The Hour of Daydreams – Reflection: Reality

2793296695_f70d459f60_zWhile most of us prefer to think that reality is fixed and we all see the same reality, numerous scholars have argued and demonstrated that in fact, reality is shifting. What is real for me may not be real for you. We have all experienced this when we share a story about something that happened in a group and someone else interjects, that’s not what happened! What did in fact happen? That question is harder to answer than we like to admit.

The Hour of Daydreams is a story of a reality that was mixed with cultural beliefs and norms, myth and fantasy, and a desire for reality to be better than the truth. It is a folktale origin story and retelling, but it is deeper than that. The Hour of Daydreams speaks to this deep need to shape reality to match it to a world we need to live in in order to cope with tragedy, trauma, and loss and to create meaning out of suffering. This routinely happens throughout the world, in varying degrees and success, depending on the individual and the culture in which they live. Through reading The Hour of Daydreams, we glimpse how this might have played out to form one Filipino folktale and gain a deeper understanding of Filipino culture.

Myths, folktales, fairytales, and origin stories have been created since the beginning of human history as a way to understand, make sense of, and find meaning in an often chaotic and cruel world. They provide a frame of reference for an entire culture on how to perceive the world. Thus understanding these stories helps us better understand and relate to another culture as it gives us a glimpse into that frame the way not much else can. Those frames of reference are deeply impactful and can greatly shape actions, thoughts, and beliefs making it vital to understand them if we want to understand a people better.

All of this academic discussion is to provide a frame around why I spent so many days after reading The Hour of Daydreams thinking about the concept of reality and how individuals can sometimes vary so incredibly in their understanding of an event, a concept, or even life. Particularly when one has to cope with trauma, especially complex trauma and horrific trauma, reality becomes a tricky thing, but not just for the victims of trauma, but also those around them. People generally want to have control over the circumstances of their lives and when confronted with the possibility that they may not have the level of control they convince themselves they do, they can create alternative realities and it can leave the people left to face the true reality of said trauma to feel very alone.

While reality gets shifty around trauma since trauma is such a significant and devastating event, reality does not only get shifty after trauma; alternate realities emerge around any situation in which people feel like they have less control than they want over life. This is poignant for me as my health has deteriorated over the last few years. One of the most striking examples centers around how this all started. I sustained a minor stress fracture to my foot while walking my dog and developed a severe pain condition from that one small injury. While I was on crutches non-weight bearing, I rode in a lot of cabs and Ubers and on those journeys, drivers would ask me about my obvious injury. As I explained how a very minor injury triggered one of the worst pain conditions rated on the McGill pain index, drivers would sometimes visibly shut down. They would then try to come up with explanations, justifications, or treatments to explain away my situation. It must be something else; if you just tried this treatment; or there must be something about you which makes your situation unique. These people were unable to tolerate a world in which they at any moment could sustain a minor injury and have their lives change so drastically. I have found over and over again throughout the last several years that it is incredibly hard for people to be vulnerable enough to sit with the discomfort of the knowledge that they have limited control over their lives. I am no stranger to the inability to sit with this discomfort. But when the people around me create an alternate reality in which such an event could only happen to me and not to them or is my fault, it feels isolating and shaming.

I wonder how Tala felt having those around her, but particularly her husband, create a fantastical story about her origins instead of sitting with the discomfort of her reality. It must have felt isolating and lonely. I understand why she spent so much time with her sisters as they were the only ones who believed her truth and lived in her reality. I understand why she left her family instead of staying with them to confront the difficulties which were about to befall her. Their inability to live in her reality meant that she did not feel supported enough to ask for their help. She felt she had to resolve it on her own. It is a tragedy all in and of itself.

This is why the story impacted me so deeply. I know that hurt and loss. I know what it is to have the truth denied by the ones we love and I know how suffocating that can be. I have lived Tala’s pain, even though she is of a different time and culture and my loved ones have not created a fantastical folktale to explain my circumstances. Those differences do not matter. We all have times when we speak the same language even though there are vast differences. While reading this story, I felt less alone. I did not want Tala’s story to end. I wanted as much time with her as possible. There is so much beauty in her story, it was hard to let it go. But alas, her reality was no more my reality than anyone’s reality is mine and it was time for her story to end, but I will carry her story in my heart for a long time to come.

