Writing has been my form of reflection for a long time, whether in a journal, a poem or a personal essay. Patti Digh has written her reflections as personal essays on an award-winning blog. Those essays have now been published as Life is a Verb. This is a book to be savored. It deserves careful attention. And so do you. You don't have to switch religions, change your spiritual practices or go on a pilgrimage to a far-off land. Patti Digh's advice is to pay attention right here at home.
In 2003, Digh's stepfather was diagnosed with lung cancer and died 37 days later. After caring for him at his home and following his death, Digh wondered what she would be doing today if she only had 37 days to live. She realized she didn't need to seek enlightenment in a faraway land. Living each day with intention was about "more fully inhabiting the life I have, not creating a new one."
In her first chapter, Digh espouses the importance of writing to remember. "...We are only one step away from losing the stories of our lives. [Writing] is also a strategy for learning," she adds. "And for determining who and what we are—and who and what we yearn to be."
Throughout each chapter are action challenges, timed ten-minute writing exercises to reinforce the story preceding them. Following the action challenges are "movement challenges" meant to keep you attentive to something for 37 days, such as making eye contact with people who are living on the streets, homeless. I appreciate Digh's inclusivity of people who deserve our "respectful curiosity": people who are homeless, disabled, or transgender, for instance.
The design of the book is especially enticing. It's in full color, illustrated with collages by many artists. One artist, Donna B. Miller, made a card to carry around to remind herself of one of the blog essays. Digh thought it such a brilliant idea that she posted a note suggesting people send in art. All 120 pieces of art are used throughout the book, adding a whimsical flavor and greatly enhance the written word. They invite you to keep dipping in for a daily message.
I loved the book's message to wake up and live intentionally, its colors, even the feel of the paper. A book that encourages you to "inhabit your own story" is well worth recommending and passing along.
Patti Digh is the creator and author of the award-winning blog 37days.com. She is a frequent speaker on diversity and leadership issues and her comments have appeared on PBS and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and USA Today. She and her husband live with their two daughters, a dog named Blue, and three cats in Asheville, North Carolina.
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