I don’t read self-help books although I have done in the past, when I was young and far less cynical. I loathe positive thinking. I think it’s at best delusional, and at worst severely damaging. The early part of this year was pretty fucking tough for me. An endurance. At work one day I picked up the Burkeman book, intrigued by the subtitle “Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking”, and had a flick through. It looked actually useful, and I surprised myself by buying it. To be honest, initially I was most struck by the notion of stoicism and the acceptance of negativity. It fitted with where I was in life, and I took some comfort from what I read. I tried to use it to help me get through each day. As the situation around me improved and I was able to start thinking about getting back to writing, the parts about failure chimed loudly with me. I hope to be able to utilise some of the things I’ve learnt very soon.
Those of you who know me will be aware I usually wear a skull in some form – jewellery or clothing or a scarf etcetera. My love of skulls began when working at The Museum of Mankind. There was an amazing Mexican Day of the Dead exhibition which I adored. The acceptance of death seems the most sensible thing we can do in order to appreciate life, yet it’s hard to find the balance between awareness and fear. So often we blank it out as much as possible so as not to frighten ourselves senseless. I wear skulls to remind myself I am mortal, and also, because they are so darn cute. Burkeman has an excellent chapter on death.
I feel like I need to refer back to The Antidote – as I read I highlighted pertinent sections and found I’d nearly highlighted the entire book. It’s a guidebook to life, and I highly recommend it.