2016 Reading List #38: Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

My dear friend and roommate Ryan gave me Tiny Beautiful Things for my graduation this May after having read it himself recently and loving it. That’s about as much knowledge as I had of the book before reading it (apart from what I know about Cheryl Strayed already), but I’m so incredibly glad I did.

Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of Strayed’s responses from her Dear Sugar advice column for The Rumpus, an online literary community. Though I tend to stay far away from books or websites that proclaim “lifestyle advice” (because I’m an adult woman and capable of deciding how to live my own damn life, thanks), Strayed’s advice in these columns is unbelievably wise and thoughtful.

The letters are heartbreaking, challenging, and incredibly deep. Each one is worth treasuring. Strayed never belittles her advice-seekers, but she also doesn’t hide from honest and difficult questions and answers. She takes on issues of infidelity, mourning, parenting, friendship, religion, and sexuality with equal parts bravery and compassion. I loved every word of it.

Tiny Beautiful Things will undeniably be a go-to gift I’ll share with friends and family in the future, and a book I imagine I’ll return to many times in life. If you’re looking for an idea of what this book includes, here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

“That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it.”

“Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits.”

“Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there.”

“Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things have befallen you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.”

“It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. And you’re going to bawl your head off doing it. But I promise you it will be okay. Your tears will be born of grief, but also of relief. You will be better for them. They will make you harder, softer, cleaner, dirtier. Free. A glorious something else awaits.”

“Forgiveness doesn’t just sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up the hill. You have to say I am forgiven again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself.”

“We are here to build the house. It’s our work, our job, the most important gig of all: to make a place that belongs to us, a structure composed of our own moral code.”

“We live and have experiences and leave people we love and get left by them. People we thought would be with us forever aren’t and people we didn’t know would come into our lives do. Our work here is to keep faith with that, to put it in the box and wait. To trust that someday we will know what it means, so that when the ordinary miraculous is revealed to us we will be there…grateful for the smallest things.”

“Say thank you.”


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