Thursday, April 11, 2013

"This I Know: Notes On Unraveling The Heart" by Susannah Conway

   Some books are so beautiful, I can't help but pick them up and thumb through. "This I Know: Notes On Unraveling The Heart" by Susannah Conway was one of those books: the cover resembled a homemade scrapbook saved for only the most precious photos; the heavy matte pages were filled with random quirky Polaroids, the kind you would tape to the bathroom mirror to keep a special memory fresh in your mind; the size of a girl's secret diary that felt just right clutched against my chest. So I took the book home. And it sat there. From the jacket liner, I knew the book was born out of grief from Ms. Conway having suddenly lost her significant other to a heart attack. I had no current grief issues gnawing at me that made me need to read this book. Still I left the book near my reading chair, picking it up every time I sat down, running my fingers over the cover, flipping through and glancing at the Polaroids until one day I decided I would just start reading. If it was depressing or boring, I would be done with the book, no matter how it's beauty kept drawing me in. Then I wanted to kick myself for waiting so long -- I was hooked even by the introduction when I read:

"Unraveling is not a bad thing. It's not coming undone or losing control. It's letting go in the best possible way, untangling the knots that hold you back, unwrapping the gifts you've hidden for too long, unearthing the potential that's always been there, finally ditching the labels and should-haves, and letting yourself be what you were always meant to be."  -- Susannah Conway

   I am a sucker for quotes and as soon as I read it I fired this one off in an email to a friend going through an unraveling in her own life. She loved it too. Besides deserving to be front and center on my fridge on a hot pink magnet, this quote sums up the soul of the book. Part memoir, part how-to manual, "This I Know" is about coming through whatever fire you've suffered and rebuilding your life piece by piece with what you love and love to do.
  If you are grieving, this book is for you. I also lost a significant other long ago, and Ms. Conway's recounting of the hurt and despair, the hopeful rituals and guilt and baby steps of healing were vividly real. I wish I'd had this book back then to know I wasn't bat crap crazy in all I was going through.
   But this book is so much more than a gift for the grieving. "This I Know" is  about digging out dreams you forgot you had and making them part of your life; forging past fear and sharing your creativity; becoming friends with your body; making peace between yourself, your face, and aging; and getting comfortable with solitude by creating your own tribe of one.
   Being a quote freak, I have to share two more I loved:

"It's never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale."  -- Geneen Roth, from "Women, Food and God"

"For me, solitude is not an empty space, but a richly detailed tapestry of my interests, thoughts, and desires. When I am alone I am free to dance inside the textures of my dreams without the pull to be elsewhere, the constant nagging feeling that I should be doing something else."  -- Susannah Conway

   Ms. Conway found her unraveling from the pit of grief through blogging and taking Polaroids, then turned her passions into online courses to help other women begin the unraveling for themselves. Check out her website,, to find out more about her classes, photography, and other books.
   "This I Know" is beautiful inside and out. Pick it up, you'll see. You'll want one for yourself and one for someone special in your life -- this I know.

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