Book Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Inner peace is my ultimate goal, and I often go to libraries (though not often as I should) to find it. When I walked in, I asked the librarian to show me “the happiest book in the store.” My faux pas, I was not in a book store, thankfully. I get in some mighty big trouble in those places.

Located right in front of her was Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from Japanese. She said she hadn’t read it but her friend recently had and died laughing. I lived laughing from this book.

Ultimately it is a novel following the story of a thirty-something convenience store worker named Keiko Furukura, which I had originally thought was a memoir. It’s not always funny – it’s a strange, bitter-orange, flavorful in layers like a spice cake book. Sometimes it’s downright creepy with some moments that had me reeling. But it does have moments that burst with joy in their own way.

It was a totally unique and engaging story. I’m a slow reader and it took me about three hours to finish – the book is less than 200 pages, and it’s soaked with psychological detail there for the finding. The book reads as if a romance to a convenience store for empowering a woman to be herself, as she explicates herself as being apart from society in heartbreaking ways, even within the convenience store. There have been times when I’ve been afraid of being an outcast to the extreme of Keiko (though aside from the shared outcast moniker we share no similarities) and I haven’t found my convenience store yet.

The book is true to life and across cultures. In my limited experience in the world, the characters I’ve come across translate from the page to actual human beings I have met. Typically I enjoy books from other countries because I love seeing what’s the same and what’s different culturally, and I daresay there’s a lot in common with Japan and the Southern US Bible Belt culture from what I’ve found in this book.

I hope this book receives the exposure it deserves. It truly is a gem.

Being Well When We’re Ill: Round 1

I’ve had Being Well When We’re Ill, a Christian take on Chronic Illness by the theologian Marva J. Dawn for a week now. I was wary of it at first, as the first two chapters are rather dark, speaking to the soul of a downtrodden spoonie, and this I understand. I often cry out in writing to other chronically ill and disabled people in the hopes of touching someone else – and Marva does exactly that.

Marva herself has multiple illnesses and at times is a wheelchair user. Still, she does many wonderful things. She travels to speak at conferences, sings, teaches children, and still goes on missions trips! The book quickly becomes uplifting and a delight to read, while still staying doctrinally sound while never being preachy. The book is full of tenderness while explaining some basic tenets of Christianity, as if she is grabbing a long time Christian and slowly guiding them home to comfort, or bringing a new visitor in and seating them home on the couch.

There are many golden nuggets in this book and I’m not quite a third of the way in yet, but this gem made me smile from my lower belly up to my retinas:

“Author Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) is known for her novels and short stories dealing with people’s vain attempts to escape God’s grace. Before she died of the lupus that crippled her for the last 10 years of her life, she recorded some of her struggles in letters to friends. In one letter to Louise Abbot she wrote,

‘I think that there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do.

What some people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than to not believe…

Whatever you do anyway, remember that these things are mysteries and that if they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding. A God you understood would be less than yourself.

… I don’t set myself up to give spiritual advice but all I would like you to know is that I sympathize and I suffer this way myself. When we get our spiritual house in order, we’ll be dead…. you arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness. Don’t expect faith to clear things for you. It is trust, not certainty.’

The spiritual practice of recognizing that Jesus called us to take up our cross (and not our teddy bear!) enables us to live with the uncertainty of abiding in faith. Even though we cannot know or feel with certainty, we can know the Trinity with trust because we participate in it with Jesus, whose cross conquered sin and death forever. That we know!” – Marva J. Dawn

As someone who has grappled with the idea of God on an emotional level since childhood, but still looked for him everywhere, searching until my heart broke and I left the faith to come back as an adult, I often felt defective. I never felt like a real Christian. But this passage maybe makes me believe I have credibility of a sort. We seek and we find, but what we find may all be different. For those of us with chronic illnesses, our finds may be drastically different!

I am looking forward to the rest of this book. For any other struggling Christians, I have a question so I know I’m not alone:

Have you watched the SNL movie Superstar? If you have, do you find Will Ferrell Jesus weirdly comforting? I always find the idea of God easier to grapple with after watching Will Ferrell Jesus. It’s weird. It’s irreverent. I know. Probably need to get my salvation card back from the library.

Recap:

Pocket full of starlight: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on a light.” – Albus Dumbledore

Pocket full of darkness – Was Albus Dumbledore just that kid who made one-liner witticisms in class? Then he grew up, became super old and grew a beard so instead of being that jerk in class people now think he’s wise?

Fighting the She-Wolf: Fibromyalgia Painger Coping Techniques From a Weird Hippie

I had a great day today, filled with productivity, intimacy with my fiancé Bear, a side quest to find cake balls, and the two of us pretty much telling my parents I was moving in. They took it as well as you could expect a preacher and his wife could.

