Meet: Augusten Burroughs

A while back, I read a Thought Catalog article by David Cain that inspired me. It was titled, “5 Self-help books that actually helped.” I recall the summer when I suddenly decided I was really into psychology and self- improvement, so I took a trip to the library, and spent a good long time in the self-help section. I never really payed much attention to the nonfiction side of the library, but now, it’s the only side I pay attention to. I don’t know why this happened. It just did.

Personally, I don’t think self-help books are all that helpful. They aren’t interesting. They don’t capture my attention. I end up actually adding stress to my life, due to my habit of checking out book after book and letting them pile up on my bedroom floor. Five weeks later, I owe $4.20 in fines. Oops.

So… I took a break from that section and moved on to an interest in world religions and Christianity. I built up some knowledge of my faith and maybe tried to understand where others were coming from in their faith…

And then I read this article, and I thought, Hmm. Maybe these really are the five self-help books out there worth reading. 

I checked them out. Yes, David, I did. But four of them weren’t good. Four of them really didn’t help, as much as encourage and relax, which is fine. In fact, I needed to relax, and one of the books really helped me to do so. It caused me to realize I was letting life get to me. I turned on some quiet music, and read the meditative words over and over again. (Shortly after, I went on a mad rampage and tore down all my pictures and art and do-dads all over my walls, wanting to forget the past, not worry about the future, and enjoy the now. But we can forget that part of the night)

There was another book that I was reluctant to pick up, mostly due to the scary picture of the author on the cover… yeahhh…

Anyway, the author is Augusten Burroughs. His book is titled (and this couldn’t be any cheesier or unappealing) This is How: Help For The Self in Overcoming Grief, Fatness, etc. for Young and Old Alike.

Really, Augusten? Honestly, TMI. “This is how” would have been enough for me. Anyway, you can probably see why I was a little reluctant to pick up the book at first. Any self-help book with “self” and “help” somewhere in the title couldn’t possibly be that great.

Now, believe me, this one IS that great.

Let me share a little excerpt of this man’s fantastic writing:

“Miracles do happen. You must believe this. No matter what else you believe about life, you must believe in miracles. Because we are all, every one of us, living on a round rock that spins around and around at almost a quarter of a million miles per hour in an unthinkably vast blackness called space. There is nothing else like us for as far as our telescopic eyes can see. In a universe filled with spinning, barren rocks, frozen gas, ice, dust, and radiation, we live on a planet filled with soft, green leaves and salty oceans and honey made from bees, which themselves live within geometrically complex and perfect structures of their own architecture and creation. In our trees are birds whose songs are as complex and nuanced as Beethoven’s greatest sonatas. And despite the wild, endless spinning of our planet and its never-ending orbit around the sun–itself a star on fire–when we pour water into a glass, the water stays in the glass. All of these are miracles.”

This is the kind of writing I like. Positive, encouraging, useful. It really gets me somewhere. It accomplishes something. It isn’t just words on a page to me. It makes me think. It has a purpose. And this:

“If you have one parent who loves you, even if they can’t buy you clothes, they’re so poor and they make all kinds of mistakes and maybe sometimes they even give you awful advice, but never for one moment do you doubt their love for you–if you have this, you have incredibly good fortune.

I love what he does here, and throughout the entire book. Not only does the book tell you “how,” it tells you how NOW. He doesn’t just mention, “Do with what you have” like many other books I’ve read. No. He tells you what you have, how you might have it, and that’s okay.

Maybe you are sitting there thinking, ok ok, I get it, he writes some pretty nice stuff, but its just writing, and there are a lot of great writers out there.

I challenge you to think negatively for a moment. There are a lot of bad writers out there, too. And if you’re at all like me, and carry half a dozen books home each week just to see how it goes, you will come to know that. When I find a good writer, I kind of freak out. And I think I like Burroughs a lot because his style is modern. It speaks to me, and works with my attitudes and motivations really well. I brought home a couple more of his books. Did I mention he is hilarious? Anyway, you should really look into this guy. He’s awesome, entertaining, and his thoughts are clearly presented and purposeful. I hope you enjoyed what I shared with you and I hope you continue to discover great authors that really speak to you! (and maybe someday you’ll even become one of them :D)

We don’t need a special day to love, but having one makes life all the better :)

Love_heart_uidaodjsdsewSetting aside a day like today is actually completely unnecessary, if you think about it. Why not make each other cards every day? Why not smile every second of EVERY day? Why not laugh until you cry whenever you can? (I clearly don’t have a problem with that at all) Why not eat Hershey’s kisses all the time, or chocolate in general for that matter?

