Catastrophe Memoirs

Gretchen Rubin in her book The Happiness Project dedicated August to Eternity:  contemplating the heavens by reading memoirs of catastrophe.

She suggests we go to the library and check out a selection of books about people grappling with any kind of catastrophe such as :

  • Serious illness:
  • Death:
  • Divorce:
  • Paralysis:
  • Addiction:

The hope is that it will be possible to benefit from the knowledge that these people had won with so much pain, without undergoing the same ordeals. There are some kinds of profound wisdom that you hope never to gain from your own experience. As a consequence of reading these accounts we should find ourselves with a greatly heightened appreciation for an ordinary existence. It should remind us that while everyday life seems so permanent and unshakable it can be destroyed by a single phone call. Reading these accounts should give us a new and intense appreciation for our obedient bodies, for the simple ability to eat or walk or even pee in the usual fashion. Instead of feeling perpetually dissatisfied with things like our weight , we should delight in feeling vital, healthy, pain free and fear free. As we become more aware of the preciousness of ordinary life we will hopeful become overwhelmed by the desire to capture the moments that pass practically unnoticed.

Don’t feel wrong to be reassured by reading about these sorrowful events. The feeling of happy relief of recognising your good fortune for the moment is something most of these writers have sought to create. Over and over again they emphasize cherishing and appreciating ordinary life.

I will pop in with updates of recommendations for books as I read them. Please feel free to add yours in the comments. It would be very much appreciated.

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