Some months ago, I was in my usual (those days, anyway) 3:00AM position and state of mind: buried underneath my covers in darkness snuggling with my best friend, (those days) Kindle. My second best friend (those days) was vodka, but more on that, perhaps, another time. The Kindle had been loaned to me by my friend, Lindsey, who knew that I, like many others, was out of work with too much time on my hands and trying to not lose my ever-loving mind. Reading helps. The Kindle she loaned me was already loaded with book titles - I mean, like hundreds - so, I was going to be good for awhile. One of my favorite things to do is judge a book by its cover. I know, I know. I can’t help it. If the cover has boats, trees, or an animal on it, or is drenched in natural, preferably nautical colors, I’m in! I don’t even need to know the storyline. I’m in. Well, Kindle doesn’t offer that, so I’ve actually learned that I love reading a book by going in completely blind - no preconceived notions, no warnings. It turns out that one thing I’ve believed my whole life has turned out to be untrue: I don’t hate mysteries and thrillers. Who knew? Who also knew that through this process I would find out that Jessica Simpson is one of my favorite people on Earth? Stay with me, now. Actually, let me back up for a minute.
I’d been out of work for what felt like forever (but actually ended up being just over a year). My former employer was one of those big box retail stores - one that’s frequented heavily, and with my history of severe asthma, my doctor recommended a leave of absence to stay away from the general public for awhile. Not knowing how long “for awhile” was going to go on, I worked on trying to get my small home business off the ground, and that proved to be stressful. It turned out “for awhile” meant holy-crap-we-have-now-passed-the-one-year-mark. I never thought myself to be a super social person, but it turns out, I need people around me. I was born under the sign of Cancer, and I guess that profile fits me because while I like people, I want to keep them at an emotionally safe distance. The physically safe distance, though, caused a little bit of a panic that started as just a slow simmer inside of me, but became too close to the boiling point for comfort. So what that I couldn’t spend a spa day relaxing alone but with the company of nearby people? So what that we couldn’t go to a MLB game? So what that the bars and nightclubs were closed? Right? So, what? So, we became more and more isolated from each other, which only enhanced the ridiculous political climate that has surrounded us since the beginning of the pandemic. So, we needed the distraction of entertainment. So, we needed to have the common grounds that had been taken from us. That’s so what. I do digress, but I just wanted to make the point, that I, like millions of people around the world, felt really low for a long time.
Back to Miss Simpson. I’d never been a Jessica Simpson fan, but nor had I ever been a hater. I actually liked her in Dukes of Hazzard, and, back in the day, enjoyed an episode or two of Newlyweds. The girl is funny. But, never being into pop, I’m not familiar with her music. That night several months ago, as I attempted to disappear (literally, if only I could) into my Kindle library where her newly released memoir, Open Book waited patiently for me, I met Jessica. I’m going to have to fight the desire here to make this a raving review for the book. It honestly was exceptional, but I’m hoping to drive a different point home. I found a kinship with Jessica through the story of her life. There were many similarities to our upbringings. We were both firstborn daughters, born in July, with younger sisters born the same amount of years later. We both were raised Baptist, and still to this day carry those traditions in our hearts, but more importantly, we both are passionate in our love for the Lord. We’ve both found ourselves, throughout our lives, struggling to find our places in the world - in a world that is so temporary and fleeting and fickle. Like me, she is a writer. So much of her music was born from entries in journals she kept throughout her life. I used to be a journal keeper. I stopped ten years ago, for reasons that are only now obvious to me, but I had always found it helpful, therapeutic. As I watched her beautiful and painful story unfold, it was clear to me the impact her writing had on actually saving her life. I’d been feeling like I was drowning. No, actually, I take that back. I’d been feeling like I was sinking in the muck and mire at the bottom of the sea - beyond drowning. Jessica struck a chord in me. It was as if she was saying, directly to me, “Girl. Pick up that pen, and write it down.” So, I did. Whether it was the actual words I was writing, or the act alone of writing, or if it was something else altogether, I really don’t know, but something began to happen. It was tiny, but I could feel it. The following morning, I was texting with a friend who was concerned about me. He advised me to write these words you are reading right now. “It might help someone else who’s feeling the same way,” he said. “Do it for me.”
I’m not feeling 100% better today, but I’d honestly say 45%! And that’s something, right? My feelings of purposelessness and despair are only nagging thoughts in the background now instead of being everything to me. What is the answer, then? I think it’s that we have to almost force ourselves to do those things that we know can help us dig out. Oftentimes, I know, we lose the desire to even free ourselves, but I made myself write when I really didn’t feel like it. What is it, for you, that can help break you out of your prison? Have you seen the video of the speech, “Make Your Bed” by Admiral William McRaven? It’s a beautiful and eloquent commencement address that boils down to a simple task: Make your bed. It sounds like an oversimplification, but truly, things are so much more simple than we want to believe. You should watch the 6-minute video of his speech here:
The other thing I hope you take away from this is the importance of people. I’ve always been a loner, so it’s hard for me to accept my need for others, but we all have that need. Look at the line of people it took to get me just 45% better. Lindsey loaned me the Kindle, and has since told me to keep it as a gift! Thank you, Lindsey! That led me to Jessica’s book - thank you, Jessica! A good friend urged me to share this message with you - thank you, Kenn! This little story may have made even one of you feel a tad bit better today, and that thought alone makes my heart sing. And just like that, I found myself at about 60% - thank you, Lord.
Today, the number continues to rise. Last week, I landed a great job with some really good people, and I start next week. There is some trepidation for this girl born under the sign of Cancer. Transitions are challenging, even when transitioning into something better. There will be less time to myself, which actually may be better, too, because there is such a thing as too much reflection. I won’t have the opportunity to spend as much time with my friend, Kindle, as I had before, but I plan to make the time because guess whose new essay book just came out! That’s right, my friend Jessica Simpson’s. It’s called Take the Lead, and that’s just what I plan to do.