 291

  • I felt like this quote above was just SO HARD HITTING, like right in the GUT, and had to include it in this review. I think anyone with a childhood trauma history and having to come to terms with that (especially if your parents didn’t know about it) can relate to this. I think it’s really inspiring of Topher to want to help his Mom out, even when she wasn’t able to be there for him when he really, really needed it. It’s such a sign of closure and kindness that I couldn’t pass up to not include here!! Growth, for sure! ❀
  • p. 294, when Maggie tells Evvie that she doesn’t want to keep secrets anymore–it’s so breath taking that she’s able to come to that point and that there’s been some resolution to her story arc. It’s honestly inspiring and I really wanted Evvie to reciprocate her own truth-telling.
  • p. 314: Maggie wonders where all the years went by that she tried to chase and find happiness. I think this concept is uniquely human, we so often–like the book on hygge I published earlier this week–spend time trying to meet the end goal and find happiness or BE happy that we forget about the reality and the impact of the journey itself rather than focusing on the destination. It’s okay to be present in the moment, in the trajectory more than in having some end goal accomplished–there’s always going to be more goals and more products, it’s the journey there that matters most. What matters most is how we get there and how we feel whatever we feel along the way, and make space for that, and feel it.

 

  • The way it’s described Evvie bawling (p. 331) is such a painfully relatable type of cry. Just saying. </3
  • p. 334: Only Ben could have saved himself. Only him. 😦
  • p. 351: (paraphrased) “however he’s acting now is his pain talking” — I think this is a particularly good thing to remember when working with kids as I do now at Amaryllis. Their reactions to things are because they are in pain and feel emotionally intense feelings and struggle with the ability to properly verbalize their emotions before they act on them. A sobering detail. ❀
  • p. 356: ‘He was deeply, deeply flawed. Like all of us, he had so much good, but he wasn’t all good’ — Thought this was remarkable and incredibly profound and important to this story and other stories that need to be told. ❀

Reminders or Wandering Thoughts I Had While Reading:

  1. p. 3 reminded me of a book I read about toxic love and death that I could barely recall until I found the notes for it later (A book called “Drowned” that I haven’t posted here yet)
  2. p. 237: Really confused me with Evvie feeling she couldn’t go back to her ‘home’ or find a true ‘home’ ever again because of how much she moved and such. I don’t know, I was just very confused here, was she saying that living in X place and the moving to Y that you could never move back to X and feel at home? Yeah, I don’t know. It was pretty wordy and just really unclear for me. I guess I was confused thinking she was only visiting Maggie for the university reunion but it was sounding like she was moving there which I think at this point in time she wasn’t. Unless I’m misremembering. :/
  3. P. 245: ‘demurred’ is a nice word πŸ™‚
  4. p. 249: I wonder how many people in the world live that deceitful “perfect” life when really everything is broken, cracking at the seams and nothing is how it appears.
  5. The next type of books I want to take out (as a reminder to myself once again in a book review) include: hobby/crafts, interior design/homes/architecture, gardening and cook books. πŸ™‚

Dates I read this book:

2/17/20, 2/26, 2/28, 3/1, 3/3, 3/13, 3/14, 3/16, 3/18, 3/19, 3/20/2020.

Dates I wrote this review:

3/23/20, 3/26/2020.

Music:

I Love Me by Demi Lovato, Razor’s Edge by Digital Daggers, this is what self destruction feels like by Marina Lin


And finally:

To end this post, thank you SO MUCH for reading this! I hope that you all are staying safe and indoors as this covid-19 stuff is blowing around in the wind. Check out my fanfic stories if you need a break from all the coverage and something to dabble into and be emotional with. Additionally, I’m available to chat if anyone needs to! I have plenty of future posts coming out soon, as well as other old reviews, a coming out post and more song a day’s! Stay safe, peeps. Wishing you all the best. ❀ ❀ ❀

“The Little Book of Hygge” (2017) | Book Review (March 2020)

Book Review THUMB


Chosen Book:

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living (2017) by Meik Wiking

**Pronunciation: Hoo-ga


Trigger Warnings:

“Throat cutting” a cake (p. 56).


