This Is How: A Wordy Wednesday Review

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Title: This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness,
Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease,
Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike.
Author: Augusten Burroughs
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press 5star
Publication Date: 2012 Genre: Non-fiction, Self-Help

Why Picked: I love Augusten Burroughs

First Line: “SEVERAL YEARS AGO WHEN the relationship I assumed was both nearly perfect and my last turned out to be neither and ended car-off-cliff style, I experienced an unexpected and profound personal awakening.”

Summary:

If you’re fat and fail every diet, if you’re thin but can’t get thin enough, if you lose your job, if your child dies, if you are diagnosed with cancer, if you always end up with exactly the wrong kind of person, if you always end up alone, if you can’t get over the past, if your parents are insane and ruining your life, if you really and truly wish you were dead, if you feel like it’s your destiny to be a star, if you believe life has a grudge against you, if you don’t want to have sex with your spouse and don’t know why, if you feel so ashamed, if you’re lost in life. If you have ever wondered, How am I supposed to survive this? This is How [1]

 

Review:

I read the first chapter of this book and then put it down. I was not ready for it. You might not be ready for it. For this is a book of unfettered honestly and brutal truth. It made me think and it made me supremely uncomfortable and sometimes it pissed me off. I can’t even imagine what mental health professionals would have to say about it. But, in the end, it was eye opening for me. It was moments of band-aid ripping, and not the new band-aids with their easy-off adhesive, I mean the old fashioned kind from when you were a kid when you left them on for days because the alternative was too painful to think about. It was moments of OMG, I am not the only one. I am not alone. I am not a freak. It was moments of screaming YES in my head because, well, it all finally made crashing sense.

Burroughs opens his book with a chapter titled “How to ride in an elevator,” in which he encounters a stranger who chirps “Whatever it is that happened, it can’t possibly be as bad as it looks on your face. How ‘bout trying on a smile for size. And if you’re all out, I’ve got one you can borrow.” during one of the most depressed periods of his life. He uses this to frame a discussion of why self-affirmations make miserable people actually feel worse. Which leads him to talk about how “In our superpositive society, we have an unspoken zero-tolerance policy for negativity.” Which in turn leads to how we constantly have to lie to world and thus ourselves  to just get by. And BAM smack in the face, I put the book down.

A few months later I managed to pick it up again. I read every hard, difficult word. I nodded my way through “How to find love,” grateful it was not me how had to worry about this chapter. I cringed my way through “How to be fat,” listening the voices in the my head arguing about whether he was right or not. I got angry at “How to be thin” and “How to end your life.” But mostly I saw myself, again and again, “How to be confident, ” “How to fail” “How to remain unhealed,” and “How to live unhappily ever after.” And after all of these words which wrench you in a thousand ways he ends with this statement:

This is how.

This is how you survive the unsurvivable, this is how you lose that which you cannot bear to lose, this is how you reinvent yourself, overcome your abusers, fulfill your ambitions and meet the love of your life: by following what is true, no matter where it leads you.

And in his epilogue he reminds us “This is why.”

Brilliantly played Mr. Burroughs, brilliantly played.