July Reads and an Update – Bookish

Now that July has come to a close, I thought I would share with you what I read in July. Overall, I read 13 books, including 4 audiobooks, 3 children’s books, 3 young adult books, 3 eARCs, and 3 nonfiction books. Overall, I’m satisfied with this month of reading. (Be sure to scroll all the way to the end for an update!)

dreadnoughtThe first book I finished in July was Dreadnought, which I rated 4/ 5 stars. If you read my reflection, you’ll know that I requested the eARC of its sequel Sovereign before having read Dreadnought. It was a bit of a mad dash to read Dreadnought and Sovereign before Sovereign’s release date, but I’m so glad I took on the challenge!

 

tom sawyer coverI also finished The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in July and it was a 4/ 5 stars for me. It turns out that while I had read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a child, I had not read Tom Sawyer. Audible channels, which are free for Audible or Prime members, had an audiobook version of Tom Sawyer narrated by Nick Offerman and I knew I had to listen to it. Offerman’s performance was great and I’m so glad I let him read me this classic. The review will not be published on this blog, but you can find it on my other social media sites, namely Facebook, Goodreads, or find the Goodreads link on Twitter. If you want to see ALL of my reviews for all the books I read, I very much recommend you follow me on Facebook, Goodreads, or both!

year of yes coverNext I started and finished Year of Yes in July and it was a 5 star read and made my favorites list, a pretty exclusive list for me. It will be reviewed on this blog at some point in the near future (see below for information on that). I borrowed the audiobook version from the library and Shonda Rhimes narrates it. Her narration is incredible and really made the book stick with me. This is a book I plan to reread and when I do, I will do so through audio again. I think it’s the only way to read this book.

the hour of daydreamsI then finished the eARC The Hour of Daydreams, a 4 star read whose review will publish next Monday. I also hope to have an author interview with Renee Rutledge about her book to post on Friday. This book was a wonderful read and I’m so grateful I was given a review copy. I hope you will check out my posts around this book next week!

 

the gifts of imperfection coverIt was time to switch it up with a bit of nonfiction. I read I Thought it was Just Me and it was the first Brene Brown book I did not rate 5 stars. I eventually settled on 4 stars, though I initially gave it 3 stars. But after realizing I was partly downgrading the book because it forced me to look at myself in a way I was not thrilled about, I decided to not take it out on the book. It is a good book, but I did have real criticisms about it. It was essentially her first book and I’m glad to see that her follow-up books have been excellent reads. This book will not be reviewed on this site, but you can see my review for it on Facebook, Goodreads, or find the Goodreads link on Twitter.

echo coverI came across Echo in a sale Audible was having on its children’s books and saw that it had won an Audie. I very much wanted to read it, so I borrowed the audiobook from the library and was not disappointed with the quality of the audiobook. It was great how each story within the larger novel was narrated by a difference actor. In addition, the music the book referenced was played in the audiobook, which made it a much richer experience. I am glad I choose the audiobook over the print version. This was a 4 star read for me and its review will post on this blog soon (again, see below for more detail).

monkey mind coverThen came my first bad read, Monkey Mind. I had first rated it 2 stars, but upon further reflection, one particular scene greatly bothered me and I had to downgrade it to a 1 star rating. It’s not a book I recommend for anyone. If you want to see the review of it, check out Facebook, Goodreads, or find the Goodreads link on Twitter.

 

sovereignThankfully, my next read, which was an eARC, was great! As you already know, Sovereign was a 4 star read for me. While it started out slow for me, by the end, I was just as hooked as I was with Dreadnought and was just as happy with the overall quality. This is a great series and I hope it continues to deliver.

 

 

the lord of the fliesEvery month, my library does a theme and displays books around that theme near the front of the library. For several months now, I have read a selection from each month. I’m not sure why I started doing this, but I really enjoy doing it. This month’s selection was The Lord of the Flies based on their lakeside theme. I think the connection to the theme was a bit of a stretch, but I knew I needed a short read and was happy to pick up this classic. Overall, I gave it a 3 star review, but I would like to read it again at some point. I was not in the headspace to read a book with such heavy symbolism and I would like to read it again when I can devote more energy to the symbolism and see if I gain anything from such a thorough reread. It may move up to a 4 star read if I do. If you are interested in the review, check out Facebook or Goodreads or find the Goodreads link on Twitter.

the other einstein coverThen I read a book I’m still on the fence about its rating. The Other Einstein was a book that drew me in because it was about Albert Einstein’s first wife, who was also a physicist. The book claims there is much controversy around whether or not Mrs. Einstein played a significant role in some of Einstein’s most famous early work. After reading the book, I did some research and there is greater consensus about the lack of her contributions than the book blurb implied. I still debate whether I should rate the book at 2 stars or 3 stars as I solidly rated it at 2.5 stars. Some days, I think the great liberties the book takes with a historical figure are serious enough to push the review to 2 stars and other days, I remember that I could not put the book down and read it in a day and end up keeping it at 3 stars. I suspect I will never feel completely comfortable with my rating on Goodreads, unless they decide to allow readers to give half stars. If you’d like to see the review, check out Facebook, Goodreads, or find the Goodreads link on Twitter.

the little queen coverI then read an eARC of an adorable children’s book entitled, The Little Queen. It was a fun, whimsical story that had sage advice for adults. The review will post on this blog in a few weeks and I hope you will check it out!

