The book was The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, and I almost returned it unfinished. Her quirky main character, Macon, seemed so pathetic with his over the top habits and routines. The examples went on an on and I gave up hope for redemption.
Then I mentioned my problem to a bookie friend and she gave me permission to stop reading it. “There are too many good books”, she said, “and if you are not enjoying it, then let it go”. But then she said something else that stuck. “Sometimes books are of a time and when you are not in that time, they don’t make sense”.
A funny thing happened: I went home and started reading with a new attitude. One that didn’t attach a label to Macon’s behavior. One that had more curiosity than judgement. One that had more humor. And that shift in attitude was also about giving myself more compassion for all of my regimented ways and my own stuckness. Because back in the day the book was written, we didn’t talk about Obsessive Compulsive Behavior as if it was as common as the rainy weather. We didn’t mumble “OCD” every time somebody was overly controlled. Well, at least I didn’t. And once I got into the humorous frame of mind, I started enjoying the book. I wasn’t so afraid of Macon’s failure.
And then I read this line (which I quote loosely because I can’t find it…)
“It’s easier to love who we are when we are with certain people.”
I started thinking about friends with whom I feel most myself. The ones who love me even when I have a few too many routines and when I am definitely not spontaneous. The ones who help me celebrate who I am and don’t attach any labels or judgements. The ones who help me laugh. When I read that line, I knew that Macon was going to find his place. I also knew where he was going to find it because I watched him become more of who he wanted to be. There was redemption after all.
But the most important redemption was in myself. I decided to consider my life a humorous adventure instead of a series of obstacles to overcome and that, in my opinion, is high praise for a book I almost didn’t read.