Happiness + a Memoir

• 30 April 2012

A few nights ago, as I sauteed a melange of vegetables in a bath of coconut milk (as I believe Stephanie has done in her own home), I thought about the two hours of reading I'd snuck in earlier that day.  Reading that involved Nie Nie's new book, Heaven Is Here.  Instead of playing email catch-up, writing, editing images, photographing, cooking, baking or a myriad of other things, I dropped everything because quite honestly, I couldn't put down her book.  I found it addictive, in the most positive sense.  It's been a long time since I allowed reading to trump productivity (although reading has always been a love of mine), but I felt like the words written on those pages were changing my life in a subtle and sincere way.  And I couldn't stop thinking about how personal she was and how grateful I was for that openness.

You see, Stephanie probably knows more about true happiness than most of us.  Not just because she's found happiness in her new found circumstances, but also because she was a happy, grateful person before her accident. There was a firm foundation in play before her life so drastically changed--one based on love, conviction and personal spirituality.  This memoir is a vivid reminder that although our trials change us (whether inside or out...or both), we are ultimately still the same person inside...just a lot stronger.  Sometimes it's hard to find ourselves again, amidst drastically different circumstances, but it is possible.

I bet that most of think about the subject of happiness a lot.  How to have it...what it feels like...when it will come...and where it comes from.  What Stephanie teaches us, page by page, chapter by chapter, is that happiness is a personal choice.  Like many of you, I've been reading Stephanie's blog for years; and the words she's written there have changed me for the better.  But let me tell you, this book delved far deeper into her story and I cannot help but feel that a memoir this personal is an absolute treasure that we can divide amongst ourselves; and moreover, it's a beautiful, beautiful love story. 

In college, my book club read Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner.  It remains one of my all-time favorite books, not because of action-packed pages (of which it has none), but because of the subtle nuances and life lessons woven into the story.  The beauty of reading Crossing to Safety is that everyone who reads it receives a different impression; as if each person learns what they personally need at that time in their lives.  I imagine Steph's book to be the same.  Each of us will learn a different, but very important lesson.  One that will shape us into a lovelier person--on the onside where it really counts.

p.s.  I chuckle every time I think about Stephanie's shirt-on-backwards-in-the-desert moment.  Read it and you'll know what I mean :)

image 1 - book cover  /  image 2 - Meikel Reece via Alice Lane  /  image 3 - favorite from Nie's archives


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