From the Diary #14: I Don’t Want Your Pretty Gloss, Give Me Something Real.

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Why do people try to sell us the idea that change is easy? Do we ever fall for it?

Yesterday, another brown cardboard lozenge appeared through my letterbox, not an uncommon occurrence in my life. Yes ~ a new book from Amazon! In a moment of Saturday night and marketing hype weakness I had ordered a self-published, inspiration type book from an A-lister blogger. Ever on the look out for encouragement to transform the negative thinking that creeps into my world (and a quick read to add to this year’s 48 book challenge), I turned to the pretty, glossy book and found only that ~ pretty gloss.

I don’t want to quote exactly as it’s not my intention to make this book searchable and do a hatchet job on it, but the general gist so far is ‘be positive’ and ‘be the brave person you want to be’ ~ errrr, thanks. I’d never thought of that before!

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Of course, I hold my hands up ~ mea culpa! I am the one that bought the book. I have read reasonably widely in the much derided genre and I think that it is often misunderstood. I am not reading to find a one size fits all solution to my problems. I am reading for nuance and personal reflection. I am reading literally for inspiration ~ that a part of the indwelling spirit in me will quicken and recognise the story of the struggle of the indwelling spirit of the author. I am looking for that recognition that makes something in me leap for the joy of knowing and being known in such an intimate way.

A writer I have been much inspired by is Melody Beattie. Playing It by Heart is such a gorgeous and, yes, inspiring book of personal essays and beautiful insight. It tells of a lifetime’s journey of recovery from codependency and victimhood, and all of its setbacks with a mature honesty. There is no ‘one day I decided to be brave and only use heart shaped post-it notes, and from that day forward everything turned out stellar’. Through Beattie’s intimate sharing of her personal lessons, she reminds me that any recovery is a lifelong opportunity for spiritual growth.

And that’s where the pretty, glossy book fails. It seems scared to tell me recovery from anything is a life long commitment, with heartbreak and uncertainty jostling for attention alongside the joy. The author is scared to show me her heart and instead only shows me her fuschia pink fingertips and enviable jewellery. I am guessing when you’ve built a brand of perfection you can no longer afford to ‘be real’, the price of true intimacy becomes too high.

But I am not falling for it. Change is not easy but it is necessary and continuous. I don’t want your pretty gloss, give me something real.

And that’s what I’ll give you.

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12 thoughts on “From the Diary #14: I Don’t Want Your Pretty Gloss, Give Me Something Real.

  1. I am with you too Claire! Off the blablabla that is going around the world lately also at the company for wich i work, where it seems that all we employee have call to be or like to be smart, pretty, smily, kind, successful… Etc. etc. i think it’s not so bad if we show also our real pain, our real feelings and of course our real self to stay true in a society where it’s all shine and bright but has so many obscure point to jelly your legs.

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    • Great point, Giusy! I’ve also worked somewhere where I wasn’t allowed to be real, any criticism or disagreement meant you were pushed outside the circle and seen as not being a team player. It was the most stressful two years of my life! Here’s to being messy real and accepting the messy real in each other 💜

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  2. Totally with you on this. Keeping it real is what it’s all about. As a recovered self help junkie the real growth happens in accepting the absolute perfect mess of life, the ups and downs, the tears, tantrums, bad hair and complete wonderfulness of being alive. x

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  3. I agree! And yet – while I know the pain and believe you must go through, not around – sometimes I am a glosser. I don’t mean to minimize the difficulty, but sometimes I just don’t want to focus on that part either. I gloss to family and friends. Acquaintances. But not to clients. They must know the pretty and the ugly. I’m glad you shared this, Claire!

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    • Ahhh, yes it’s true, Cheryl. I’m sure that I am guilty of some glossing too. Sometimes, with friends and family, if bad news has just been received then the right thing to do is to spend awhile focusing on the positive. Along the way you’ll have to face the tough together anyway! I think that self help lite has a tendency to be a snapshot of that positive mindset, and when people following it hit a bump in the road, they can think it’s must be their own fault in some way for not doing it right, rather than a universal experience!

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  4. Oh my goodness, yes. I am so with you on this, Claire. As a former therapist I have read more than my fair share of this genre and I think you are right on about the difference between that which inspires and the books that are just pretty fluff.

    I have a few authors that go in the real inspiration, not fluff pile- Pema Chodron, Oriah Mountain Dreamer (the Invitation and the Dance in particular), Susannah’s book of course, and The Radiance Sutras, which is more a spiritual/yoga/meditation one. I am so happy to know about Melody Beattie- haven’t read her.

    I did a small rant myself on this for a friend who wrote a Dear book dr. letter about no more self help- just to keep this conversation going. I think it’s important! xoxo

    http://book-dr.com/wp/not-another-self-help-book/

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    • Thanks Caroline – yes, I’ve read OMD and Susannah (strangely Susannah introduced me to the writings of the former), but no Pema Chodron yet, though the name keeps popping up and I’ve recently subscribed to the Facebook feed. Perhaps the antidote to what I’ve just read?

      I wanted this post to be positive so that’s why I decided to write about Melody and not do a hatchet job on the book I was reading. Another favourite I could have chosen to write about was been Anne Lamott. Perhaps another day?

      Right, I’m off to read your post now…

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  5. As I was reading this post, I was thinking about wholeness and how capturing the wholeness of life experience is deeply nourishing, like eating a full meal rather than just dessert. And it actually requires a lot more from us, in terms of courage and bravery, than only acknowledging the shiny parts of life.

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    • Ahhh, yes~ that’s it, isn’t it Angela? I love your take on it! The gloss is the refined sugar, the white bread. Tempting, tasty sometimes but no nourishment is received…

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