Themes:

Humor, hygge, definitions, research, happiness, lighting, essentials, small group socializing, illustrations, art, community, mindfulness, present moment, process not the product, culture, cooking recipes, lists, easy to read and understand, nonfiction.


Summary:

This book is an excellent nonfiction read to inspire the reader to incorporate the cultural phenomenon of hygge (a Danish pleasure that involves a lot of mindfulness, small social gatherings for togetherness (our social relationships are a big factor in how happy we feel), feeling safe and secure, feeling comforted) by implementing skills and hyggeligt experiences into the reader’s day to day life. The book, by Meik Wiking (2017), includes dozens of small illustrations that make the book digestible, easier to understand and pleasant to the eye. Some photos are compiled in this review itself, from crafts to hygge essentials. Hygge is about exploring your authentic and pure self and things that are hyggelig are broken down into smaller pieces, making the read enjoyable and understandable. Hygge, for instance: is that warm cup of coffee in the morning, sitting on a fluffy pillow, smelling a frosted cake, sitting amongst friends in front of a fire, etc. It’s being in the present moment as fully as possible.

Largely, when I read this book, I was left intrigued, inspired and ready to practice more and more hygge into my life. I’m so glad that I took this book out from the library and I’m hopeful that you may see this and enjoy it too, or be intrigued to check out similar projects in the future. This book is an excellent intrigue and opening for all things hygge and how the Danes incorporate it into their every day life, giving ideas and fresh perspectives for all those who may read this book itself or come across the author’s work in other ways. πŸ™‚

Thank you!!! ❀ ❀ ❀


Recommendation Score:

5/5

hyggelig atmospheres


Book Length:

223 pages


Remarkable Quotes, Ideas or Inspirations:

  • Hygge essentials: unscented candles.Β 
  • This is a photograph of a Le Klint light that reminded me of a photograph I KNOW I have somewhere, lost in the abyss of my computer, of a similar looking light that existed in the Campus Center of my university’s academic help offices.Β 
  • Photo credits from above: Le Klint light from p. 11 of the hygge book and an online version of the lighting that I found from my university on Nadeaucorp (I wish I could find my own photo but it’s proving difficult, sorry!!)
  • I loved the idea that photography means painting with light and that Danes aren’t the only ones in love with lighting, that photographers are too. (p. 13)! There was also a lighting tip called “The Golden Hour” that the best lighting happens 1 hour after sunrise and 1 hour before sunset! (p. 13)
  • The “hominess” definition from Canadians reminded me of how much Recovery Home (my recovery art project) holds some of the same ideals: in that it’s symbolic for how homey things can be when real and authentic and physical in terms of bringing into reality feelings of being sheltered, safe and shutting out the world (Wiking p. 24).
  • Hygge 2

  • “The Hygge Manifesto: 1. Atmosphere: Turn down the lights (this is more hyggelig), 2. Presence: Be here now, turn off the phones. 3. Pleasure: Coffee, chocolate, cookies, cakes, candy. 4. Equality: We over me, share the tasks and the airtime (conversation). 5. Gratitude: Take it in, this might be as good as it gets. 6. Harmony: It’s not a competition, we already like you, there is no need to brag about your achievements. 7. Comfort: Get comfy, take a care, it’s all about relaxation. 8. Truce: No drama, let’s discuss politics another day. 9. Togetherness: Build relationships and narratives, ‘do you remember the time we…’ 10. Shelter: This is your tribe, this is a place of peace and security” — Wiking (2017) p. 30-31

  • This book made me think a lot about my own living situations and the people in my life and places I can learn to make more hyggelig. πŸ™‚ (p. 39)
  • Being comforted/cuddling with pets is equivalent to receiving cuddles/comfort by humans! (p. 41)
  • “There is something comforting about having a warm cup of coffee in your hands. It is definitely conducive to hygge”– p.61 I think that a frozen coffee does this for me too but I can definitely attest that hot coffee with caramel in it most definitely heightens the hygge for me. πŸ™‚