So… why is today so special? Today is set aside for love, but every day should be set aside for love. Christmas is set aside for giving, but every day should be a day of giving. Easter is set aside for joy, but every day should be a day of joy. Thanksgiving is set aside to be a day of great thanks and appreciation, but shouldn’t every day be one of gratitude?… The only holiday I don’t understand is Halloween… because Halloween seems to be set aside for self-entertainment and greed… and every day should really be anything but that.

Anyway, we need these days, because in the midst of our bustling every day lives- our appointments, worries, events, meetings, To-do lists- we can’t possibly juggle the metaphysical too. A day each year to remind us of the things we should be thinking about- the attitudes that count and the qualities that are truly most important- is a day I’ll take. I don’t need today as an excuse to be loving and happy, but having today reminds me that life is a lot better than it seems 🙂

The flip side to “You do you”

You do you, but sometimes, do more…

It’s good to be yourself. Let your emotions go as they please. Be obnoxious. Sing out loud. Be average. Fail a couple tests. Ace a couple more. Read your texts out loud as you type them. Shave every day, or once a week. Whatever you is you.

But if you’re like me, and your average is getting over the top. You fail more than a couple tests. And rarely ace but one. It’s time to study. You never shave, because it takes too long, and you’d rather just wear pants. Shave every now and then. It feels awesome. You’re sick of being in the band, it’s time to stand up on the scaffolding, and be a leader. Or in your case, maybe the chorus is getting old, and it’s time to try for something more. You’re done with crying all the time. Do something to make you happier.

Quite clearly, it isn’t about anyone else. You’re sick of being the “you” that you don’t want to be. So be the you that you do want to be. Discover yourself. Change something that you do. Break a habit or two. Visit a friend that needs company, or hang out with someone you don’t know that well. Practice a skill. Maybe conducting, maybe singing, maybe playing an instrument or running. Practice and practice until you’ve striven as far as you can go. Study a week in advance for that test. Study and study until you could sleep for 15 hours. Then try. Go for it. Get involved. Chase your dreams. Succeed.

Because this is you that we’re talking about. Forget the percentages. Forget the judgment. Forget what people think. You do you. But even better, you be the you that you want to be.

For you, because I’m trying to love you

For you, because I’m trying to love you.

Hey you.
I know things are tough. Especially right now. Maybe they’ve always been tough. But right now it’s too much. You feel somewhat neglected and lonely at home. Don’t deny it. You told me that. You feel disappointed in yourself, maybe even in God, for the things you’ve had to face in life and how you have dealt with them. Don’t deny it. Its natural. You feel desperate for someone to take care of you and hold you accountable. Don’t deny it. You need me.

But you keep all of these feelings hidden behind one word:
Apathy.

You say you’re apathetic. You don’t care. You don’t feel much. That’s why you need drugs or alcohol to artificially force you to be happy, to feel… if only for an hour or two.

Well I can tell you how to be happier. I can show you what happiness truly is. Because I promise to put all my energy into this, to help you overcome all the feelings pent up inside. And when I promise things, I keep the promise no matter what. Even if it seems impossible.

So here I am. Promising you that I’ll be here always, make the choice to bring you dinner, fresh baked desserts, good mornings and good nights, calm phone calls when your angry or upset, God’s word when you’re feeling lost, arms open when you need comfort, love because you need it.

I can’t fix your home life. I can’t keep you company all the time. I can’t be by your side whispering in your ear when your about to make every choice of the day… I can’t change the past. But I can change the future. I believe you can change your future.

I promise to try to love you, better than I have in the past. And if I fail, I get back up and keep trying. A promise is a promise. I will never give up on you.

A detrimental gloom of disappointment due to the colossal vitality of illusion

If there is one thing that I have learned for myself that has truly made me happier, its that mustering up any kind of expectation whatsoever (unless completely reasonable and controllable… like being treated with respect) can be detrimental to the experience.

A few personal cases come to mind…

Like when I thought homecoming would be so great. But when he didn’t dance with me, and he didn’t talk to me, and she showed up when she said she wasn’t going to, and the punch was all watered down… and they didn’t play that song… Well, let’s just say I was disappointed.

Or that time when we went to the zoo, but it rained, and your mom picked you up early, and my cute outfit wasn’t clean, and we were awkward… Well, that was disappointing too.

But then I realized maybe if I had told you, “Hey, let’s go to the zoo, and your parents can pick you up whenever you want, and who knows what the weather will be like, but if its sunny then great! And if it rains we can stand under an umbrella together and be all cute! And its okay if we are awkward, because that’s how it is, and it will be different someday.”