 

 

the underground railroad coverNext, I read The Underground Railroad which was a 4 star read for me as the detached narration pulled me a bit too much out of the story. But the writing was fantastic and hope to read more of Colson Whitehead in the future. This review will post on this blog in the near future (see below for further details).

 

the hate u give coverLastly, I read all but 15, maybe 20 pages of The Hate U Give in July. For a book which is almost 450 pages, I devoured it in record time. Whenever I put it down, my mind was constantly drawn back to the book and I found myself picking it up as soon as possible. This was a 5 star read for me and landed on my favorites list, which is a hard list to make. The review for this book will post on this blog in the near future (see below for more details).

Lastly, an update:

As you can see, I have been reading more books than I can review with only doing one review a week. Thus, I have decided to move to two reviews and reflections a week, with reviews on Mondays and Wednesdays and their respective reflections on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will stay bookish days. The reviews on Monday will be ARCs or eARCs, typically reviewed around their date of release. The reviews on Wednesdays will be of older books either from my personal collection of books or from the library. Of course, since I cannot control how often I am approved for ARCs or eARCs, reviews on Monday may sometimes not be ARCs or eARCs, but since I have ARC and eARC reviews planned through the end of October, I suspect this will not be an issue anytime soon. I hope to make the change next week, but currently, the biggest impediment is my health which has not be great lately. While I keep up with reviews for the most part, the reflections can be much for challenging and demanding and thus are not always something I can tackle in poor health. I will make an announcement this weekend if I feel sufficiently ahead of the game to start posting two reviews and reflections a week. Thank you all for your support! If there wasn’t so much interest in this blog, I wouldn’t be upping my reviews and reflections. I am grateful to each and everyone of my followers!

Dreadnought – Reflection: The Sequel

sovereignAs I mentioned in my review on Monday, the magic of Dreadnought is how well it dives into how Danny and society cope with her becoming a superhero and transforming into an anatomical female. For me, that’s what made the story great as I love being transported into other people’s lives and gaining new perspectives. But can a sequel keep readers like me engaged; readers who love depth and introspection, but don’t care for superheroes? Is it possible to move the series forward without reducing Danny to a transgender superhero, especially while trying to keep readers like me engaged?

This is a pertinent question as yesterday, July 25th, Sovereign (Nemesis #2) by April Daniels was released. I have been excited for this sequel for quite awhile now – so much so that I requested, and received, the ARC and then read Dreadnought. Yes, you read that correctly – I read the description of Sovereign and decided the story sounded amazing enough for me to read the first in the series to then be able to read the second before its release. I’ve never done that before, and it’s probably not the smartest way to go about deciding what to read next, but I am happy I did because I read Dreadnought and it was wonderful.

Back to the question at hand; how does a book that focuses so much on how the protagonist comes to terms with drastic changes keep engaged the readers who are excited for the sequel solely because of that focus? I’m not a writer and I’m glad I do not have to answer that question. As for how it plays out in this series, I haven’t finished the reading the sequel at the time of writing this (though I will have by the time it posts) so I cannot fully comment, but I will say that so far, I do not think this will be a series I will stick with.

Which is unfortunate as there are other deep topics that could be covered. To be fair, in the sequel, there is discussion around challenging topics such as transgender superhero visibility. Unfortunately, most of the book has focused on a superhero challenge around the nemesis, which will likely make superhero fans happy, but has left me mostly uninterested. I very much hope that changes as I want this series to succeed and I fear it will not if it only resonates with superhero fans, but I respectfully imagine the challenges faced in writing a sequel. This sequel is faced with the great enormity of coming after such a vulnerable #ownvoices story where the author likely bared her soul and quite justifiably might not want the entire series to be focused on hard, vulnerable, and challenging stories. After all, Danny is more than a transgender superhero and the series needs to be about more than just that one aspect of her. It’s just that for readers who are not superhero fans, it maybe hard for us to stay engaged if it isn’t, which bothers me. As a lesbian, I am constantly frustrated by stories that focus exclusively on the character(s) sexuality as if that’s all there is to someone who is attracted to the same sex. Danny deserves to be more than a transgender superhero, but in some ways, that is all I want her to be. I want to justify that by saying, oh, but I do not like the superhero genre so that’s why I want to focus on transgender issues and intersectionality. While there is truth in that statement, there is a piece of me that is just not yet able to go beyond that. Which is a me problem and not a problem with the sequel. While it is hard to face, this series has shown me I still have growth to do around transgender identity. For that, I am grateful.