  • I like the idea on p. 87 to link purchases in life with good experiences, waiting to purchase an item so as to better pair it with an accomplishment so that whenever you see that object you link it back with that memory. This seems like something super interesting to do and I want to start with the bean bag chair I wanna get and the fluffy pillow with arms thing I also want too. πŸ™‚
  • On p. 96, Wiking talks about creating a hyggekrog (pronounced hoogacrow) in your house, and it gave me the inspiration to transform my bedroom’s closet into my own hyggekrog. I share the space with my Mom so some of the closet will still have her things there but I’m hoping that a corner/space can be placed for my own soothing stuff. πŸ™‚ I am making it a summer project for myself! Here are the hyggekrog essentials that I will incorporate (as I noted in my journal):
  • My hyggekrog closet essentials: 1. Bean bag chair 2. Storage box with multiple shelves (for coping materials) including: A. Zen garden. B. Books C. Thinking Putty D. Squishies. 3. Soft fluffy pillow with arms 4. Wall decals 5. Canvas art 6. Bookshelf with books 7. Mom’s side 8. Dresses 9. Fairy lights/lanterns 10. White noise machine 11. Stationery/letters 12. Coloring books/designated art supplies. 13. No Internet (unless for noise/comfort)

  • “Hygge is about giving your responsible, stressed out achiever adult a break. Relax. Just for a little while. It is about experiencing happiness in simple pleasures and knowing that everything is going to be okay” – (Wiking, 2017, p. 105).

  • The quote above really makes me think of Comfort Rooms in the psych hospital so I really love and have loved the idea of creating little nooks in my household of similar comfort things/places I can go to to self-soothe. I’m really excited to work on this this summer! πŸ™‚ One of my friends from program has often used her closet as a safety nook so I like the idea of doing something similar in my own. ❀ It’s like a new space in and of itself since I don’t go through my closet very much, so I’m really looking forward to it!
  • For a hygge emergency kit on p.108: one of the suggestions is having a favorite film or TV series to re-watch. For this point, it reminds me of one of my recent therapy sessions where my therapist was telling me that I like to make projects out of things and that while I can still do that, it’s best to balance these projects with things I just do for FUN. I.e. Some things pleasure, some things projects. So like, if I wanted to color I get stuck a lot because I feel like I should make a video out of it for content but then because of that extra step I just never wind up doing it. Instead, if I wanted to just color because I wanted to color, I could just do that, for me, for myself, not for anyone else. It’s a work in progress to challenge for sure!
  • Another ingredient (p. 108) is having physical letters from friends or loved ones available in your hygge emergency kit, which also can include print outs of typed/online responses, which I really like, too. πŸ™‚
  • Hygge 4

    Having a hygge related notebook is also a great idea as mentioned on p. 109! For this, I want to use my recent Valentine’s day related notebook, a little spiral bound with a doggo on it, lined paper on the front and blank on the back. I think it’d be an excellent place to categorize and exemplify (as Wiking suggests) my past hygge experienced and my future hygge experiences. πŸ˜€ (excuse the page flags in the background! XD)

  • Hygge 3

    Page flag notes: A good depiction of how simplistic art can be and still be beautiful. Credit: p. 110, Wiking (2017)

