I recently finished the book A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. So good! It made me laugh and cry. It's a heartwarming story about an old curmudgeon and how despite himself he ends up building this beautiful hodgepodge of a family when he needs it most. I can't say enough good things about it. Did you like the movie Up? Then you will love this book! It's also an easy read without feeling like an empty read.
To me, you know when you have read a good book when you shut the book and can't immediately re-engage with life. You need a moment at the end of a good book. To soak it all in. To be grateful and proud that you read it. To grieve that is over. To process in some way. Whatever that way may be. If the book had a challenging ending, maybe it is a moment to feel angry or frustrated by the ending. Whatever the case, a book that you set down and immediately forget and re-engage with life is a book that was a waste of your time. At least, in my opinion.
When I finished this book, my moment was spent being happy that I had taken the time to read this book and get to know Ove and his friends.
Is this a great work of fiction? No, but it is a fantastic story. And aren't fantastic stories what make the world go round?
A few Wednesdays ago I had new flooring installed in parts of my apartment. It was a very exciting event that had a surprising amount of bad side effects.
Bad Side Effect 1:
Due to the layout of my apartment, there was no place to put el gato that would be out of the way of the workers. I decided to put him in kitty day care for the day. Let the record show that I find the very idea of kitty day care to be ridiculous, but I was desperate. As is his custom, Vronsky cried the entire way to the kitty day care center. He spent approximately 8 hours there. This is the same amount of time that he spent at the vet when he was altered. I'm not joking when I say that if given the option, I am fairly certain he would pick being altered again over kitty day care. I have never seen him so upset. I had to go back into the cat containment center myself to get him back in his crate because he was swatting and hissing at the employee. Of my cats many faults, hissing and swatting out of anger or fear towards humans is not one of them. Ever. It took me and a handful of treats 5 minutes to coax him one foot forward. He refused to even eat the treats. In the end, I had to grab him, turn his crate vertically and just drop him into it. He was so beside himself. The ride home was silent. Not a cry. A whine. An accusatory meow. Nothing. Absolute silence. We got home where he became even more put out over the new flooring. I awoke not to his usual ruckus, but rather him glowering at me from the top of his tower. It took two days for him to recover.
Bad side effect 2:
Apparently the workers did not see fit to cover my stuff before beginning their work, so I came home to my entire apartment covered in a thick layer of dust. I am allergic to dust so this was not ideal. I ran to Target to stock up on cleaning supplies. This led directly to bad side effect number 3...
Bad side effect 3:
STRANGER DANGER AT TARGET. I went into Target to stock up on cleaning supplies. This went exceedingly well. I walked out to my car ecstatic with how the whole trip had gone. I got into my car and immediately realized that I had forgotten a key item on my list. I turned and went back into Target, picked up my item, and then decided that I should just wander the aisles a bit. As I was walking along, I crossed paths with a young-ish (Teens? Twenties?) man with a fairly severe staring problem. I thought he was creepy but we were going opposite directions, so I didn't worry about it too much. I am in desperate need of a new vacuum, so I stopped in the vacuum section to examine the available selection and look for deals. I was extremely absorbed in this task and therefore extremely caught off guard when there was nearby movement in my peripheral vision. I looked up and not two feet from me was the young man intensely watching me. For how long had he been standing there watching me as intently as I was studying vacuums??? I have never ran to the checkout at Target so fast in my life. I have also never been happier to have men in the checkout line behind me. I had already decided that if the creeper showed up to stare at me while I was standing in the checkout line, I was going to make friends fast with one of the non-staring males in line with me. Yes, the stranger danger from Stare-y McStareson was SO aggressively creepy that I would gladly encounter more stranger danger to put a barrier between him and me.
Also, I think it is worth mentioning that the Mr. Creeperton was wearing a red shirt. I am beginning to believe that there are a bunch of sick men that purposely wear red shirts to Target in hopes of creating opportunities to harass women. At least at Wal-Mart you go in expecting the worst. If you are caught off guard by stranger danger at Wal-Mart, that's on you. You should know better. Target, on the other hand, lulls you into a false sense of security through cleanliness and great style. When I walk into Wal-Mart I think to myself, "please don't anyone accidentally brush against me and transmit a disease." I assume that I am taking my life into my hands. When I walk into a Target, I am more concerned that I will end up spending 3 times the amount that I planned to spend. I am not worried about flesh-eating bacteria or serial killers at Target. And that's why the creeprs at Target get me. I'm not prepared. You would think I would learn, but then I walk into a Target and see the $1 spot and cute clothes and a Starbucks and all the well-lit pretty aisles inviting me to wander them and all my cares and worries just slip away.
Despite these bad side effects, I am super pleased to have vinyl instead of carpet in my dining room area. So much easier to keep nice! And, I got the carpet in my bedroom and living room cleaned (which came with its own list of good and bad side effects, but that's for later). If I would actually do laundry and dishes, my apartment would be looking super nice right now.
One of my goals for this year was to eat no fast food in February. I so almost totally and completely rocked this goal. I ate fast food only twice. Sadly, that is a pretty big cutback for me. I wondered if this would spark some big change in my diet, but any changes were short-lived.
Now here I am in August feeling woefully heavier than I ever have before an it is majorly bumming me out. Bumming me out to call for another ban on fast food? Maybe. The thought has certainly crossed my mind more than once.
Realistically, while health should always be a priority, my eating habits aren't at the top of my list right now. On the other hand, there is zero budget for buying bigger clothes either. So there's that.
This isn't a post for goals or habits or sweeping changes. I just don't have the energy for more of those right now. Accomplishing this goal raised my awareness in regards to my eating habits...and that will have to be enough for now.
A couple of months ago I finished the book Better Than Before, Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. I really enjoyed it. Ms. Rubin is just honest and self-deprecating enough to keep her personal takes on her research from coming off as preachy or condescending. I will admit that she walks a fine line in this area at times.
Her chapter on safeguards where she talks about how we handle our stumbles: "Instead of viewing our stumbles as evidence that we're weak or undisciplined or lazy, we can see our stumbles as part of the habit-formation process."
The whole section on Desire, Ease, and Excuses that goes over all of the different ways we might sabotage our habit-forming efforts. This section knew my life!
Ms. Rubin very specifically prefaces her advice and research with the note that the point of this book is not to highlight what habits are good or bad. Rather, the focus of this book was forming habits that work for you as an individual and in her section on clarity she points out that we can identify what are bad habits for us by looking at any habits we try to conceal.
Also on the subject of clarity, "red-herring habits" or habits that we say we want to develop, but actually don't. In her words, "they allow us to fool ourselves about our actual intentions."
This is a book that I see myself picking up again as I try to build better habits. Have you read it? What did you think?