Someone asked me the other day, “What was the first personal growth book you ever read”?

You would think that it would pop straight to my mind in the same way I can recall the first personal growth workshop I ever did.

I couldn’t pin it down. I have read so many books, and so many of them have impacted me. The first one…..

“I am pretty sure it was Tuesday’s with Morrie” stumbled out of my mouth. “That isn’t really a personal growth or self help book though is it”? Came the reply.

“Well, maybe you should read it again”!

I’ve read more self help, personal growth, healing, mending, trauma healing, chakra, yoga, blah blah books than is probably legal in most countries.

If you ask me have I read it, it is likely I am going to say yes. Or at the very least have heard of it, and at the very very least, will eventually find my way to it.

My side table beside my bed is piled high with books.

I like to have them there in the even that osmosis is actually a thing when it comes to taking the content of the books and filtering in to my little brain.

Each morning, I read something inspiring and each night before I sleep, I do the same. I consider it fertiliser for my mind. And god knows I need some healthy fertiliser in there!

I very seldom read fiction books these days. Mostly because I had considered it a bit of a waste of my time. It felt too ‘escapey” for me. Like I needed to be always ‘on’ so to speak. Always seeking. Because yeah, I am a seeker.

And then, Liz Gilbert finished her book.

I follow Liz on social media, along with many of her soul sisters who also feel like my people and so, I have been following the progress of the creation of her most recent book.

Initially when she announced that she was writing a book, I was so chuffed. It’s that delicious feeling like your favourite series being uploaded to Netflix to binge on.

And then when she said what the premise of the story would be, I gotta say, I was deflated.

A post war romp, about showgirls and costumes and back street theatre productions.

None of those concepts did much for me. At all. I felt let down a little. This isn’t the stuff I love to read of Liz’s. I love her candid almost oversharing writing that seems to find a way straight to places in my heart that allow me to exhale. Feel in some way seen, or felt. Or something.

Despite my love of Liz’s writing, my obsession with what she had to say about pretty much anything, I wondered if I would be drawn to read it when it was out in the world.

Mid way through Liz writing her new book, life did what life can sometimes do. The curve ball was so sharp, that I saw it hit Liz right in the chest bone, and heard a sharp crack as it hit. I imagined her breath being taken away so intensely that I wondered if she’d be able to fully breath again.

It’s not for me to talk about the journey she went on, but you can go find it for yourself in all manner of places (this might be my fave place to listen). Ironically, or note, Liz is an open book. She openly admits that she shares her life a little like one of those T shirt cannons you see at events, launching t shirts out into the crowd. Boom. Boom. Boom.

With Liz there are no secrets. Maybe that’s why I feel it’s okay to call her Liz and not Elizabeth. Maybe we all feel like we know her. And not in a celebrity gossip column kind of way, but a human to human kind of way.

Last week, when I was out with one of my daughters I said to her, “we have to go to the bookstore. I have to buy City of Girls”.

Maybe it was all the promotions. Maybe the marketing had gotten to me. Maybe it was a bit of FOMO seeing others who had been ‘first’ to read it. Perhaps I just wanted to be a part of the clan. Whatever the reason, I had to get it.

5 days later I was reading the acknowledgements at the end.

You won’t find this book in the self help or personal growth section of the books store, but it is. Self help isn’t reading content that is designed to ‘fix’ us. That isn’t self help, that is self harm for me.

Self help should be more about providing mirrors for us to see ourselves. Our humanity. To see our flaws through the lens of compassion and humanity. And mercy. Self help offers us breadcrumbs on the path back to ourselves. Our true selves. The unbullshitted and tainted views of ourselves.

City of Girls, like Tuesdays with Morrie is a book of what it is to truly be yourself in a world that has so many opinions about what your self should look like. Be like.

We are reminded that all of us are made up of dark and light and what we do with our own judgements of both, will determine our joy, our pain, our suffering.

This is a book about forgiveness, of compassion and of the celebration of all things human. Messy, complicated, painful, false and free.

It’s about the stories we make up about ourselves and others, and our reluctance to really examine if any of it is true.

It’s self help, because by really engaging with the folks we journey with, we are shown a way through this pain through the deliverance of mercy. That helps.

Liz has catapulted herself out into the world as again via a t-shirt gun through this book, City of Girls and any of us lucky enough to have the privilege of seeing her and feeling her are so much better for it.

We see Liz via the eyes of Vivian.

Vivvie, you will always have a special place in my heart and when things get tough, because they always will, I’ll try to look through the lens of your eye. Things will happen to us in this tough world, and it means nothing. You are still loveable in your flawed ways. “The world”, as dear Frank would say – “ain’t straight”.

Things will happen to all of us the are out of our control. Horrible and horrendous things. No one gets through this life without the experience of pain, of sadness, of loss. It’s what we all share.

Life happens to all of us. By god it does.

Mercy fellow humans. Mercy!

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