Bear and I celebrated all night long until it was bedtime. I was sure that my alter ego, the She-Wolf, would not appear as I had such a wonderful day. I was wrong.

What is the She-Wolf?

The She-Wolf is an irrational, bitter, negative version of myself that exists around sunset til 12pm the following day. Symptoms of lycanthropy include extreme anxiety, nervous chittering, catastrophizing, only seeing negative outcomes, thinking someone said horrible things, general paranoia and moodiness.

My mother coined the term lycanthropy two days before Bear and I initiated operation secret move out and called me a She-Wolf. As a Technical Writing major I wrote an actual step by step procedure on how Bear could deal with me as a She-Wolf. Becoming a She-Wolf with the onset of fibromyalgia pain worsening in the evening and realizing this made me and Bear realize I needed to book it out of the ‘rents place.

The She-Wolf Does Not Rest

As previously mentioned today was great, and I was not symptomatic at 5:30 as usual. She-Wolf didn’t come barging in until 10:30 and Bear and I were trying to sleep.

In Bear and I’s house we each have separate office spaces. Mine contained a new order of books, one of which was Heal Your Body by Louise Hay. I previously read You Can Heal Your Life by her and thought it was fascinating, a new viewpoint I had never heard before.

Hay’s book contains a diagnostic list of diseases and affirmations to be recited in a mirror. I went through and said anything that applied in the mirror by my desk and I felt She-Wolf backing off. This took about 30 minutes.

Next I brewed some chamomile tea and tried to softly sing a song in our kitchen. I drank it and went through the affirmations again after becoming thoroughly depressed while reading Being Well When We’re Ill by the theologian Marva Dawn. I’m sure I’ll sink my teeth into it later but when the She-Wolf is rising I need something fluffier. I think I need an All the Shit I Am Reading post soon.

Finally, I used my green aventurine stone and did a two minute meditation after playing with my crystals.

I felt safe enough to go back into the bedroom, but the She-Wolf came back after my rib cage cried out upon lying down.

I am back in my office and have just recited the same affirmations from Hay. This seems to be a rinse, lather, repeat thing. At least it keeps my She-Wolf away. But my lack of sleep is here. However, I felt a storm blow in so that may amount to something too.

My Fibromyalgia Book List: The Fibro Book Club

It’s been a little while since I posted. Generally I’ve been a molten lava monster experiencing an existential crisis. Thankfully I found a book that helped: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.

I discovered this book by picking my chiropractor’s brain, a chiropractic doctor whose intelligence I respect, who showed me multiple books. My acupuncturist has also recommended a few books to me, and I have asked my fiancé, whose mother is a pharmacist, for recommendations. From now on, if I have the chance, I will ask my doctors for book recommendations.

Let’s return to You Can Heal Your Life.

The book largely focuses on mirror work and self-empowerment for physical and mental ailments. At first I was skeptical, but looking back on it I appreciated the idea of putting power back into an ill persons hands. The idea of mental wellness through an illness certainly can’t hurt. But the idea that it can cure cancer does. However I don’t think this is what Hay is arguing.

In order for her arguments to work, adopting her New Age worldview outlined in the beginning of the book is necessary. As someone who has more of that bent, this was easier for me to do than some. I like the idea of us choosing our parents and them choosing us. It’s a healing concept. Empowering.

Generally after my health downturn I have felt I have had no power. Power of the mind can be cultivated in any situation, which is why I have developed my fibro book list:

Just read:

– Herbal Medicine for Beginners

In the mail:

– Gray’s Anatomy

– Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica

– Heal Your Body

– Clinical Pharmacology Made Ridiculously Simple

– Medical Medium

– Stedman’s Medical Dictionary

– Why We Sleep

I recommend ordering your books off of Thriftbooks with a coupon code from Retailmenot. It’s cheaper than Amazon. Half Price Books is great too, but they don’t always have the selection.

After believing I was screwed over by the medical system, I realized I knew nothing about my own physiology. I wanted to order some books about the human body and make me more knowledgeable in my communication and what I put into my body.

There are a few books about herbalism. My fiancé’s family have been botanists for generations and he is a plant enthusiast. As someone leaning towards holistic medicine and wanting internal power, I wanted a hobby we could share together. Connecting through herbal medicine seemed like a good way to cultivate our marriage. Please note I do not reject western medicine.

I still read fun books, like The Sight, which is like badly written Game of Thrones with wolves. When I’m trying to relax this is what I read.

So, my fellow spoonies: what Spoonie related books do you read? I would love to know!