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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday Book Blog with Liz

I’ve been pretty stressed out this week. I sent off two new proposals recently, which means I’m out of contract on both types of books I write. In other words, I’m officially without a job until I have another offer, and there’s no guarantee anyone will hire me, particularly at the wage I need to support my family. That makes me a tad edgy.

I’m also working on revisions for another book, which is kind of like tearing down a room you spent months building and decorating in a way you thought would be gorgeous, but you’ve suddenly discovered the foundation isn’t sound, and the colors don’t match, so now you have to go make repairs on something you thought was done. That makes me a little frustrated.

Clearly, it’s time to light the lavender-scented candles, brew a cup of Tension-Tamer tea, and break out THE TAO OF POOH.

I discovered this book in college through a professor’s recommendation and still have my original copy. The pages are yellowed and warped, there’s a big water stain on the title page and a coffee ring on the back cover. Clearly, I’ve read it A LOT. It’s a sweet, wonderful little book that can be read in an evening, and it never fails to ease my worries, at least for a little while.

It’s hard to reduce Taoism to brief enough terms for this blog, but as described in my DICTIONARY OF PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION (yes, I have one), the Taoist “conquers by quietism, letting go, standing in harmony with nature.” The philosophy encourages people to live in and work with the world as it IS, without trying to change it. To go with the flow. To be happy simply by virtue of waking up every morning and drawing breath.

To author Benjamin Hoff, nowhere is this philosophy better illustrated than it is in A. A. Milne’s much loved Bear of Little Brain. As the back cover of THE TAO OF POOH states: “While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just IS.” Through a fictional dialogue between himself and Pooh Bear (with other characters from the Hundred Acre Wood wandering into the conversation here and there to further make his point), Hoff shows us that Pooh is happy because he goes through life without questioning or having expectations or trying to effect change to suit his needs. He finds contentment through the simple experiences that surround him everyday, is happy just to be in the Hundred Acre Woods with his loved ones.

It should be obvious that that's what makes a life complete, but sometimes I forget that. Writers aren’t usually viewed as workaholic control freaks, but I’d wager that the vast majority of us are exactly that. The need to control, I think, is part of what drives us to write. We can’t change our reality and the people around us, so hey, we’ll just create a world and people we CAN make do what we want. That’s all well and good for writing books. But when it comes to real life, we need some reminders that we can’t be responsible for everything, we can’t change the world to suit our needs, and we have to make the best of what our real world is.

THE TAO OF POOH is my reminder that my world, with all its faults and inconveniences, has much to love, and that there are experiences all around me that can bring contentment to my troubled mind. Listening to the wind in the trees. Feeling the thrum of a cat’s purr as I rub her under her chin. Snuggling with my husband and son on the couch. Hearing Dizzy Gillespie play “A Night in Tunisia.” Sipping a cup of Tension Tamer tea surrounded by the scent of lavender candles. It's my reminder that, even if I never write another word that pays a bill, I’ll still be surrounded by the most important things in life.

So who else has read THE TAO OF POOH and wants to weigh in? Do you have a book you turn to in times of turmoil that you know will make you feel better? What kinds of things do you do when you fear you’re nearing the end of your rope?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 9:13 AM