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I did it.

Despite the cold, depressing, hopeless feelings that hung over me while I read Angela’s Ashes, I forged ahead and finished the book. And I’m glad I did because at the very core it’s a story about a young man who dreamed of a better life.

And who can’t relate to that?

To be honest, I can’t fathom the amount of strength, determination and perserverance it must’ve taken for Frank McCourt to rise above the extreme poverty, starvation, abandonment, illness, humiliation and loss he faced as a child. But he did. He went from dressing in rags, living in squalor and daydreaming about the luxury of having a hard-boiled egg to eat to building a life and career in America and winning the Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography.

His life serves as proof that no matter who you are or how little you have, there is greatness within all of us, just waiting to be discovered.

Anyone else feeling particularly inspired by a recent read?

Lately, I’ve been feeling depressed, hopeless and above all, cold. While these feelings have been known to creep up on me every now and then, they typically hold me hostage for a few hours before they skulk back to wherever they came from and leave me be (except for the cold, he’s a regular around here).

But this time they haven’t left. They’ve been loitering up there in my creative conscious, smoking cigarettes and drinking pints of Guiness until they cry and sing songs about Kevin Barry and dying for Ireland, and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why. Nothing is wrong, nothing has changed; life continues to move forward as it always does.

And then yesterday I happened upon a blog post about writing and emotional health. The author, Shannon McKelden (a.k.a. The Happy Writer) talks about how, whether we realize it or not, we are deeply affected the by the things we read, watch and consume on a daily basis. For her, watching too many television dramas was making her life feel overly dramatic. This reminded me of a friend who recently told me that she stopped watching the Housewives reality series because she found herself constantly feeling angry for no reason. I’ve experienced this myself. I limit how much news I watch because it tends to stir up fear and anxiety.

And then it hit me. In addition to living in freezing cold Pennsylvania where my nose is constantly running and a clump of snow always manages to find its way into my shoe, I’ve been reading Angela’s Ashes about Frank McCourt’s hopeless, Depression-era childhood in bitter cold Ireland with a father who smokes cigarettes and squanders all their welfare money at the pub, drinking pints of Guiness until he cries and sings songs about Kevin Barry and dying for Ireland.

Bingo.

So now that I’ve figured out what’s making me miserable, I have to decide what to do about it. Should I put down a well-written, Pulitzer Prize winning memoir half-way through or do I suck it up, observe McCourt’s storytelling style and pray that one day I’ll be one thousandth the writer he is? Putting it down feels sacrilege, but continuing on means more cold, dark days ahead. And more Kevin Barry songs.

What should I do? Put it down or suck it up?

Photo credit: COGS News

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