Tag Archives forJames Hollis

I am mad at James Hollis. I’m not going to finish his book.

Day 80.  Which is pretty cool.  no, i’m not specifically ‘counting days’.  i have my date in an excel file and can calculate from there. sometimes i like to know what day i’m on so that i can plan a reward.  like at day 90 i want a present. but other than that, i don’t check anymore.  i think i stopped checking just after day 30 (when my mental math thus required Excel’s help!).

but here’s what i want to say today, and i’ve been avoiding writing this post.

I’m mad at James Hollis’s book “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life.”  and i’m not being facetious, i’m serious. Yes, the book is a bit pompous, and yes the language is a bit circuitous and so i often have to read entire phrases multiple times before i can figure out what the fuck he’s talking about.  In fact, it’s my least-favorite kind of self-help book.  the kind that has a lot of theory, and no where near enough ‘how-to-implement-in-your-life’. there are great ideas, but they sort of go in one ear and out the other.

until i get to the chapter where he talks about magic realism. and here’s where i got mad. and i’ve stopped reading.

i’m going to paraphrase, and badly, but basically he says that everyone gets to a place where they realize that life is full of bad things, that nice vegans get cancer, and that the world is full of randomly shitty things.  and you really only grow up once you accept the world as a chaotic and random disaster, that is full of great and bad at the same time.  You’ll have to confront your ‘magical thinking’ that if you do right, think right, eat right that you’ll be spared the worst of the shit.

well then, mr. hollis, if that’s your definition of the world (and of how to grow up), then i’m not the slightest bit interested in participating.  count me out.

because, you see, i DO engage in magical thinking. I do believe that things happen for a reason. i do believe that if i can visualize it, then i can make it happen.  i do believe that (for now) i’m continuously constructing a life where more bad things will not keep happening to me.

in reading this book, i realize that i’ve been living with my current attitudes since my early 20s.  Right after i escape my disastrous childhood, i thought:  whatever happens to me now, compared to that, will be like heaven. it’ll be joyous.

for example, i was single for a long long time in my adult life, and/or could only manage to date/attract idiots.  and yet i always held out the hope that if i got married, it would be worth the wait, and that i deserved to be happy, and that i’d have the kind of marriage that other people envied. because that was the deal. i’d earned that.

i’d already had enough grief and pain in my life, in the early part of my life, so the later parts are going to make up for that.

i’m one of these magically thinking weirdos, who does believe that thoughts and feelings can – to a very very large extent – determine what happens in my life.  that i’m the one driving the car.  that I get to decide how happy I am. That i get to decide what adventures I have.  that there are speed bumps to be navigated, but they’re trivial and learning experiences, and nothing is random anyway.

here’s a snapshot of me that i don’t show the outside world: 

I grew up poor: no-telephone, no-car poor.  this poverty did not lead me to believe that wealth was “for other people and wouldn’t happen for me”; instead i realized that if i wanted wealth in my life i’d have to go out and make some myself.

I grew up in a dark, wet apartment.. i witnessed some jesus-bad violence. and i’ve known real, terrifying fear.

so yes, once i got out of there, since my early 20s, i’ve felt like something good was going to happen for me.  to compensate, perhaps. or that the shitty earlier life was going to drive me to create other goodness (in my life and in the lives of others). I own a company or two (one of which is ‘helping’ others), i have the ability to create work when i want to so i can control my own income. i have an amazing husband (got married at age 39).

I don’t have kids, but i also feel that this was part of the trade-off that i made with the universe back when i was 12.  the trade-off that said, i’ll have all the shitty scary stuff early in life, and the rest of my life would be at my direction, my creating, and therefore by contrast would have to be better, amazing, rich, abundant.

I don’t resent that i don’t have kids, i’m quite at peace with it.  to have been pregnant at age 12 would have been a disaster.  the universe spared me from that.  in return, i’m not pregnant for the rest of my life. and I say “that’s a great trade, universe, thanks soooo much, it’s the best possible outcome.” seriously.

Hollis says that we falsely believe that if we follow certain rules, we’ll be spared the worst of what life has to offer: “Yet sooner or later life brings each of us not only disappointment, but something worse, a deep disillusionment regarding the ‘contract’ that we tacitly presumed and served to the best of our ability … the friendship we counted on, the protection we assumed would be there perpetually, the comfort that someone would pick us up and make it all right when we fell …” (p. 84).

fuck that, i say.

yes, OK, perhaps i’m living in an imaginary fantasy land. i’m happily married, healthy, middle-class. i live in europe. i speak a couple of languages. i’m childless but i consider that to be a lucky turn of fate, not a curse. i’m happy beyond … i’m lucky beyond … and i’m even sober.  i’ve done all of this myself, made me into the person i am.  and yes, now i do fucking expect great things to continue for me… If I continue to work for them, if I continue to dream things up, if I continue to allow them.

I’m clearly more of a Law of Attraction girl than a Jungian one.

in conclusion. i’m mad that someone writes that there are always more bad things coming.  i disagree that this is necessarily true.  and if the only way to grow up is to accept that there’s no contract with the universe, then i respectfully disagree.

i feel like i’ve made my deal with the universe a long time ago.  and so far we’re both living up to our sides of the agreement.

Here’s what i really believe, from a different James:  “The outer conditions of a person’s life will always reflect their inner beliefs.” ~ James Allen

PS/ i’m really not going to finish reading this book, and will happily mail it to anyone who wants to read it next.

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