Sometimes, the soul just needs some silence and sunshine.
I had a hectic morning, running around cleaning the house, trying to get everything in order. My mind was swirling with to do lists and what was coming up this week.
But then, I saw the sunshine gleaming in the clouds. I saw the lounge chair on my deck calling my name, saw the Ruta Septys book on my counter begging to be read.
So I gave in.
I put down the towels that weren't folded, ignored the clutter on the counter. I ambled by the tumbleweed of cat hair on the floor that needed picked up. I went straight to the deck.
We live in the borough, so usually the neighborhood is filled with screaming children, cars, and the sounds of life.
Not this morning.
The only sound accompanying me was the sound of the birds, the silent whisper of the wind.
Twenty minutes with just myself, the sunshine, and the silence, and I started to relax. The stress of the week, the constant pang of guilt about things left unfinished...it melted away.
There's something about sunshine, about silence, about sitting outside that calms us. Sometimes, we just need to put down the work, leave some things unfinished, and take care of our self.
My house may be a little dusty this week. My to do list isn't quite finished. But it's been worth it. I'm looking at the week after my morning of relaxation, and I'm thinking, "I can do this. Bring it on."
Sunshine and silence...sometimes these are the things the soul needs.
The Modern Woman: Selfless Giving and Unappreciated Living
Maybe it's you.
Maybe it's your mom.
Maybe it's your best friend.
Maybe it's the woman in front of you in the grocery store.
We all know that modern woman who gives until she's worn out, frizzy-haired, and exhausted.
I would argue that we are all that woman to some degree.
We give to our families, cooking and cleaning after a long day at work.
We give to our children, clothes, support, time, and love.
We give to our students, answers, encouragement, exciting opportunities.
We give to our friends, our cashier at the checkout, our dentist, our doctor, our mailman...a smile, a friendly hello, a conversation when we're just feeling like basking in silence.
From the time we're little, we're taught to be caregivers and empathetic thinkers. We're taught to help and give. In the modern generation, though, we've also been taught to succeed and accomplish.
Combine the will to achieve with the instinctual desire to give, and what do you get?
A lot of tired, exhausted women.
What do those tired, exhausted women get in exchange, though?
The Desire to Be Appreciated
Don't get me wrong. This isn't a pity post. This isn't a "women are underrated" or "women are undervalued" post.
For many of us, we devote our lives to achieving and giving simultaneously because it's what makes us happy. It's what helps us find our place in this world. There's nothing wrong with that.
However, there is a slight problem with this lifestyle--the need for appreciation.
We all feel it from time to time. It creeps in when we least expect it.
The snotty remark from a child. The eye roll from a friend who thinks your job is easy. The complaint from the husband that the laundry is behind.
It's human nature: people only recognize what we haven't done, not what we do.
This, however, can be frustrating for the modern woman wearing her Wonder Woman Cape and trying to do it all.
It's one thing to put your own needs and desires on hold to be successful and help others.
It's another when someone doesn't even notice all of the work you're putting into everyone around you.
As humans, we crave appreciation from time to time. We need to know we're recognized, even if it's just a smile or a thank you. We can't all get Oscars or Nobel Peace Prizes after all.
Too often in our society, though, appreciation is a hard thing to grasp. We live in a "give me more" society. Appreciation, especially for others, can be hard to muster up.
Finding Your Own Appreciation: An Emerson Viewpoint
So what do we do?
Stop being giving? Stop devoting ourselves to our careers, our children, our families, and everyone in between?
I mean, it sounds appealing sometimes, but I like Netflix, chocolate, and shoe shopping too much to go out in the woods and hide in a tree house in solitude.
The answer, I think, comes from Emerson.
We must learn to listen to our own heartstrings. We must learn to appreciate what we need, what makes us happy. We must value ourselves for who we are, good and bad, shortcomings and all.
We must learn to look to ourselves for approval, for satisfaction, for happiness. We must learn to give ourselves a pat on the back from time to time, to recognize ourselves, to appreciate our own feats.
We also must take time to do what we want to do, to soothe our own souls. We must stop worrying so much about what society deems is a successful role for women. We must sometimes stop worrying what everyone around us needs. We must find our own sense of place, sense of satisfaction. It is only by appreciating and valuing our selves we can find that in others.
This week, students wrote tributes to the people who impacted them the most. I was floored by one student's response.
He wrote a tribute to himself.
He wrote that at the end of it all, good or bad, he was the one who dictated his life path. He was the one who took the most pride in his successes and hurt the most from his failures. He wrote that he has important people in his life who have helped him along the way. At the end of it, though, he must be his own biggest support.
I thought it was genius. Many in society would deem this viewpoint selfish. I loved it, though.
How many times do we really stop to be our own support system?
How many times do we stop to celebrate our successes and our talents?
There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness, true.
But from time to time, we need to stop and appreciate our own worth, our own contributions to this world.
We must find a sense of appreciation in our own soul for ourselves. Otherwise, all of our successes, accomplishments, and devotion to others is pointless. If we are not living from a place that satisfies our own being, then we are not truly living the life we are meant to.
