Your entire life is like a gigantic game of “Chutes and Ladders.”
Shake the dice, move two steps ahead, and you hit a ladder that takes you to higher places on the game board. Three more squares, and you hit a chute that sends you back to the bottom. Life and children’s games are alike in this way: as in the new book “The Light We Carry” by Michelle Obama, the only way to win is to keep playing.
Pandemic, recession, political divide, market volatility. For many months, you’ve wondered every morning what fresh chaos you’ll deal with that day. So what keeps you going? How do we overcome feelings of being “wobbly and unsettled”?
Michelle Obama says she ponders this “a lot.” She thinks about the things she uses to keep her “balanced and confident… moving forward even during times of high anxiety and stress.” She calls them her “personal toolbox” and she shares them in this book.
Most recently, she says, the pandemic taught her the value of having a hobby to relax into, to let her hands work, “my mind trailing behind.” Her early life taught her the value of seeing the difference between real fear and fear of newness and change, the latter of which is surprisingly easy to overcome. Newness offers us “chances to grow. “
“I’ve come to understand,” she says, “that sometimes the big stuff becomes easier to handle when you deliberately put something small alongside it.”
Listen to your body, Obama says, and “Pay attention to how you’re feeling.” Collect small boosts, and learn to look at yourself in a more positive way. Love your differences and be kind to yourself because it’s “everything.” Be open to connections with others; cultivate friendships you can count on. “Know your own light,” Obama says, and “Share it with another person.”
And finally, she says, “Tell the truth, do your best by others, keep perspective, stay tough. That’s basically been our recipe for getting by.”
Chances are that at some point in the past nearly-three years, you got out of bed one morning and you weren’t even sure why. It’s been a long haul and you’re tired but “The Light We Carry” can get you to the next goal, then the next.
At first glance, it doesn’t look like that kind of a book, though.
Author Michelle Obama is a true storyteller, and she uses a Show, Not Tell method of writing. Readers are lulled into an entertaining story of life in the White House, or a gossipy snip of Obama’s married life, or a shared memory from her childhood and BAM! the words seamlessly roll over to an easy, do-able tip to survive in hard times. Nice surprise.
Readers will be further glad to know that this isn’t a cheerleading book. Instead of U-Rah-Rah, it’s U Can Do This, told in a calm, knowing manner. And if that’s what you need in this time of turmoil, let “The Light We Carry” help you back onto the ladder.
By Michelle Obama, c.2022, Crown, 319 pages