It’s been a hot minute since I did a book review. It’s also been a hot minute since I read for pleasure. High School Nerd Allison would be displeased.
Back on October 1st, when I was coming off a depressive episode, I found myself walking around Barnes and Noble. I wanted to find a self-help book that wasn’t – for lack of better word – corny. Forgive me if I sound sexist or cross into “not like other girls” territory, but trying to find a self-help book geared towards women that isn’t overly flowery or filled with empty platitudes about self-love or accepting yourself just the way you are – you don’t need to change anything; just remove yourself from situations/relationships that don’t serve you – is almost impossible.
If all we needed was self-love, we’d all be in a permanent state of giddiness and none of these people writing would be in business. I don’t need to be reassured I’m beautiful or wonderful or whatever – frankly, I don’t think that is most folks’ problem. I want to get through some heavy crap and need some pointers to get to the other side.
At the end of the aisle I saw a blue cover and I saw an author’s name – Meredith Atwood. Swim Bike Mom? Yep, it was the same Meredith. She competes in triathlons and trains women for them, and on her blog is pretty open about the life challenges and transformations she had to undergo – getting sober, leaving the legal profession that was trying to kill her, and the journey of getting healthy while also being overweight herself and learning to love her body for what it can do.
It had been a while, but I followed her on social media and remember reading a blog post she wrote defending herself against a fat acceptance activist who was accusing her of being a fat shamer. Meredith didn’t put up with the accusations or this particular activist’s doom ‘n gloom, and ended the post with one of the classiest burns I have ever seen.
I vaguely remembered when she announced the book was coming out in late 2019, and there I was looking at it. Well, right then I wasn’t standing – I got over heated and had to sit down in a nearby chair, but I grabbed a copy of the book before sitting down and getting my drink. I knew I found my non-flowery self-help book. So the next step after getting my drink was to buy it, get home and get crackin’.
The Year of No Nonsense
Part one of the book deals heavily with unpacking lies we’ve been told about ourselves and believe, or tell ourselves because we’re in denial. She focuses a lot on childhood, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much research was included in her book. Before I started reading I figured this might be more anecdote-heavy – and there’s plenty of those – and I was able to pinpoint some old historical warts of my own.
Meredith goes into a lot of detail about her body image struggles through childhood, telling her story with such a frankness that you can’t help laughing way too hard. When she wrote about struggling with the approval of other people – wanting to gain it, while at the same time knowing that the career path she was following wasn’t the correct one for her – I went back to a time in my early 20s when I was putting too much emphasis on appearances and how I looked to others. In a word, I heard a lot of myself and some early struggles in Meredith.
Another theme throughout the book is being honest with ourselves and being willing to unpeel the Truth Onion. The Truth Onion is the collection of all the lies and delusions we either tell or believe about ourselves, or someone else has told us that we believed even when they were very wrong. There’s always a root lie – the center of the onion – that’s at the core and hidden over by the other, smaller lies that lead up to it, so it’s our job to peel back those layers and get to the root.
The Year of No Nonsense is a story really of honesty – always with yourself first, and then about others around you. It’s also a story about bravery and being willing to change the narrative about yourself and your life. I about died at a paragraph in Chapter 9, when Meredith was talking about one of her challenges of being kinder to people, loving them and being willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Very much paraphrased, but she acknowledged that this can be a challenge since she’s not really around people a lot. “I’m an only child. I work from home. I’m a somewhat disgruntled, crusty writer with a lizard for a pet.”
Swap out lizard for cat and it’s not too different in my corner of the world.
In light over how my life has been this past year, The Year of No Nonsense came as a welcome reminder that there’s been a lot of nonsense in the way that I need to let go of. I’m not referring to the emotions that come with grieving. I’m talking about ruminating on past hurts that can’t be rectified now and I’ll never get that “why?” answer to, of dwelling on critical snipes from someone I wanted to feel safe and protected with. Of wasting too much time scrolling the Instagrams of people I barely knew in college who spend too much time making spectacles of themselves and judging them, when I really should be spending that energy doing something productive with my own business (and not paying them any attention at all.)
Meredith challenges all of us to make a list of our “nonsense.” Frankly, I don’t even need to write it down – it’s all there in my face and head, and it’s blaring at me like the Wednesday afternoon tornado drill in Columbus (affectionately referred to on the Columbus, Ohio sub-reddit as Woo Wednesdays. This is considered exciting. I don’t know why.) I can pick up nonsense like nobody’s business, and it’s high time that stops.
The Year of No Nonsense came at the perfect time for me, and is such a helpful and enjoyable read. Meredith’s advice, anecdotes and form of self-help isn’t corny. She also isn’t one of those tough love writers who has an obnoxious definition of what “tough” looks like and seems to forget about the “love” part entirely. It was just, to put it simply, an excellent read. I laughed way too hard at some of her stories because of how relatable and near-universal it all is – who hasn’t had an insecurity about their appearance since childhood because of a stupid comment a parent, another kid or another adult who should have known better said? Or ordered an entire pizza the day they were starting a new diet and snarfed the entire thing down in one sitting? When the serious moments came, I understood them and felt them at a deep level.
So reader-friends, The Year of No Nonsense was everything I needed and money well spent. I got my book at Barnes and Noble, although you can also buy from Meredith’s website here. I promise any of you looking for a good read you will love this book.
I hope you all have a pleasant, restful Sunday.
Yours in writing and life,