  • About the artwork above and in general within this book and in the world: I think I still struggle at times with the “good” or “bad” traditional viewpoints of art, however, these images are a good challenge to what “art” really is. Like, it can be breathtaking and incredibly hard work, making things pale with light, shadow, three-dimensions, and that doesn’t detract from that type of serious artwork, AND it can still be not that, like, art can be just lines or more simplistic, run down types of art and STILL be artsy. I think I’ve been quietly assessing my own art creation as lesser when it’s merely different. I like the mindfulness approach to art, where it’s about the process rather than the product. I suppose I have to remind myself why I create and how to do so to my own satisfaction rather than others’ opinions. Especially true for creative writing. It’s like struggling to balance one’s own ideas with the opinions of everyone else’s. At the end of the day, I have to go with my own gut and be appreciative and welcoming of that. ❀ xxx Like, not everyone is going to like what I create but am I creating it for THEM or for ME? :3
  • On p. 120 Wiking mentions how when a co-worker brought their doggo into work, he would set aside a goal that if he accomplished something on his to-do list, he could then go pet the doggo and how that greatly increased his productivity–I think this is a great idea even for myself at home to be able and go pet my Mokeys. πŸ™‚
  • “One of our issues as adults is that we become too focused on the results of an activity. We work to earn money. We spend time with people to network and further our careers. What happened to doing something just because it’s fun?” — Wiking (2017) p. 151

  • Again, the above quote reminds me of how often I make projects out of activities that were once only done for fun. Videos, reviews, blog posts, etc. How I put off doing some things or ingesting some content because I want to review it or put something together because of it. I think lately I forget that I can do something JUST for fun, without making some form of content out of it thereafter. It’s a rule of mine I’m still learning to challenge. It’s definitely the difference between work and play. πŸ˜› Maybe one day….
Hygge 5

I used some small scrapbooking paper and fucked it up because I thought we weren’t supposed to do the flaps on the folded part whereas it was just meant to not cut along the folded line straight across. So this one was a fail! Overall, they are called as you can see: “Woven hearts” I’m hoping to find some videos of them soon, hell, I should probably even do it now to help you and help myself! Let’s see….

Hygge 6

Here we go! I’m pretty sure the second heart is meant to go through BOTH rows of the first one, but for the purposes of this review, I left that out (okay, so I didn’t realize that I did but I’m not fixing it now, ahaha). Pretty cool though, nice little activity! πŸ™‚ Also, I realized now that I fucked up another section BUT if you watch the video, it’ll make more sense (the third flap should be OVER but it was also thicker so, bleh) I think you get the idea though πŸ™‚

  • p. 187 has inspired me to try and read those gardening/cookbook books out there and try to make little treats myself without my Mom’s guidance, help or hovering, which I’d like to try doing each Sunday. I didn’t yesterday but today maybe I will go through with it and make some brownies from the box. They may not turn out “all right” but hey, we all gotta start somewhere!! πŸ™‚ The idea of cooking or baking sounds pretty hyggelig to me!
  • p. 188 suggests a picnic by the beach/by the sea which I think is a FABULOUS idea to embark on this summer. Preferably with my friends David and Madeline, but even on my own, too. I think it’d be so hyggelig! πŸ™‚
  • “The gross national product does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials…it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile” — Robert Kennedy, p. 206

  • I really like the ending of this quote especially, because I think it’s very true and very important to be reminded of. What makes life worthwhile? What makes all the trudging through hard times worth it in the end? I definitely wanted to share this quote with you all, maybe to get you thinking of what soothes you and what experiences you’d like to have more of in the future to get through the hard times. ❀
  • “Studies show that when individuals experience social isolation many of the same brain regions become active that are active in the experience of physical pain” — Wiking (2017) p. 213

  • I thought the above quote and information was very interesting and might be something I include as a tidbit in my ED related fanfic. :3
  • “While happiness and hygge are definitely about appreciating the now, both may be planned and preserved. Hygge and happiness have a past and a future as well as a present” — Wiking (2017) p. 217

  • I loved this quote so much I had to include it in my review. It’s nice to think that happiness and hygge can be planned, held and experienced. ❀

What Drew Me to this Book and What Kept Me Reading:

I was drawn towards hygge after about October or November 2019 when I was browsing Coloring Books for Adults on Amazon. I was looking at fairies, dogs, and home/interior design ones (because I find the latter to be so comforting and nice!). That is when I came across the hygge coloring book by Creative Haven. I instantly fell in love with it and popped it into my Mom’s Amazon shopping cart.