What if I had just accepted the “now”? Instead of expecting a romantic, sunny, perfect day. Why didn’t I prepare myself for the unexpected? Did it not even cross my mind that it might rain? Did it not even occur to me that realistically, we had never hung out alone before, and it was going to be awkward?

Because after the let down at homecoming, I went to Cotillion anyway. But I went to Cotillion without anything in mind. All I knew was that I had friends who loved me, and I had a beautiful outfit that I loved, and that I am capable of having fun if I want to. Who cares what music they play? If I don’t like it, I can go get a drink.  I came home from the dance with a huge smile on my face, realizing once and for all that no expectation at all is the best expectation to have.

Go with what you know. I’m not saying we shouldn’t dream. Dreaming is one of my favorite things to do. I am a dreamer. But there is a fine line between letting dreams take over, and having realistic dreams. Romantic dreams cause insanity. Realistic dreams come true.

So decide for yourself what is realistic and what isn’t. Nobody can categorize your dreams but you. No one can tell you what is unreachable. You decide what you will strive for, but make sure you know there’s a chance you might get there, and make sure you have a game plan, and a back-up plan, and a plan C, and a plan D…

“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his
dreams
— not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone
beyond her, beyond everything” -Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

My Heaven on Earth

It was only two Springs ago, when I went on what I thought might be our last family vacation to my Heaven on Earth. All packed up, I went to bed the night before, and like years past, that recurring nightmare popped into my mind. The nightmare I had the night before my first trip, when I was only six years old, consisting of a demonic green witch, slowly stirring her bubbling pot of stew with the stick of her broom… the sound of the bubbling stew, clouded by the witches’ obnoxious cackle… bloop! EEEEE-HEHEHE… bloop…BLOOP! Right when the last bubble popped, I woke up, startled. Vacation could not have come soon enough. I was six years old.  But two Springs ago, vacation came, and vacation went.

Vacation came soon enough. It came at just the right time, when I needed it the most. Having had a rough year, I needed a break from school, drama, friends, emotion… maybe even family. But my fantasy and hope of relaxation and recovery didn’t exactly do me any favor. I knew good and well that I had family depending on me, and me on them, and I wouldn’t be free to do whatever I wanted. It’s never like that. Which is why I have promised myself that maybe ten or twelve years after I successfully land a job and buy a home, I’ll take a solo trip to some island, far far away, and do whatever the heck I want. But anyway, two Springs ago, I took a relaxing and refreshing trip to Sanibel Island with my family. The place I had, until recently, deemed as my Heaven on Earth.

Like I said, its different now. I love the question my theology teachers ask us periodically.

“How do you picture Heaven to be?”

I always say I don’t know.

Now I do.

There is a place I now know, but I didn’t know it until last summer. I went to camp. Alone. I wasn’t sure who would be there. I just knew I was going, and I couldn’t wait. Clearly, it was a success. This is what I came home with. This is the impression it made on my life.

The people at this place practice virtue. Kindness. Patience. Love. Selflessness. Honesty. Truth. Comfort.

These people listen. They say the right things. They seem to always say loving things. And I mean always. When I go to this place, I never go a second without smiling. I never go a second without feeling like I am smart, important…. I never go a second without feeling I am perfect. They tell me I’m perfect, that I’m absolutely wonderful just the way I am. I try to tell them the same.

Every opinion I have is worthy. Every thought I have is heard. Every concern is taken care of. Every hope is affirmed. Every word is fulfilling.

My Heaven on Earth is at Catholic youth summer camp. It is youth group every Sunday night. It is knowing in my heart that I have formed these relationships that I can always run to, that will never go away no matter where I go away to. My Heaven on Earth is wherever I feel God is present, working in me and those around me. I can see God in these people. I know what Heaven is. And it could only be better.

It’s an amazing thing to be surrounded by the Lord. It’s a hard situation to describe. The feelings of love and happiness are so overwhelming that they can’t be fully explained. The only thing I know is that the Lord is present and working in his servants. When we come together, whether it is two of us or hundreds… an explosion of good things is all I feel and see.

God saw all that he had made, and it was good.” -Gen 1:31

I think that maybe, when I was six, something was being spoken to me. I invested my image of Heaven in an experience lacking of Christ, and it needed to be awoken by an ugly evil witch. Now that I have invested my life into a community full of life and love, founded in Christ, there is not a single demon that can snatch me away. When I surround myself with others of faith, I fall into a life of complete trust in the Lord, and I have yet to have a bad experience with this life. The only thing that could make me happier is for my Heaven to follow me everywhere I go. I will continue to work to bring Christ into my community and all of my relationships, to fully experience life in every waking moment, and I hope you will too.