For those of you who may be, for whatever reason, experiencing something like a pit of despair at the moment, I’d like to offer two things:
First, this thing I wrote on Medium called “Despair… and Its Cure.” The tl;dr is”
Grief, sadness, despair — this is the BAT SIGNAL of your emotional life. It is the beacon that calls for help. When you find yourself in the pit of despair, feeling helpless, like nothing you can do will make a difference, turn toward others, so that they can turn toward you.
And second, the books I turn to when I am myself, for whever reason, experiencing something like a pit of despair:
- Flowers from the Storm, Laura Kinsale. “The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant and dangerous. Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the ′D of J′ in scandal sheets, where he and his various exploits featured with frequency. But sometimes the most womanising rake can be irresistible, and even his most casual attentions fascinated the sheltered Maddy Timms, quiet daughter of a simple mathematician.”
- My Loving Vigil Keeping, Carla Kelly. “Della’s giving up all the comforts of bustling Salt Lake City to teach school in a rural coal mining camp. Little does she know, she may soon be giving up her heart as well. But when tragedy strikes in the Scofield Mine, Della’s life will be changed forever.”
- Morning Glory, LaVyrle Spencer. “On the eve of World War II, two people are brought together by fate and discover an unexpected passion. Will drifts into Whitney, Georgia, one lazy afternoon in the summer of 1941, dragging his lonely past behind him. All he asks is for a chance to love. Then he sees Elly’s classified ad for a husband, and when he steps across Elly’s cluttered yard, Will knows he has come home at last.”
- Untie My Heart, Judith Ivory. “Stuart Aysgarth, the new Viscount Mount Villiars, doesn’t know he’s playing with fire when he inadvertently runs afoul of Emma Hotchkiss. True, the exquisite Yorkshire lady is a mere sheep farmer, but she also guards a most colorful past that makes her only more appealing to the handsome, haunted lord. Emma has come to him seeking justice — and Stuart is determined that she will not leave until she has shared her secrets … and his bed. Her clever revenge scheme must fail in the face of his soft words and tender caress — and then he turns the tables on his bewitching adversary, seducing her into a daring deception of his own.”
Why these four? I wasn’t sure – they’re set in different eras, on different continents, with different kinds of heroines and heroines…until I thought about what these stories actually share. It’s this:
They are all stories about what it means to be a good man and a good woman. We find (and earn) deep, lasting love when we find (and earn) respect and compassion for ourselves. When we believe we are good and worthy.
And it turns out when I am, for whatever reason, in something like a pit of despair, that is the kind of story that taps into my reserves of hope and renews my belief in humanity.
You guys have “desperate measures” recommendations?