Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Book Review: Get a Life

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Get a Life
Author: Vicki Courtney

Author's blog:
Date: 2003
Publisher: Life Way Press
ISBN: 0-6630-8890-0
Length: 110 pages
Illustrations: cartoons by Dan Brawner
Quote: “Young and naive, we believe it is possible to order our future like items on a menu. Years later we are mumbling, ‘This is not what I ordered!’”
Christian teachers and counsellors were doing it when Vicki Courtney and I were students. In a well-meant effort to help us say no to drugs, vice, violence, premarital parenthood, and overinvesting in “fun careers” that wouldn’t help us secure our elders’ old age, they drilled those misleading messages into our little heads: “You are in charge of your destiny! Life is what you make it! What do you choose?”
Then we grew up and learned that, even when our choices don’t collide head-on with other people’s choices, they don’t always work out as planned...
Vicki Courtney offers six weeks of Bible studies for groups of women who used to believe that life was what we make it and now understand that life is, often predominantly, what happens while we’re making other plans. This mini-book is subtitled “Debunking Six Myths in the Quest for Contentment” and attempts to help women face the facts that no amount of love makes men or marriages perfect, that money may buy relief from distress but it’s not enough to buy real happiness, that jobs are stressful, and so on.
I can’t give Courtney full marks for reaching, or even groping toward, what I’ve found to be the central truth of emotional health: that happiness is a pleasure, not a duty. We weren’t meant to be happy all the time! TV actresses may have to project “perky, perky, perky” all the time, but that’s why they are actresses and it’s also why you see them for only a few minutes each day. Real people feel less perky on some days than we do on other days! This is normal! We can turn off the idiot grins and Positive Thinking, and accept that some days we (women) are just meant to be full of progesterone, a hormone whose influence is conducive to quiet, unemotional contemplation and slow, consistent work. As distinct from sadness. Much, if not most, of the time we’re neither happy nor sad. This calm, neutral emotional (or emotionless) state used to be considered ideal.
And then there are the positively bad days. There’s that bad time of the month men and women will experience, predictably, throughout life, as long as bills arrive ahead of payments in the mail. And then there are the even worse days when the company is going bankrupt, and Grandma isn’t going to come home from the hospital, and your pet has a fever...Religious faith and discipline can do a great deal to minimize the number of days like that in a Christian’s life, but they won’t eliminate the bad or even horrible days altogether.

Although this review was written some time before, and should pop up on this web site, some time after the day on which I'm uploading it into this web site, regular readers may be interested in knowing that this has been a positively bad day. One of many. Actually, although I'm naturally cheerful and usually wake up thanking God for the beautiful place where I live, on most of the days during the past decade I've needed to go out and face the world as a rich man's penniless widow, and that, all by itself, does a great deal to create a positively bad day. Platitudes do not improve days like this one. Money does. Exposure to people who make Christian noises, but who don't recognize a need to support a fellow believer's honest work in any useful way, makes me feel that I'm the last isolated living cell in the dying "Body of Christ" and I may be dying, as a Christian, myself.
Still, even a casual study of the Bible as it was written should dispel the notion that Christians shouldn’t admit we have bad days. The apostles had plenty of them. One source of distress from which the apostles seem to have been free, however, was Positive Thinking pests who shriek “Why so glum?” if someone is, e.g., praying before church, or resting after a day's work, instead of yapping and wriggling like a puppy at the sight of Their Conceitednesses. The apostolic church faced many difficulties but it does not seem to have created much difficulty for itself in recognizing that emotional moods come and go and don’t  really require anyone’s full attention.
Courtney doesn’t get quite that far, and in fact, if you’re over age thirty or forty, life may already have done as much as Courtney does in Get a Life to debunk the myths for you. Doing the studies in this book with a group could, however, help the group help one another, and possibly bond. Get a Life is recommended primarily to Christian women in their twenties or perhaps thirties.

As regular readers know, Fair Trade Books are secondhand books whose authors we've found to be still living. When you buy one of these books through this web site, we send 10% of the total price for the book and shipping to the author or a charity of her/his choice. The minimum price is $5 per book + $5 per package; thus, if you buy one copy of Get a Life here, you send $10 to salolianigdagewi @, and we send Vicki Courtney or her charity $1. If you buy four copies, you send us $25 and we send Courtney $4, and so on. You can also add different books, by different authors, not necessarily Fair Trade Books, as long as they'll fit into one package, and pay $5 per package.