Sure, that’s really not a unique, insightful, or even a pithy thought. But it’s a thought that means something completely different to me than it used to. It doesn’t have anything to do with time – it’s not a countdown to a total we all hope will exceed 100 years on this planet. Because none of us have the slightest clue just how long we’ll last around here. My mom passed away at 43. My best friend died at 11. My physics partner died while driving to work when he was only 18 while my grandmother just kept going and going ’till she was 93. Kurt Cobain chose to leave us at 27 and Tom Petty somehow managed to surprise us by leaving when he was 66. It’s like a random number generator and we’re all just hoping to have the highest number on our ticket when death comes along to punch it.
But, if I may pull away from such morbid thoughts, I believe that the true shortness of life is simply a relation to our individual perspectives on life. And that perspective changes in ways that don’t have anything to do with the ticking of the clock. In my life, I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes on three separate occasions. You know that slow-motion moment where life completely stops and reminds you of all that you’ve done and everywhere you’ve been just as you resign yourself to the idea that you’re seriously about to die?
Or maybe, if you’re fortunate, you haven’t actually experienced one of those crazy, life-changing moments yet. They can be terrifying. But even so, there’s also a certain peace to it, even in that split second moment when all you can think is, “Oh &#+$. This is it.”
Once that moment passes you by, it makes you think about how much your life has changed since the days when you were a kid, about all of the choices that you’ve made, and those that life made for you. It’s about perspective. There are the choices you can see in the rear-view that led you along different paths than the child in you ever expected you to take. And there are the days that surprise you as you wonder how did I get here and what in the world am I doing?
So just what does all of this have to do with a book…? I’ll explain…
I’ve really been slacking on my review writing lately. There’s no doubt about that. But what’s really bad about that is that I’ve really been finding out just how small the world is these days…
Though people don’t really seem to like leaving comments on here (hint hint), this site has led to me hearing from many different people across the country – including some of the authors that I’ve reviewed. So I do feel a different sense of responsibility now to do more to promote books and the authors who have put in so much work to create them…
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal was published in 2016 so it’s not exactly new, but it’s not that old either. But, in the time that’s gone by between publication and now, a lot has happened. You may have heard of the author, even if you don’t recognize her name. She became famous for writing her “Modern Love” essay through the New York Times that was written in the form of a dating profile for her husband, to assist him with the crazy possibility of him remarrying after her death. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and passed away ten days after the essay was published. But, as she rushed toward the end, she’d been worried more about his happiness going forward than she was about her own untimely death. Her number was only 51 by the way…
But it was the attitude she carried with her all the way to the end of her life that meant more than any number. Her perspective.
In the beginning notes of the book, Amy wrote this:
Existence is akin to a 300,000-hours-long game of whack-a-mole where the grand prize dangling in the back row is your inevitable death. But I’ll tell you what: On any given day, you sure can find a nice array of free, tasty samples at the grocery store
That’s the attitude of someone I really wish I knew.
At one point, this is the only comment written across 2 white pages:
Just look at us, all of us, quietly doing our thing and trying to matter. The earnestness is inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time.
And I completely agree. I’d like to believe that the fairy tale still exists if we’re not too scared – too cowardly – to pursue it. That the Cubs winning the World Series was far more than a sporting event. That we’re all capable of being the best versions of ourselves when tragedies strike around us. That we all just want to make a difference before the door closes behind us.
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is one of those books that you need to read. And re-read. Because in just few words, spread across a number of different subjects we can all relate to, it teaches us that we’re all more the same than we take time to realize. And that we’re far from being as complex as we like to think. We all want lives that are special, we all want to be loved, and we all want someone to pick us up when we trip over our own metaphorical feet. It’s not that complicated. But sometimes we need that kick in the back side to remind us to make the most of the small number of years we’re allowed to orbit around that sun. To remind us that when life flashes in front of our eyes, it moves fast, especially if we haven’t taken the time to fill it up with only the best. Though I’m okay if I don’t have any more of those flashes for a long time. If you do it right, life can be exciting enough without going to that extreme…