The Gifts of Imperfection – Reflection: Shame and Racism

shameOne of the biggest barriers to people dealing with and confronting their racism is shame. Like most people, I feel great shame when I engage with the world in a racist way. The word racism and racist invoke abhorrent feelings in people and we do all we can to distance ourselves from such labels. It is unfortunate that the word racism has taken on such negative connotation that people can no longer confront moments of racism without experiencing significant and debilitating shame.

But wait, isn’t shame a good thing? Doesn’t it mean that the person will no longer engage in racist acts if they experience shame when they do these things? American culture norms have led us to believe that shame is a great motivator of change. However, the academic research, including Brene Brown’s work, demonstrate that guilt is the great motivator of change while shame is the inhibitor of change. Shame causes us to withdraw, retreat, and quite often, engage in the behavior more. When people feel shame around a racist action, they hide it and disengage from it. There is no change, only retreat.

I can attest to this from personal experience. In my last reflection, I mentioned how when I was living in Washington, DC, I was in a mixed race neighborhood which at the time was majority persons of color. Due to various circumstances, I stopped feeling safe in that neighborhood, though, truth be told, I had not felt completely safe to start with due to my racist ideas of majority persons of color neighborhoods being ghettos. Instead of confronting my underlying racist beliefs about the relative lack of safety in this neighborhood, I felt great shame. I had moved to that neighborhood specifically to experience a more diverse community, but instead, deeply ingrained stereotypes and prejudice impacted my view and I determined it was not possible to feel safe in that neighborhood any longer. I moved to a predominately white, upper class neighborhood and shoved my shame down as far as I could. I felt great shame about how I reacted to the various circumstances and my decision to leave. But because I felt the heavy burden of shame, instead of confronting these thoughts and making great changes, I was paralyzed, causing me to shove down the shame and move on to other things.

Partly through my work with Brene Brown’s books, I have begun to work with the racist stereotypes and prejudices that arise in my life. I am able to work with the shame of racism because I can now speak shame and know it for what it is – an emotion that I can choose to deal with. Now, I use critical awareness to determine where these thoughts come from. All of us, every day, see dozens of racist messages and stereotypes in the media, in how society is structured, in what the people around us say or do, and in most things around us. Being critically aware that these messages can come from outside us can reduce the feelings of shame and move us towards guilt. It is simply not possible to never have a racist thought or inclination. Instead, what is possible is that we learn ways to deal with, face, confront, and change our behavior and thoughts. For many of us, that may only be possible after working through our own shame issues, whether through Brown’s methods or some other method. It is vital in order for us to grow that we address and speak shame, stifling its power, and ensuring we move towards being better people.

Have you thought about the connection between shame and racism before? How have you addressed your shame issues? Are there particular techniques you use to work through racist thoughts and actions? Please share your experience below in the comment section!

The Gifts of Imperfection – Reflection: Stillness

stillnessSource: https://pixabay.com/photo-691848/ through Creative Commons CC0 license

Today, as often happens after much activity, I had a moment where I wanted, and needed quiet. More accurately, I hear this voice in my head which says, “I need to sit a minute.” But when I sit, I then become restless for lack of something to do, so then I usually engage in an activity that is quiet, like crocheting. While these moments of quiet are useful, they never full restore me nor fully get me to pause, and I end up back in the hamster wheel of – must keep moving. Today, was different though, because right after I heard the, “I need to sit a minute” voice, I heard a new voice, which said, “you need stillness, which means you need to meditate!” Where did that new voice come from? I had just been listening to Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection (Kindle preview), on the difference between calm and stillness and the importance of both. I have up until now resisted meditation as a regular practice, but it now occurs to me that I was likely resistant to the practice because of how I was framing it. Stillness, as Brown defines it, “is not about focusing on nothingness; it is about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally chatter-free space allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question” (p 108). I had not thought of stillness like that before, nor had I thought of meditation as creating this “emotionally chatter-free space.” I tend to need these moments of stillness after moments of emotional activity, making it now obvious that what I needed was stillness. But I was mistaking my need to sit a minute for needing calm and that wasn’t restoring me. Calm and quiet wasn’t restoring me because, according to Brown, calm is about “creating perspective and mindfulness, while managing emotional reactivity” (p 106) [emphasis added]. These needed moments of sitting a minute weren’t coming in the middle of emotional reactivity, or necessarily after such a moment either, but rather were coming after moments of emotional exhaustion. The last thing I need is to manage my emotions in these moments. Stillness gives us a break from our emotions, which is restorative after emotional exhaustion. So, today, I tried stillness instead of my usual quiet and calm and found myself restored at the end. Now that I see meditation in a new frame – a new light, so to say – I feel more confident that I will continue to work on practicing formal meditations, instead of just reading about them. How do you practice stillness?

