(This is a revision of a post I did two years ago that still resounds with me today and I hope it will with you, too. I’ll post something new the first week of May and hope this helps me to not fall off your radar in the meantime!)
Twenty years ago, I found an awesome book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Over the years I have worn this book out, underlining key passages, typing whole sections into my smartphone and mining it for never-fail gems upon which I have restructured my diet, my finances and my housekeeping to mention just a few things. I loved the author’s voice, and took comfort in the certainty of her words of wisdom–much of it anchored in essence by great writers and thinkers, explorers and doers in history and tweaked to be made current to our lives and our time by Ms. Breathnach’s own gentle voice and common sense perspective.
Ms. Breathnach sold 7 million copies of Simple Abundance and appeared on Oprah’s show 11 times. It’s not hyperbole to say that she touched my life and many, many others. I found comfort and balance in her words and reached for her book often. If you’re not familiar with it, Breathnach gives an essay for every day of the year and while she speaks mostly to women, her essays cover everything from raising children to digging out of credit card debt to finding your passion to cooking a simple meal.
Today, I looked up the chapter where she addresses Spending Habits. She wrote:
“One of the greatest gifts my husband has ever given me is the ability to think before I spend. This is how savers behave. Savers don’t get a high from recreational shopping. Savers don’t shop in order to make themselves feel better…Today, be willing to gently explore your life-energy expenditures. Don’t blame yourself for bad choices. Do attempt to make better ones. Most of our problems in handling money stem from unexamined patterns rather than from uncontrollable urges.”
Nice, huh? And as true today in 2014 as it was when she wrote it in 1995. Which is why it was such a shocker to find out that a few years later Ms. Breathnach divorced the husband she referenced above, ran off to England with some dude who later dumped her and ended up broke and sleeping on the couch at her sister’s apartment. (As a writer, myself, this is definitely not how one dreams that being a mega-bestseller author will end up.)
We all have heroes that fail us. We are all human. I get that. I thought it was remarkably gutsy in the first place to write a book saying you have researched (and lived) all the answers and then to go on Oprah eleven times to underscore the point.
It’s even gutsier to do that, trip publicly, and pick yourself back up for a second try. Seriously, it’s one thing to be all Yoda and wise sitting in your comfy upper middle-class tract mansion typing away on how to make life work for you when you don’t have to worry about a day job because you have a working spouse. It’s quite another when you’re homeless, in debt up to your eyeballs and jobless.
So, welcome to the party, Sarah.
I fully expect her next book to have some serious practical insights that go beyond how Rudyard Kipling imagined we should use aromatherapy (in her first book) to make a home feel like home, or Edith Wharton’s advice on making peace with your hair. And you won’t be surprised to hear that, yes, she does have a new book out on her “journey.”
But for me, I think I’ll pass. Don’t get me wrong, my hat is off to her and her unsinkable Molly Brown ability to fashion opportunity and trad-pub gold out of failure, but I’ve gotten a few years under my belt since I last searched outward for my heroes. Today, I look closer to home for that and tend to sort out the codes and values that define my life the old fashioned way: by trying to live them day by day instead of reading about them.
How about you? Anybody find themselves following a mentor or teacher or role model who let them down but still managed to have a pretty good life in spite of it? Hmmm…do we even need heroes?