“What do you write?”
“Contemporary romance and women’s fiction.”
“Oh, I see.”
I never realized there was a stigma with “chick books” until I started writing them. For me, I’ve always been a fan of women’s fiction/chick lit/any other genre for women. From Debbie Macomber to Liane Moriarty to Jojo Moyes, many of my favorite writers pen books in this sometimes loosely defined genre. Looking at my book list, many of my favorites could be labeled as chick books.
Once I published my first two “chick books,” though, I quickly realized people do not always understand or appreciate the genre. There is a misconception that a chick book cannot hold the weight of a “real literary” piece. There are labels such as “mindless” or “light reading” thrown around in the genre, all of which are far from the truth.
Misconceptions About Chick Lit
1. Everyone gets a happily ever after.
2. There are a lot of women being “saved” by men.
3. The only decisions grappled with are what man is hotter, what makeup is better, and which outfit to buy.
4. It’s all about sex.
5. They are glorified soap operas in writing.
Chick books are often treated like the drugstore beauty brand of lipstick standing beside the designer brand. They are looked down upon…but why?
As both an avid reader and writer in the genre, I’ve come to realize the misconceptions sometimes stem from a lack of reading of modern books in the genre. Despite their reputation, chick books cover the same depth of issues as any other genre.
Realities About Chick Lit
1. Many chick books deal with heavy issues like suicide, loyalty, identity, self-realization, infertility, marriage, monogamy, death, and loss. Not everyone gets the rosy, rainbow ending. There is often a lot of drama, even if things do eventually turn out okay.
2. There are also strong women in chick books. Jojo Moyes writes about a lot of strong female characters, as does Janet Evanovich. Louisa Clark from Me Before You does not strike me as a weak woman needing saving. She’s bold, sassy, and perhaps the stronger character in the book.
3. Sure, there may be discussions of hot men and makeup, but there are so many other issues grappled with in chick books. Modern chick books deal with the tension of opposites women face—how do you balance the call of motherhood and domestic life with the desire for a career and other successes? How do you find who you really are when society is always trying to tell you who you should be?
Chick books go beyond the obvious “girly” topics and delve into situations and choices that real women face. My favorite chick book, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, deals with memory loss but also the main character’s identity crisis. What happens when you wake up in the middle of your life and don’t recognize who you’ve become? What happens when you realize your life isn’t what you want?
4. Chick books often focus on the emotional development of characters and relationships. In my own writing, any sex scenes are closed door scenes and few and far between. My focus is on the magic of the development of the relationship—the first look, the first kiss, the first argument.
Real love doesn’t become apparent during a rated R moment. It happens when a character opens her heart again after the tragic death of a husband. It happens when a woman regains her confidence and goes for hot chocolate after an ugly divorce has stripped her of her confidence. It happens when a character realizes a physical disability doesn’t have to prevent him or her from finding connections.
5. Okay, I’ll admit: I’m a fan of soap operas, so this misconception doesn’t bother me. Chick books, though, get this stigma of being cheesy, corny, and unrealistic. This is simply not true. I’ve read gut-wrenching chick books that speak to me at the core. I’ve read chick books about affairs and lying, about confusion and death. I’ve read chick books that speak to inner questions we as women often face. While in soap operas every woman gets a new man every few minutes, chick books are much more true to reality, where sometimes we find ourselves all alone.
Foundations of Chick Book Stigma
The stigma surrounding chick books (and chick flicks, for that matter) perhaps stems from the false, antiquated view that women only care about superficial, lighthearted issues. In a way, it stems from longstanding beliefs that a woman’s intellectual ability and, thus, life issues are inferior to the heaviness of issues in the other gender.
Certainly, we know this is not the case. I would argue that the modern woman is, in fact, facing more difficult identity issues than in the past. There is a constant battle between being the social acceptable child bearer and wife our culture values and the strong willed, “go get it,” achiever our culture also promotes. Somewhere in the crosshairs, many women find themselves confused about what they want out of life and who they should be. These issues are far from superficial, and chick books give these scenarios a platform to express themselves in combination with other conflicts presented in other genres.
Thus, in a society that has come to realize women are, in fact, an equal gender, I think it is important to re-evaluate our views of literary genres geared toward women.
Improving Views of Chick Lit
A part of the solution must stem from both the authors and readers of chick books. We must stop shying away from the genre and stop contributing to the falsities drowning out the value of these books. We must own our reading preferences and start seeing them in a positive light.
My newest book, Then Comes Love, will be classified as chick lit…and I couldn’t be prouder. Sure, there will still be some who squirm at the genre, who dismiss it to the doldrums of “mindless” literature.
But not me.
I’ve read enough life-changing chick books, books that speak to me as a woman, to know the beauty and value of the genre.
To give a woman the chance to find herself in a book, to see her own life issues mixed with a touch of humor and fun, is a truly beautiful thing. Literature is about creating connections. For me, I will continue to make those connections with fellow modern women who are able to juggle identity crises, love, and everything in between.
How about you? What are your favorite chick books?
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