Other than seeing (and loving) the movie Wild, I haven’t heard much about Cheryl Strayed but after reading this, I’m officially a fan of this incredible woman. She used to write (I’m fairly certain she doesn’t do them anymore) an advice column online and the book is a collection of those pieces. Try to ignore the terrible subtitle (“Advice on Love and Life”) because it’s about so much more than that. Best parts ahead.
One of the quotes on the inside cover is a tiny bit cringe-y, yes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great: “Inhabit the beauty that lives in your beastly body and strive to see the beauty in all the other beasts.“
“I happen to believe that America is dying of loneliness, that we, as a people, have bought into the false dream of convenience, and turned away from a deep engagement with our internal lives.”
“Compassion isn’t about solutions. It’s about giving all the love that you’ve got.”
“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life.”
The end of the commencement speech she gives, “I hope you will be surprised and knowing at once. I hope you’ll always have love. I hope you’ll have days of ease and a good sense of humor. I hope when people ask what you’re going to do with your English and/or creative writing degree you’ll say: Continue my bookish examination of the contradictions and complexities of human motivation and desire; or maybe just: Carry it with me, as I do everything that matters. And then smile very serenely until they say, Oh.”
“What if you allowed your God to exist in the simple words of compassion others offer to you? What if faith is the way it feels to lay your hand on your daughter’s sacred body? What if the greatest beauty of the day is the shaft of sunlight through your window? What if the worst thing happened and you rose anyway? What if you trusted in the human scale?”
“The real work of deep grief is making a home there.”
In truth, this didn’t seem like the sort of book that I’d normally be interested in reading. My friend Irene gave it to me specifically because she thought it looked like something I’d enjoy. Not only is that a lovely thought for a friend to have, but it’s so great when a prediction like that is totally right.