Saturday, September 3, 2011

Great Widda Read: This is Not the Life I Ordered

I had something happen about two months ago that I am going to call “literary divine intervention.”

I am very fortunate that I live five minutes away from three out of four of my college roommates (we’re still working on the 4th, but the military isn’t cooperating).  We all do our best to see each other, but, as we all happens.  Anyway, despite our close proximity, we started a very bad trend of only getting together about once every 4 months.  And, although we talked about how ridiculous that was, we seemed too busy to make a change.

And then two things happened. 

The first was that one of my roommates lost a neighbor who had become one of her closest friends.  Although this woman was really only an acquaintance of mine, I was still shocked that yet another young life was gone in the blink of an eye.  And as I’m sure many of us have experienced when we see someone grieving a loved one...I worried about my roommate and wanted to make sure I was there when she needed me. 

Which meant that this stupid schedule of only seeing each other a few times a year needed to stop.

The second was that I had randomly picked up a book at an antique store called This Is Not the Life I Ordered:  50 ways to keep your head above water when life keeps dragging you down.  Of course, we can ALL relate to THAT title (who has the life they always thought they would have???), but I mainly picked it up thinking that I could use it more for professional purposes.

I didn't know how it would affect me personally.

Now, I will’s taken me a long time to read this book.  But there is a good reason for that:  It’s SO good, I didn’t want to finish it.  With quotes and personal stories, the authors describe what they’ve been through in their own lives (two of the four authors have been widowed) and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

As I started reading, I discovered that few people could possibly be any busier than these four women.  But they found time to meet with each other at least once a month, forming what they called a Kitchen Table Club.  As they described how just getting together and talking about their lives, offering constructive criticism and advice to each other, and generally just being there, I realized that I'd never thought about just sitting down with a small group of women and discussing life.  Just a regular time each month set aside to talk about what we want, what's bothering us, and what we can do for each other.  No kids, no husbands, no interruptions.  Nothing off limits and we can help each other succeed in whatever we are trying to accomplish.

So now, if you’re looking for me on every 3rd Thursday of the month...I’m occupied.  ‘Cause I’m meeting with my girls.

I know that many of you will say that you don’t have close friends to meet with.  And that’s okay.  This book gives you tools to build your own group.  As one of the suggestions, the books says:

No matter how bad your life might be right now, plan a get-together with women you admire.  They do not need to be famous, rich, or fabulously accomplished.  You do not need to know them well; although they do need to be women you respect and who share similar values and priorities – women with integrity who will be willing to listen, encourage others, and be honest.

Heck yeah.

Even if you don’t have any interest in forming a group, this book is just an overall inspiration...which is another reason why it took me so long to read.  I found myself waiting until I wasn’t feeling great and I needed a little pick-me-up.  Then I would pick up This is Not the Life I Ordered, read a few pages, and feel like I was ready to get out there and live my life again.  I had so many “ah ha” moments...too many to put in a blog.  But one of the ideas that I thought was complete brilliance, came from one of the widows in the book, Jackie Speier (because, as a whole, widows really are brilliant).

She was feeling overwhelmed with the chaos that becoming a widow had created (sound familiar?) and woke up one morning, needing a plan.  She contacted an accountant, lawyer, tax adviser, real estate agent, and banker and invited them all over for breakfast at her home.  Together, they helped her come up with a strategy to deal with that chaos.  She called this group her “Kitchen Cabinet.”

Widowed or not, I don’t really know any woman who wouldn’t benefit from this book.  It’s readable, relatable, and makes you feel ready to move forward with the life you’ve been handed.  Mine is now marked up, highlighted, and has sticky notes all over it.

And I bring it with me every 3rd Thursday of the month.

©Catherine Tidd 2011

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