Arts & Life, Books

A triad of reads to put you right

By: Samantha Bennett

I believe in self-improvement. I wish there was another word for it, as I ardently wish there was another word for self-help. I have left behind an assortment of damaging habits, erroneous beliefs, and bad mental hygiene, like a snake shedding skin, although it feels more like washing off thin layers of clinging bullshit. Many souls have shone their beams down my dark hallways, helping me find my way by whatever means necessary, be that a gentle push, or a righteous shove that sends me sprawling. 
I am eager to share three books and a single quote, all of which shaped me, changed me for keeps.

Celebrate Your Life by Dorothy Corkville Briggs

A ton of practical advice, I choose to brandish this far-reaching wisdom. Separate the ‘needs’ from the ‘prefers. Let me break that down. We need things such as food, water, air, shelter, maybe companionship, although that ain’t for everyone either. Most other things fall into the’ prefer’ category. Once I twigged to this, I wore life so much more lightly. I realized how often I would say: I just need you to give a shit. I need you to be on time. I need you to be more organized because you are messing with my whole day. Nah. I would prefer all those things to be true, but if they are not, I will work around them, and try to do it semi-cheerfully, as to do it with a rictus grin and roiling tumtum rather defeats the purpose.

I used to often offer my opinion to my friends about their various troubles. I fancied I was helping, when in fact I only wished to hear the ringing tones of my own voice stridently telling someone what I thought they should do. 

The American writer Alice Duer Miller is quoted as saying: ‘If it is very painful for you to criticize your friends – you’re safe in doing it, but if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that’s the time to hold your tongue.” This changed me forever.

Everyone should read Women Who Run With The Wolves By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The myths and legends alone make it a good read, but Clarissa breaks us all down with such searing insight, I often wept. We all need tools. Some call them tricks, but that doesn’t work for me. I have a tool belt around my waist, and a magician’s hat on my head, with a matching black sack slung over my shoulder. Thus I have a baseball bat, a flaming sword, a bunter of some sort, a fairy wand, a butterfly net and many others within easy reach. One never knows what implement will serve best. Have as many as possible to hand.

Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg

This shining gem was recommended to me by a fellow writer when I was utterly blocked. It split me open. As a writer. As a person. It is such a relief, isn’t it, to be shown new ways to look at life? A window opens in the back of the skull and in flows light and air, rattling the ruts, stirring the sediment. Natalie gave me practical, do-able exercises to get to the bottom of myself, and therefore my writing.

Many things shape us. Naturally. Unnaturally. Life is like that. We get the goods from all sides, and it is often the assholes who act as involuntary catalysts, bless their black hearts. 
Do yourself a solid and pick up one or all of these books for Christmas and beyond. Then do as I do and pass it right along to the next gal or fella in deep need. After all: we’re all in this together.

Samantha Bennett is a freelance writer currently based in Montreal. She can be reached at where she cheerfully encourages comments and feedback.