First, I would like to start by saying that It’s Not Fair – Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose is not a book. It is a conversation between Melanie Dale and her readers. Mel (I hope the author would not mind me mentioning her as Mel — I’m sorry if she does but by reading her book, I feel closer to her and I would continue to call her Mel throughout the review) shares her own pain and the remedies that helped/helps her get through with the readers to let them know that she gets how it feels to be in pain. As she rightly says, this is not a self-help book; it is “A Help-Each-Other Book.”
I can’t solve your stuff. I wish I could, but it’s your stuff and your journey through it. This isn’t really a self-help book. I hope it’s helpful but not in a “here’s what you do” way. More in a “here’s me sitting next to you” way. A help-each-other book.
And that’s exactly what she does in the book. Mel does not try to take on the role of a counselor; instead, she tells the readers that their situation might be harder than hers and her coping mechanisms may not be applicable to each one of them. However, she would try to share her own techniques, pain, and struggle just to let them know that she understands how unfair the circumstances feel sometimes. She understands that sometimes all we need is two words: Me, too! We do not always need someone to show us the light; sometimes, we need a friend who would share how they themselves were in the same shoes and behaved in the same way as we are doing at present.
The chapters in which she mentions her five-year long battle with infertility, I could feel the helplessness and grief that she must have felt. There were times when she thought that she could not be around pregnant ladies, and during those times, she cut herself off from baby showers and church. The reason she mentions this is to assure the people, who are fighting their own battles, that it’s okay to take a time-off to lick your wounds or be in solitude. One does not owe anyone any explanation in this matter.
One of her favorite coping mechanisms is humor and I could not agree more with her. Finding humorous occasions and laughing out loud would not change the circumstances you are in, but it would lift your spirits for a few seconds. Mel has compiled many people’s life stories in this book. One of those wonderful people is Mary, who has been dealing with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There is something that she said which really inspired me.
….I knew that funny, illogical, and nonsensical stuff happens every day and it will continue to be there even when you are thrust into a gushing river of unfair stuff, You just need to keep looking for it and finding it. – Mary W.
There are many pearls of wisdom spread throughout the read, and I have been lucky enough to collect these. I would admit that when I started reading the book, for a few pages, I felt lost and thought that this would be a book where the author would continue to share tidbits about her life. However, after a while, when I realized the masterwork of Mel, I found myself embarrassed at my short-sightedness.
The style in which she lets an idea sink into her readers’ minds is quite sneaky but genius. She would share an anecdote and then make an analogy with a practical way to take care of one’s pain. Sometimes, she shares the remedy first and then shares the analogy. Either way, the approach is extremely effective. For instance, Mel believes in pouring her heart out to the God. In her own words,
The most important thing about prayer is to be totally honest with God. God can handle your emotions[…]He knows what’s going on anyway, and you’ll feel better if you just let it all out. I feel like when I pour everything out to God[….], then God says, “Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. I can work with this.”
Then, to help the readers make sense of this approach, she shares the story of how one of her kids likes to slam the door when he is angry and then open it to see if Mel noticed it, and then slam again to ensure that his point is observed and understood. However, after giving a silent treatment, they pour out how they thought Mel to be unfair.This way, finally, Mel knows that they are getting somewhere. You see, what she did there?
Although this is a book that talks about dealing with one’s pain, reading it has been quite a pleasure; thanks, Mel for sharing your twitter, FB and blog posts here and there. Mel has shared many twitter and FB posts, pictures, and other people’s stories that, as a reader, I found very interesting and these helped me stayed with the author until the last page. I can’t resist sharing one of her twitter posts that made me giggle.
Via Twitter @UnexpectedMel
Ana: Mom, when I say duh to you, I’m just answering yes in Russian.
Me: Nice try. Da is yes in Russian. Duh is teenager for You’re a moron.
I absolutely enjoyed reading It’s not fair because of the realistic approach of the author. Mel knows what she is talking about, Be it the comfort of bringing a fuzzy blanket to a friend in need, the impact of counting one’s blessings, the beauty of holding on to one’s faith or the benefit of sharing one’s story of survival with others! These are little but extremely effective things. Like she says,
So tell your story, find the grace-bearers, receive the poor babies, and wrap up in the fuzzy blanket hugs. Sur-thrive.
Mel’s love for television is evident all over the book. She mentions Buffy the vampire slayer, Doctor Who, Harry Potter among others. This is one of her many techniques that kept the overall mood of the book on the lighter side.
Clint Barton: The city is flying and we’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.
-Avengers: Age of Ultron
Needless to say, I loved this book from the bottom of my heart. This is no longer a book to me; it is a friend who would hold my hand in my hour of need and help me “sur-thrive.”
This book taught me to surround myself with funny friends, find humor in suffering, believing that I’m enough, don’t wait to live until everything’s fine, serve others, and count my wins every single day. I would recommend this book to the readers who are looking for a friend — someone who would listen, share and laugh with you, all the while knowing that life’s not fair.
P.S. The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through BookLook Bloggers.