generallyanxious.com

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was highly recommended to me by several readers. I love history and was surprised to find the story had a very creative way of describing the occupation of Guernsey island in the English Channel during WWII. The characters were drawn together by their love of books, and the resilience of the survivors shines through their personal letters that deliver this story. Here are my favorite quotes!


Arrayed in her finest frock and spotless white gloves, the girl made her way to the school, stepped over the threshold, took one look at the sea of shining cadet faces before her—and fainted dead away! The poor child had never seen so many males in one place in her life. Think of it—a whole generation grown up without dances or teas or flirting.


Apropos of my new dress and no new shoes—doesn’t it seem shocking to have more stringent rationing after the war than during the war? I realize that hundreds of thousands of people all over Europe must be fed, housed, and clothed, but privately I resent it that so many of them are Germans.


Friends tell me that Europe is like a hive broken open, teeming with thousands upon thousands of displaced people, all trying to get home.


My worries travel about my head on their well-worn path, and it is a relief to put them on paper.


I argue myself all the way to one end of the question and back again several times a day.


I have been reading an article by a woman named Giselle Pelletier, a political prisoner held at Ravensbrück for five years. She writes about how difficult it is for you to get on with your life as a camp survivor. No one in France—not friends, not family—wants to know anything about your life in the camps, and they think that the sooner you put it out of your mind—and out of their hearing—the happier you’ll be. According to Miss Pelletier, it is not that you want to belabor anyone with details, but it did happen to you and you cannot pretend it didn’t. “Let’s put everything behind us” seems to be France’s cry. “Everything—the war, the Vichy, the Milice, Drancy, the Jews—it’s all over now. After all, everyone suffered, not just you.” In the face of this institutional amnesia, she writes, the only help is talking with fellow survivors. They know what life in the camps was. You speak, and they can speak back. They talk, they rail, they cry, they tell one story after another—some tragic, some absurd. Sometimes they can even laugh together. The relief is enormous, she says.


I hope, too, that my book will illuminate my belief that love of art—be it poetry, storytelling, painting, sculpture, or music—enables people to transcend any barrier man has yet devised.


As the members of the Literary Society found during their ordeal, companionship can help us surmount nearly any barrier, imposed, self-imposed, or imagined.

The Hours

The Hours, by Michael Cunningham


The Hours follows 3 women either directly or indirectly affected by depression. You’ve maybe seen, or hear about, the movie version of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, where Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf. The movie is great; I also recommend reading the book as it expresses the depths of the pain depression brings so beautifully.

Below are the quotes I found powerful.  You will see, and hopefully begin to understand, the delicacy with which mental illness must be handled. One minute may be fine, the next has crossed a threshold into suffering.


He says, “I don’t know if I can face this. You know. The party and the ceremony, and then the hour after that, and the hour after that.”

“You don’t have to go to the party. You don’t have to go to the ceremony. You don’t have to do anything at all.”

“But there are still the hours, aren’t there? One and then another, and you get through that one and then, my god, there’s another. I’m so sick.”


It could be a good day; it needs to be treated carefully.


It seems possible (it does not seem impossible) that she’s slipped across an invisible line, the line that has always separated her from what she would prefer to feel, who she would prefer to be. It does not seem impossible that she has undergone a subtle but profound transformation, here in this kitchen, at this most ordinary of moments: She has caught up with herself. She has worked so long, so hard, in such good faith, and now she’s gotten the knack of living happily, as herself, the way a child learns at a particular moment to balance on a two-wheel bicycle. It seems she will be fine. She will not lose hope. She will not mourn her lost possibilities, her unexplored talents (what if she has no talents, after all?). She will remain devoted to her son, her husband, her home and duties, all her gifts. She will want this second child.


She has learned over the years that sanity involves a certain measure of impersonation, not simply for the benefit of husband and servants but for the sake, first and foremost, of one’s own convictions.


She can feel the headache creeping up the back of her neck. She stiffens. No, it’s the memory of the headache, it’s her fear of the headache, both of them so vivid as to be at least briefly indistinguishable from an onset of the headache itself. She stands erect, waiting. It’s all right. It’s all right. The walls of the room do not waver; nothing murmurs from within the plaster. She is herself, standing here, with a husband at home, with servants and rugs and pillows and lamps. She is herself.


I am alone, Virginia thinks, as the man and woman continue up the hill and she continues down. She is, of course, not alone, not in a way anyone else would recognize, and yet at this moment, walking through wind toward the lights of the Quadrant, she can feel the nearness of the old devil (what else to call it?), and she knows she will be utterly alone if and when the devil chooses to appear again. The devil is a headache; the devil is a voice inside a wall; the devil is a fin breaking through dark waves. The devil is the brief, twittering nothing that was a thrush’s life. The devil sucks all the beauty from the world, all the hope, and what remains when the devil has finished is a realm of the living dead—joyless, suffocating. Virginia feels, right now, a certain tragic grandeur, for the devil is many things but he is not petty, not sentimental; he seethes with a lethal, intolerable truth. Right now, walking, free of her headache, free of the voices, she can face the devil, but she must keep walking, she must not turn back.

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

Although The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield focuses on artists achieving their creative dreams, this book can apply to people that struggle with anxiety & depression.
 
Pressfield describes “Resistance” as the force that prevents us from achieving, from being our best. We all have to contend with it, whatever the form. It causes us to procrastinate, to run from a challenge, to stay home under the covers.

“The enemy is a very good teacher.” — the Dalai Lama

Pressfield demands we all need to get to work, everyday, to learn how to live with this hand we were dealt, to live with it so we can achieve happiness.
 
Below are the quotes that moved me most. Read the first quote below – a profound statement on the severe effect Resistance has on society.

If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and dandruff.

…you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is a Latin word; the Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling.

…The professional cannot take rejection personally because to do so reinforces Resistance. Editors are not the enemy; critics are not the enemy. Resistance is the enemy. The battle is inside our own heads. We cannot let external criticism, even if it’s true, fortify our internal foe. That foe is strong enough already.

…the battle must be fought anew every day.
…I go to sleep content, but my final thought is of Resistance. I will wake up with it tomorrow. Already I am steeling myself.
…The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.
…Resistance has no strength of its own; its power derives entirely from our fear of it.
…We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.

…We’re not born with unlimited choices. We can’t be anything we want to be. We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it. Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
…Every breath we take, every heartbeat, every evolution of every cell comes from God and is sustained by God every second, just as every creation, invention, every bar of music or line of verse, every thought, vision, fantasy, every dumb-ass flop and stroke of genius comes from that infinite intelligence that created us and the universe in all its dimensions, out of the Void, the field of infinite potential, primal chaos, the Muse. To acknowledge that reality, to efface all ego, to let the work come through us and give it back freely to its source, that, in my opinion, is as true to reality as it gets.
…You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.