I wound up getting the doggo one by Creative Haven and the hygge one for Christmas. I even have a page from the hygge coloring book that I colored on camera here (if you’d like the check that out!!):

When I went to the library up by my psychiatrist’s one time, around February this year, I was looking at the self-help/psychology section and I came across this hygge book. I was instantly drawn towards it, and thought it would make an excellent collection in my book reviews. I skimmed through some pages and I really loved the illustrations with artwork sprinkled throughout the words. It looked easy to read, easy to digest and something I was definitely intrigued by.

Funnily enough, when I went to the library again in March I found ANOTHER hygge book but I didn’t get it out that time, but for sure, next time! What made me love and continuously fall in love with this book was the illustrations, the artwork woven into easy to digest words and research. It was something I very much enjoyed and kept me hooked and made the reading experience so much more soothing and enticing. I love books that incorporate art and words and I really, really hope to one day publish one of my one. ❀ xxx

I also managed to find another book by the same author on happiness at my local library and greedily took that one out too. Can’t wait to read it! (And with this quarantine, it’ll be more likely that I can read it soon, phew!)Β 


Reminders or Wandering Thoughts I had While Reading:

  1. I should educate myself more on culture
  2. I should totes take out that Norse mythology book by Neil Gaiman and actually read it this time πŸ™‚
  3. P. 29: How prevalent are mental health conditions/trauma in the Danish culture? It’s said on this page and throughout the book that the Danes are the top ranked happiest people in the world so what besides hygge makes them such and do they still struggle with other issues that the rest of us do? :3
  4. Remembering happy experiences/moments on p. 34 is a lot like guided imagery to my mind–soaking in the positivity among sometimes darker skies. A lot of the time they are memories involving moments with others. ❀ Neat!
  5. There’s a nice clock illustration on p. 37 which also made me wonder if the color choices in this book’s illustrations may be significant? (Blues, oranges, dirty greens, etc.)
  6. On how touch that we are comforted and loved by releases oxytocin for us: I wondered how this applies or changes when it comes to trauma and forced touch/assaulting touch. (p. 41)
  7. I should really work on the books I want to create and publish myself!
  8. I believe I’ve mentioned this in another blog post before, but I find that when I read books nowadays I read in 3 different personas: 1. The Writer: Studying word choices or thematic details or flow of words that I can utilize in my own writings. 2. The Reader: Following along with the story, keeping track of the details etc. 3. The Analyzer: Trying to guess what’s ahead, playing with the characters and the book/like kneading dough, analyzing what is happening and getting ready to review the book later. These personas have made reading books more of a project than it ever used to be, and that can be really difficult to manage now. I have come to the conclusion that I can read a fiction book alongside a nonfiction book as I only have to keep track of two separate types of story lines. So that is nice! I have to work on challenging these “rules” of mine since they are only my own rules and I can override them at any time. It just doesn’t always feel that way! πŸ˜› (These thoughts came to mind for me on p. 107 when Wiking (2017) suggests having a favorite book in a hygge emergency kit. πŸ™‚ )
  9. Although I wouldn’t be the one to leave a chocolate on a co-worker’s desk, I’d be more apt to leave a little note, a coloring page, a card, etc. :3 (p.120)
  10. I wondered on p. 159 how the illustrations were created for this book, who made them, what program did they use, etc. If you decide to read this book for yourself, a lot of them use white space/absence of space to create the image all together, which I thought was especially neat. πŸ™‚ (For instance: books have white lines on the spines to create the presence of word blocks interrupting the blocks of color. Bread and bottles have the same effect on the top or surrounding them. πŸ™‚ Just a fun aside!)
  11. Next nonfiction books I would love to pursue (once covid-19 gets more under control as they are all closed at the moment): A. Homes/Interior design/Architecture/Decorations B. Cooking C. Gardening D. Crafts
  12. In particular knitting books (p. 177 mentioned) or blogs about it might be really cool and finding blogs about those crafts or even Youtube channels will probably be a great starting point for being quarantined at the moment!

