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(originally titled "The Queen of Book-It, Kitschy Buddhas, and the Solace of Phil Collins") 

積ん読 (hiragana つんどくromaji tsundoku)

  1. (informal) the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with such other unread books (Wiktionary)

(originally titled "The Queen of Book-It, Kitschy Buddhas, and the Solace of Phil Collins")

As a child, I was the Queen of Book-It. For those unfamiliar with this 80s phenomena to promote healthy reading consumption, the program gave kids coupons for free pizzas at Pizza Hut and a hologram button with gold stars upon reading a certain amount of books. Thus, I became the family cash cow for Friday dinners each month because I ate books like air. On the bus, while eating, before bed, in the bathroom, during recess.

I was also a spelling bee champion. I lost the classroom round that would have gone to the school competition by misspelling “flee” in the first grade simply because I was familiar with only one type of “flea”, which were the itchy parasites my cats got occasionally. I vowed afterward I would never lose another spelling bee. For the rest of the year, I was unrivaled; none of my classmates stood a chance, which resulted in sheer dejection or an outright temper tantrum.

As an adult with spell check, a feature that has rendered me useless of spelling even the most basic of words, my reading habit has turned into a career, except now, I get to write the books. That is how I make sense of committing to a thesis.

Early in my separation, I read everything I could find that was applicable to my situation, which was not much. There are virtually no books on how to move past infidelity without your cheating husband; indeed, it seems that most literature is dedicated to reinforcing your commitment to a unfaithful cad, neglecting the population that refuses to participate in that sort of arrangement or was ever really afforded that opportunity by said cheating cad in the first place (I straddled both categories). For the record, kudos to those who are dedicated to working on their marriages, but I think the self-help section overemphasizes this niche. 

I do not fit the precise mold of a victim of WAS (Wife Abandonment Syndrome) as my marriage nowhere near constituted “long-term."  Most literature is geared toward the mid-life, normal divorces where both individuals seem to at least be speaking terms with their respective estranged spouses, which I find intriguing. In the words of Nora Ephron, “Of course, there are good divorces, where everything is civil, even friendly. . . In my next life I must get one of those divorces.” The divorce literature geared for the twentyish/thirtyish age group prides itself on the term “starter marriage”, as if it is some tacky little structure that we played house in, which I find insulting, base, and reductive.

When I met with my astrologer, she urged me to stop reading and put down sharp objects, which included my pen and my mind. You need to feel, she pressed, integrating some jargon about suns, moons, and planets. You need to cry. Let it all out. Clearly I thought she was crazy because if she really read my stars, she would have known that me and books are like fish and water. 

She was actually a kind lady that was on to something. Because her insight was repeated by Therapist One, Therapist Two, Therapist Three, and Therapist Four. To clarify, I am a therapist’s dream patient. I arrive ten minutes late, bring notes, citation index cards, diagrams, and dreams that would make a Jungian psychoanalyst salivate.  I just want to be clear that my therapy whoring stems from insurance, relocating, and student status, not basket-case status. 

I lamented several weeks ago to Therapist Four that none of the books I heaped at her feet during our session contained the answers. The stack did not include the books contained in boxes I have yet to unpack or the files on my Kindle. I make a living off of asking questions, answering my own questions, answering someone else's question, then asking more questions from those answers. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps the tenure system alive and well. So to not find the answer infuriates me.  But books are not an answer key.  You cannot find the one text that succinctly describes what is behind Bluebeard’s door or in the recesses of your own mind; you have to see it for yourself. 

Here is a list of books I read during my separation and divorce which you may find helpful:

Runaway Husbands, by Vikki Stark, MSW This book was my bible and neatly lays out a meteorological healing progression in seven stages. Any woman who has experienced spousal abandonment and marital desertion should read and re-read this. 

Sudden Endings: Wife Rejection in Happy Marriages, by Madeline Bennett.  Not a particularly scientific and psychologically robust book, but Stark references it in Runaway Husbands. The book focuses on the anger and behavioral patterns of men who abruptly abandon their marriages, trying to offer some sort of explanation and solace to women who were given none.

Peaks and Valleys, by Spencer Johnson, MD. If you like Paolo Coelho and you like metaphors, you will like this short and quick read. Make the best of your valley. 

Wise Mind, Open Mind, by Ronald Alexander. Alexander promotes meditation and practicing tenets of Zen Buddhism to not only survive catastrophic or devastating life circumstances but to form a space for creativity where peace and solutions may be found. Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) is steeped in these principles, which make it an effective management tool. 

Your Best Life Now, by Joel Osteen.  I am analytical, not religious, but when you find yourself sleeping with a baseball bat and the legal system considers you about as expendable as your spouse, prayer serves as a realm where the spiritual meets the scientific. If you think positively, then positivity will come your way.  Osteen says its God. . . 

The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Anchor. . . . while Anchor says its neuroscience. 

Mating In Captivity, by Esther Perel. This book was recommended by Vikki Stark when I contacted her requesting titles to deal with infidelity in the like-hell-this-marriage-is-going-to-work grain. When I started reading the book, I frankly thought she was on crack because it focuses on intimacy issues in couples. My ex-husband is a clinical sociopath, so his infidelity relates little to actual intimacy issues and everything to being a biologically programmed tyrant.  Aside from that, the last thing I wanted to read about is connecting sexually to an intimate partner. However, I now find the title relevant and insightful in consideration of future relationships, particularly in regard to my attitudes and beliefs about sexuality. 