 

*Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

The Gifts of Imperfection – Review

The Gifts of ImperfectionThe Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown – 5/5 stars

Brené Brown’s, The Gifts of Imperfection, not only explains how we become caught up in the need to be perfect, but also provides a clear road map with clear suggestions on how to move past the need to be perfect. It is a well-researched, well-written, well-organized account of how to embrace who you are, though Brown would likely object to my use of the phrase “how-to.” But this book is the closest to a how-to Brown’s work has been by covering the same three points after every guidepost, which allows the reader to take some steps on her own and use this more like a self-help book. Those points are: how to dig deep, how to get going, and how to take action. It was a welcome addition to Brown’s work. I can understand why other reviewers found this repetitive and a bit too simplistic, but with how much this book covers in such a small book, it can be easy to lose the thread of how to actually put into practice Brown’s guideposts. Even though I have listened to much of Brown’s work, I still find myself forgetting definitions, what holds me back, and how to be just a little bit more vulnerable. When it comes to making significant life change, a little repetition and symmetry can make it much easier to implement those much needed changes. I am personally grateful for the structure and feel I was better able to take away meaningful ways to make change.

The Gifts of Imperfection covers in detail, with examples the reader can identify with, what shame is and how it differs from other experiences, like embarrassment. But this book is more than easy to understand definitions of the various experiences people have. Instead, it also covers how to work with shame when it comes up. The idea of shame resilience was new to me before I came across Brown’s work and likely back then, I would have argued that shame is not something we need to learn resilience for. However, after reading this book, I am greatly convinced that it is easy to have a shame spiral and end up in a very dark place if one cannot name shame and then directly deal with it. I now find myself recognizing when I am in a shame spiral and taking steps to address it.

I particularly appreciated that Brown connected shame to vulnerability and also described in detail some ways we can shut down said vulnerability. One interesting discussion was of being too vulnerable and how that can actually be a way to not be vulnerable, by pushing people away. This ties in nicely with her discussion on how shame needs to be shared only with those people who have earned the right to hear those stories. Shame is not a time for a poor response as it only services to fuel the shame. For those of us who did not have shame and vulnerability modeled well for us as children, this discussion was vital to ensure that our attempts to address shame and be more vulnerable are successful.

The last section of the book goes into detail on what one needs to do in order to live a wholehearted life, filled with joy, connection, and balance. For me, this was the section I needed the most. Many of her guideposts covered things I was not doing nor had given much thought to. Those guideposts often fly in the face of our current culture, making it very challenging to implement. For example, Brown discusses the importance of play for adults. Play is defined as doing something enjoyable with no end goal or production. Play is not something encouraged for adults and often, people are shamed for playing as they age out of the acceptable range of childhood play. Yet, the research presents a strong case for all of us needing this in our lives. This book did an amazing job of breaking down this information and providing suggestions on how to build this into one’s life, which is critical here when much of this is the opposite of what American culture values.

A few things to note. First, this is the second book of the four books Brown has written and it is helpful to read them in order, though not strictly necessary. The Gifts of Imperfection does cover and explain parts of I Thought it was Just Me But it Isn’t which are relevant to this book. Second, I listened to the audiobook version, which is not read by Brown. This does detract from the quality of the audiobook because Brown is such an effective speaker. It is unfortunate that this and her first book are not read by her as it would make for a much stronger audiobook. Third, the audiobook version does not do a good job of dealing with the subtitles of sections like, dig deep, and at first, it comes across as though there are just random fragments in the book; however, at some point, the listener picks up on the structure of the book. It may be helpful to glance at the book before listening to it just to prevent this awkwardness. Lastly, if you expect to only ever read one Brené Brown book, this is not it. I instead highly recommend listening to the audiobook, The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connections and Courage as it covers and ties together three of her four books in a digestible manner. The Gifts of Imperfection is a book I highly recommend if you are like me and need more knowledge and guidance in order to put the guideposts into practice. I recommend starting with The Power of Vulnerability as it is likely more effective to have an overview of how all of her research comes together before going more into the details and specifics of her work.

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.