Dates I Read This Book:

3/5/20, 3/6, 3/7, 3/8, 3/10, 3/11, 3/12.

Dates I wrote this post:

3/22/20, 3/23.

Music listened to in posting/crafting this review:

I Love Me/Anyone by Demi Lovato.


Thank you so much for reading and taking the time!!! Do you have any book suggestions? Something you wrote that you’d like me to review? Leave it in the comments!!! ❀ Stay safe and stay healthy, folks! ❀ xxx

SAIM1: Self-Sabotage to The End…I’m Afraid to Face What Comes Next

Song a day THUMB


Chosen Song:

“Villains Part 2” by Emma Blackery

Trigger Warnings & Themes:

Self-sabotage.

Isolation, social withdrawal, betrayal, villains, internal conflict, pain, emotive, hope, fear, change, growth.

Video:

Chosen Lyrics:

I want you to know
I tore up my list, I threw it away
Just like everything

How foolish of me
To try and divide people into categories
I found it so easy
But what can I do

When I’ve got nothing else
Not even myself
I don’t know what’s left of me
After all that I’ve done
All the bridges are burned
Would I walk them now anyway
Would I write myself off

Self sabotage to the end
If I could do it again
What would I change?
It was a stupid game anyway
I admit I’m afraid
To face what comes next
Where do I turn when I’ve turned on my friends?
What if I don’t want it?
What if I don’t want it?

How arrogant of me
To think anyone could just be
Good or bad
Like cops and robbers
The only one here committing a crime
Was dancing on the line
But what can I say
When it’s all that I’ve known
Got a chance to get better
Do I take it or watch myself suffer
And now that you’re gone
All the bridges are burned
Would I walk them now anyway
Would I write myself off

Self sabotage to the end
If I could do it again
What would I change?
It was a stupid game anyway
I admit I’m afraid
To face what comes next
Where do I turn when I’ve turned on my friends?
What if I don’t want it?
What if I don’t want it?
Am I kidding myself?
I’m my own biggest villain
What if I don’t want it?
What if I don’t want it?
Am I kidding myself?
Blaming somebody else
I’m my own biggest villain
I’m my own biggest villain
I’m my
I’m my

Self sabotage to the end
If I could do it again
What would I change?
It was a stupid game anyway
I admit I’m afraid
To change what comes next
Where do I turn when I’ve turned on my friends?
If I could do it again
What would I change?
It was a stupid game anyway
I admit I’m afraid
To change what comes next
Where do I turn when I’ve turned on myself?

My Meaning/My Inspiration:

Hello there.

I’m realizing now that I haven’t made a proper introduction to this particular blog post but it’s something that I’m needing to do and something that I want to do to help paint the last couple of days and the tumultuous-ness of my emotions and how it’s all come together with the help, the aid and the light of this song.

I came across this song at least two months back. It’s the second part to the first “Villains” song and it’s something that I’m in absolute love with. Especially for today. Maybe, in some ways, because of today.

I wanted to include more of the context of this piece in this post, so you’ll see pretty much ALL of the lyrics here, with some that I’ve placed in bold because I fit particularly well with those words. So, let’s begin!

My Meaning: Overall, I find the mission of this song is to better understand one’s self. To me, self-sabotage is something I have definitely always struggled with in my life: when I was in high school dealing with scoliosis, when I was in elementary school dealing with social isolation and loneliness, when I was in college afraid of success and afraid of failure, when I was deeply procrastinating to just get through the day, when I started to self-harm, when I started to consider and plan and be actively suicidal, etc. Even when I started to “make friends” with the disorders that I live with, something I still struggle with at times today (in fact, that’s what’s brought me here to begin with). Self-sabotage is an evil darkness I know all, all too well.