The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout.  Speaking of sociopaths, 4 per cent of the population is comprised of sociopaths, formerly known as psychopaths, now known as antisocial personality disorder. Stout describes the disorder and how even your Ned Flanders-esque neighbor can be a total psychopath while appearing completely normal. 

Love Fraud, 10 Signs You're Dating A Sociopath, by Donna Anderson ( Anderson’s book cleanly and accurately describes sociopaths and details their behaviors, characteristics, and mechanisms. Anderson herself is not a psychologist, but she does a marvelous job consulting with various experts in the field and also conducts her own survey via her website. Obviously, this is convenience sampling, but none the less, the results are chilling. While Stout’s book is more about general population sociopaths, Anderson tells you about the workings of the sociopath in your bed. Consider me having slept with the enemy. This is also a must read for those attempting to date again.

Communion: The Female Search for Love, by Bell Hooks.  Hooks, a feminist scholar, describes how the feminist movement neglects the topic of love. She also describes and defines love, which is why I love this book about love and loving.

The Road Less Travelled, by M. Scott Peck: The drugstore classic.

How to Survive the Loss of Love, by Melba Colgrove, Harold Bloomfield, and Peter McWilliams. This classic book walks the reader through the grieving process in a gentle and compassionate way that is succinct with bullet points and poetry. Admittedly, I found the poetry more than a little corny, but that does not mean you should not find the inherent benefit of it. I just simply prefer. . . 

Rainer Maria Rilke, Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Rumi, Elizabeth Bishop, and the like. Plath contends dying is an art, "like everything else, I do it exceptionally well."  Bishop writes about one art. Angelou is quoted as saying life is a bitch and for girls to grab it by the lapels. Rilke and Rumi are just lovely. 

Why Him? Why Her?  and  The Anatomy of Love, by Helen Fisher.  Psychologists, medical doctors, and neurologists appear on this list, so why not throw in an anthropologist?

Never Good Enough, by Monica Basco, PhD.  I never considered myself a perfectionist until Therapist One recommended this book to gently reinforce the obvious that I am indeed a perfectionist and that the denial of perfectionism based on the argument that I am not perfect is proof enough. Divorce oriented? No. Psychological schema oriented? Yes. Because when your world cracks open, that is the best time to take a look inside and walk the rim of the volcano.  

The Journey from Abandonment to Healing, by Susan Anderson. This is actually quite an effective book, however, I did find the exercises where my Big was supposed to converse with my Little (read: adult psyche with my child psyche) to be a little hinky and uncomfortable. However, Anderson does a marvelous job of identifying symptoms of abandonment, thought processes, and healing techniques.

The Mini Marriage. This collaborative book is written by five women all divorced by the age of thirty who managed to remarry quickly, have a baby, or find a career change and live happily ever after. I personally do not give high praise for it, probably because it gives marriage a diminutive quality. But if you are young and looking for women with similar experiences to commiserate, it is a quick read at a discounted Kindle price.

He's Gone, You're Back, by Kerika Fields. Fields offers insights into finding your life after heartbreak and offers hands-on techniques, literally, with guides on masturbation, sensory therapy, music, TLC, etc. The book does not pack a punch of depth, but not everything has to be certified by a PhD and team of scholars.

Ex-Free: Nine Keys to Freedom After Heartbreak, by Troy Byer. A must read. I really cannot say more because I feel that strongly about it.   Seriously.  Buy.  It.  Now. 

Single, by Judy Ford, MSW.  The guide to living a fulfilled life as a single individual. Complete with hands on tips to combat loneliness and thrive. 

Who Are You and What Do You Want? Mick Ukleha, PhD and Robert Lorber, PhD.  Because divorce will leave you asking this question. Geared more to career enhancement and life development, but now is as good as time as ever to ask that simple and felicitous title that would make a PowerPoint presentation proud.

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. This is my inspiration for any difficult life period. “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand,” says Pausch, who challenges his audience to disagree by showing a slide of his tumors.

Dream New Dreams, by Jai Pausch, By Pausch’s widow, which chronicles her journey through grief and intricacies of care taking. 

Women Who Run With Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Exploring mythology, Estes reminds us there is a wild woman within who has been told to be silent all of these years.  With so many statistics, charts, annotations, citations, feed me fiction. Sometimes answers cannot be found in science or law, but in art. 

Speaking of fiction, are you sick of reading legal documents?  Self-help guides?  Non-fiction?  Get lost:

Rules for Virgins, by Amy Tan 

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin 

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilmore

A Room With a View, by EM Forster 

Butterfly, by Kathryn Harvey (guilty pleasure, revenge fantasy novel with gratuitous sex scenes)

The Queen of Book-It spells it out: The list was not done in order of significance. The list was comprised as a bread crumb trail out of the woods.  Sometimes we find release by lighting some incense and meditating on a kitschy Buddha. Sometimes we find solace listening to Phil Collins. Sometimes satisfaction is painting your ugly furniture Tiffany Blue. Sometimes happiness is dancing to Scissor Sisters with a couscous eating feline. Guilty as charged. But Simon and Garfunkel sang, "I have my books and my poetry to protect me" and there I reside. 

Sylvia Plath once said, “There must be quite a few things that a hot bath cannot cure, but I can’t think of many of them.” I feel the same way about tea and a good book.  Best wishes finding your room with a view, curling up in an arm chair with a blanket, steeping lavender, and getting lost between the lines as you take a journey within your journey. 

Summary, I highly recommend the following (now they are in a particular order): Women Who Run With Wolves, Ex-Free, Runaway Husbands, Love Fraud, How to Survive the Loss of Love, Single, Communion.

(originally posted by FavoriteJoans)

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