Writing a book is easier than trying to market it. Trust me. But I am enjoying the process.
Real Things: 6 Ways to Embrace Life
by Brigitte Cutshall
reviewed by Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW
“What’s the definition of focusing on the REAL THINGS? It doesn’t matter who you are with or what you’re doing – you will always find a deep inner beauty among things.”
A compact book of photographs, stories, and quotes, we begin by reading the introduction which focuses on how the author was influenced to write this book. It is then divided into six ways to embrace life with subsections into each chapter. These chapters include: 1) the best things in life aren’t things—such as reading, pets, sunsets, looking up to the sky or looking ahead, humor, and faith; 2) things that make you happy—including smiling, satisfaction, engagement, music, and volunteering; and 3) keeping things simple—like remembering why you started, making a plan, taking little steps, technology, moving, and meditating. Chapter 4) is about trying things that you fear—including testing your limits, being an expert, appreciation, consulting, exploring life, and trying alternatives; with chapter 5) discussing healthy food—including a few recipes; and chapter 6) recognizing important influences—such as coaches, families, and nice guys. It concludes with advice for young people and a small bibliography.
Part coffee table book and part autobiography, this is a quirky little book. The author, who has survived health issues including cancer, relates her views on embracing life as life is given to us. She writes, “We all have overcome obstacles in our own way,” and that the goal of this book is to “remind others about focusing on the real things….”
The most interesting articles are on engagement and volunteering. The engagement topic focuses on being productive and discusses our four needs that must be met: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, and also talks about Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive. In the section on volunteering, Cutshall discusses places to volunteer such as sports, schools, churches, music events, health services, environmental issues, animal welfare, and elderly services.
The colorful photos add a visual beauty to her writing, as well as to the quotations she uses from such persons as Helen Keller, Billy Joel, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Howard Cosell, and Stephen Hawking. While there are profound quotes, the funniest one is: “Might wake up early and go for a run. Might also win the lottery, the odds are about the same.” Who can’t relate to this?
The book is in part a healing for the author. Cutshall describes her positive nature, her struggles with cancer, the deaths of important persons in her life, her desire to write ever since her 3rd grade teacher encouraged it, the need to keep a journal and writing a blog, and her family. She discusses the real things that make her happy, including her family, cooking, her dogs, books, walking in the woods, and remembering to smile. Most of the writing relates to her growth, but can be utilized for readers who seek similar healing. The insights can be simplistic, such as “Anger is bad, let go of it” and her description of life, including the wonderfulness of families. While there are many other books in this genre, Real Things may be a nice find for those seeking something basic, which can be read by just opening the book to any page and finding ways to embrace their lives.