I feel that this song relates to me in the way that I am with myself most importantly but also with other individuals. I think it’s about realizing that I may be painting others as “villains” when they may just be trying to help me. That I see myself as the villain or something within my skull as the villain, which may be right or it may be wrong, but that it’s this ongoing challenge of balance and seeing the good amongst the bad. The light amongst the dark. I think it’s grappling with blame, onto others and onto the self. And then realizing that painting everyone else as these caricatures of themselves is really just a mask to the internal pain going on within the speaker, the narrator, the singer, the listener that they may be part of the problem, if not all of the problem. It’s about how when we push others away we may be doing so to try and push ourselves away, which doesn’t work all that well since we’re always us, you know?

And I think not only that, but it’s grappling with the accountability and the responsibility that pushing everyone away brings us all to this really dark and alone place and that we can become even more afraid of what comes next–with ourselves or with others. And it’s scary. And it’s hard. And it can be really needless, too. It’s a song grappling with what’s happened and trying to find a way through it despite or because of those previous actions.

And then there’s: “But what can I say, when it’s all that I’ve known” which aims to describe and give context to the speaker that their behavior is in response to their reactions and previous life experiences. That although it doesn’t dismiss their current circumstances, it can aid to explain them, in the hopes that they can forgive themselves and that others can forgive them, and even give them another chance. A chance that they may be struggling to come to terms with within their own soul.

“Got a chance to get better, do I take it or watch myself suffer”: I really wanted to include this within the title itself (see below for my title possibilities list) but I chose instead a two line combination because the first part is what I thought of when I was inspired earlier today and the latter because it fits my current circumstances. But as for this line itself, I think it really brings the speaker’s choice in the matter to light. Like, I can choose what I do next, do I choose to get better or do I choose to wallow in my emotions and stay the course to a path that could and will lead me further into the darkness. It brings that choice to the individual and helps to empower them and remind them that it IS only their choice and only they can choose it or not.

And if they choose the darker path though, it will bring more pain and more disaster and more suffering than is necessarily needed. Or wanted. It just perpetuates the cycle. And the self-sabotage continues over and over again.

It’s essentially the choice between being the “villain” and the “hero.”

I think the line “it was a stupid game anyway” also is important; it’s that self-actualization that after choosing the dark path, the wrong path, the hurting path, that it wasn’t worth it at all. It was a mistake. It was a regret. And it was stupid and not in anyone’s best interests.

Being “afraid to face what comes next” is being afraid of the consequences to the behaviors, thoughts and emotions that have been impacting the speaker. Whether it’s going to be support or backlash, it’s that fear of the unknown. That fear of what will happen. It highlights a yearning to block out the fear or to forget about it in any other way or push it back down, anything to avoid it, anything to pretend that it’s not there. I get that.

I think the “friends” are genuinely the speaker’s friends, the people they surround themselves with. Trying to figure out where they can go to for support is difficult when they have pushed them all away before.

And then of course, is that ambivalence between what if the speaker doesn’t want their help. What if the speaker feels they deserve to be alone or that they don’t deserve help or they don’t deserve good things or being okay again. What if they have to commit to that choice forever and that can be really scary, right? It’s that wondering what will happen and what ongoing need there may be because of that turning point decision. And also, of course, that if you don’t want it, where does that lead you? Or if you decide you don’t want it in the middle of it all, can you change your mind? It’s very interesting.

I also am so in love lately with hearing the pain and emotion in people’s voices and that section of this song where Emma is crying out and screaming is just… perfection. You’ll notice that in time with a lot of the songs I’ve been listening to that feature this (Abbey Glover especially comes to mind). It’s almost as though words can’t fully describe the internal pain that comes from these lyrics and that section of crying out is even more profound, I think.

 

Lastly,Β it’s time for: My Inspiration.

Okay, I’ve since had dinner and am harboring some dental pain but I’m gonna try and get through the last of this post! Thank you for reading all that you have thus far and for this next bit, too. πŸ™‚ ❀ I should really try and do some creative writing soon too (mainly fanfic). But for now…

Here’s what happened:

I had a tough day at work last last Saturday. I really was overwhelmed and emotional (I got my period a few days later) and it was a really, really hard shift. My Emotion Mind decision involved wanting to quit my job. I also had really intense urges to scratch mostly that I deeply considered acting on and some loose suicidal thoughts. I thought of going to a place I’ve been to when unwell before, not to do anything but not exactly a good place to be either. I didn’t and wound up talking to one of my co-workers for 45 minutes after the shift.

