I came out of the closet at book club. #BellLetsTalk

I belong to the book club at the public library, a welcoming and eclectic group of women aged from twenty-something to seventy plus. The group consists of stay at home moms, retired teachers, a retired therapist, a hairdresser, small business owners, office administrators, a power engineer, a librarian, school counsellor, and a candlestick maker. Ok, not really, no candlestick maker, but people from all walks of life. We welcome men to our group, however only one has ever shown up, mostly he ate cake and then fell soundly asleep (thankfully he did not snore). To show you how polite we all are, not a single person snapped a photo while he dozed under the brim of his cowboy hat.

Being open to members of the public, most of the people are strangers to each other upon joining the group, save for the few who came together in the safety of a pair. Books are selected by the members in rotation throughout the year. As you can imagine the selections are as diverse as the members. Over the last couple of years we have at times made comment that we hadn’t ever read humorous books. I made it my mission to find one as my selection to kick off our new season in September. I chose Jenny Lawson’s memoir: “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”. All I knew about it prior to selecting it was that it was supposed to be hilarious (I love funny) and her Dad had been a taxidermist (I love animals both alive and dead, but mostly alive). I did not know she suffered from a mental illness.

It would have been nice if someone had tipped me off to the number of f-bombs Lawson drops, since we have some “church going women”, well-mannered ladies who I was sure would not be amused by the profanity. But as I said, we meet at a public library, so in keeping with my own no-censorship and “freedom to read” ideals I didn’t skip out on the gathering to discuss the book even though I knew there would be people who would not appreciate my selection. I was not too concerned, as only once in our many year history was there a difference of opinion so profound I thought perhaps two people might succumb to fistacuffs. (Yes, that’s real word – consult the urban dictionary.) The book being discussed was “Eat, Pray, Love”. While two ladies went at it over whether Ms. Gilbert was selfish or not, the rest of us ate, prayed no bloodshed when ensue and loved the short-lived bit of drama unfolding before our very eyes that had never occurred before (or since).

The night of my selection I was nervous about how people would respond to the book (and tragically I admit, of course what they’d think of me being the one who had chosen it), but with the exception of two people out of about fourteen they thought it was funny, claiming to enjoy it. I suspect those who hated it the most, or were repulsed by the language decided to stay home watching re-runs or reading Jodi Picoult. (Story for another day: “How I trashed Jodi Picoult at book club in 2013”. Something I realize I should never do until I write and sell as many millions of books as she has.)

Anyway, as the discussion went round and around the circle I found myself bristling inside. It seemed, and maybe it was just my perception, that some people did not understand the reality of living with anxiety and the obsessions and compulsions that can happen as a result. They didn’t get that sometimes a person has to laugh at themselves and their eccentricities so they don’t cry. How Ms. Lawson described anxiety was accurate.

Suddenly I found myself blurting out “I have anxiety – medical anxiety – and this book made me feel better – it made me feel kind of normal.” I think I saw recognition and empathy in a woman’s eyes. I pretended not to notice. I was conscious of not drawing attention to her. I wanted her to say: “You know what? I do too”. I wanted anyone to say “me too”. No one did. I understand. I had not intended to tell anyone that night I suffer from anxiety. I think Jenny Lawson’s honesty, courage, and humour inspired me to finally come out of the closet when I least expected to. But you know what? I am glad I did; it felt good to let the secret out.


I decided to write this story in honor of #BellLetsTalk day January 25th, the day when Bell donates five cents to mental health initiatives every time the hashtag #BellLetsTalk is used on social media. Over the years the campaign has generated nearly 80 million dollars while encouraging those with mental health challenges to come forward to tell their stories, and to educate those who don’t have such struggles so they may understand and be supportive to those who do.

For more information on Bell Let’s Talk go to: http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/bell-lets-talk-day

Visit Jenny Lawson’s blog at: http://www.thebloggess.com

An older post I wrote just about the book club I belong to:https://wantonwordflirt.com/2013/11/19/book-club-tonight-2/

Book Club Tonight!

I don’t get out much. People often use that expression in a cliché sort of way, but for me, it is a reality. Unless you call wandering around my yard, looking up at the sky daydreaming and occasionally having poetic inspiration hit me between the eyes “getting out”, I don’t get out much. So it is with much anticipation I look forward to the monthly book club gathering at our local public library.

Library book club is perfect for people like me who have limited energy to be hosting guests at home, yet enjoy socializing. It combines two of my greatest loves – reading and socializing – into one enjoyable evening. I highly recommend it.

“Top 10” list of why I love book club:

  1. I read books that I never otherwise would choose to read on my own. Each year members submit a list of books they recommend, then the library programmer / book club facilitator selects one per month for the upcoming year. The list is always an eclectic collection across all genres.
  2. Just as I read books I would not have ever read, I have met interesting people I surely would never have run in to otherwise; our paths just never would have crossed.
  3. We are a diverse group ranging in age from about 25 to 75, from all types of backgrounds culturally, socio-economically, educationally, and so on, which makes for interesting and enlightening discussion.
  4. Every person brings a unique perspective to the reading of the story, so it often amazes me what another individual gleans from a story / character that I may have missed entirely.
  5. Whomever has their book chosen for that particular month brings a snack, so everyone takes a turn being “hostess”, without having anyone in to their home. No fuss, no muss.
  6. It is affordable to anyone; all you need is a library card. Once a member, the books are ordered for you automatically. You receive an e-mail when your book for the month is ready for pick-up.
  7. As a dabbling writer, I consider book club professional development. Not just the reading of another writer’s work, but also the varied reader’s responses to those words.
  8. I love discussion, even a good argument on occasion within respectful limits. The structure of the evening allows for every reader to express their opinions. I appreciate the honesty of the members.
  9. I enjoy watching people come to book club as “reluctant” or “retired” readers get excited about books again, and develop a sense of belonging to their new “tribe”. It’s fun to be shopping and have someone wave from across the store at me and holler “Hi!”, then I hear them tell their shopping partner excitedly, “I know her from book club!”
  10.  Last, but definitely not least….author visits! Need I say more; nothing like hearing about a book directly from the person that wrote it. We have had local authors visit, Skype visit with a New York Times Bestselling author, award winning Canadian authors, even an author who has sold millions of books world-wide has visited our little library. Most, if not all, have complimented our group on the level of interest and questions about their work.Author Photo for back cover008Photo above from Shannon Raelynn author visit. Visit: http://www.shannonraelynn.com