Cue this past Saturday (I forgot to mention it in therapy and remembered in family therapy Sat but didn’t reveal it) and it was an okay day overall but I mentioned, not super well, that I can’t lift more than 25 pounds due to my back and I’m really, really worried now that they’re going to let me go because it’s expected of me to be able to lift a lot. (Think struggling kids) And I didn’t say I would just need help or could do lighter lifting either which I’m kinda kicking myself for.

So now I’m all worried that I may lose this job sooner than I anticipated. I know that although I only wanted to be there 6 months to a year anyways, that I’ll really miss my co-workers, the relationships, the pay, the atmosphere, etc. I guess it’s different when you’re going to let them go versus when they might let you go. Unfortunately, I cannot recall if the job listing had specified the weight requirement and even if it did, I wouldn’t have known as I only know when I’m about to lift and then realize, “Uh, scratch that, I can’t.”

I talked to my supervisor around 10:45p last night and on my way home almost the entire time I was having a lot of symptoms of the OCD. I thought of that place again and really, really thought about going there. Again, not to act all the way through to hurt myself but to “plant the seed,” so to speak. To “scope out the area”, even. I knew this would be acting on it and I forgot how immediate action tends to be with me when it comes to these types of thoughts. I knew and recognized that if I went there that it would bring up old memories or that I could just relax and become grounded or I could sit back in the car and reminisce.

I wound up pulling over instead (of going to that place) by this familiar place we take Mokeys for walks. It was that intense fantasizing and playing out scenarios that weren’t even happening but felt like they were (a lot of thought-action fusion). As close as you can get to hallucinating without actually hallucinating. I sat there and listened to music for like 15 minutes. I teared up a little before then, too. I thought of driving around too but I didn’t.

The biggest thing I can say is that it felt like being back at the tea parties of my mind. And a song I’ve been listening to lately includes the lyrics “nobody even noticed” when referring to acts of death and that has been circling around my mind, too. My mind, the disorders, are trying to get me back in allegiance with them. That’s the big thing, really, this time. The disorders are saying that they are my “friends” and that they know what’s best for me. But they don’t. And they don’t have my best intentions in mind. It’s my mind playing tricks on me, really.

Then with my Mom, driving in the countryside today, I had this song come on on shuffle and it really changed things. It just reignited hope within me when before that I was really on the fence of being silent about these thoughts and letting myself go into self-sabotage etc. I know that it would be a stupid game and that I wouldn’t get anything out of it. The urges are still there and certainly the emotions are as well but it’s bought me some time, thankfully. I know I can do pros/cons lists, blog, reach out, listen to music, write, and read some books. This whole covid-19 thing is getting a little out of hand and some of the libraries are temporarily closing as well as changes happening at work, too.

For now, I have to face what I’m afraid of, even if I don’t want to, and I don’t. I guess soon I’ll have to start looking again for another job and radically accept from here what I can and can’t do.

I’m grateful that this song was the leading power in changing things for me tonight (close songs worth mentioning: “Got it in you” by BANNERS, “Skeleton” by Jessie Paege & “Hymn” by Kesha) I will probably go talk to someone for a bit now too and go back into my books thereafter. My tooth is really, really bothering me so I’ll probably brush my teeth tonight to hopefully help it out a bit. Hopefully it’s just a cavity.

Okay, I’ve been listening to this song for forever now so I’m going to go. Thank you so much for reading!!! Stay safe. xxx

BONUS:

My original title possibilities when coming up with this post. :3

  • I’m Afraid to Face What Comes Next
  • Self Sabotage to the End
  • Got A Chance to Get Better. Do I Take it or Watch Myself Suffer?