Things haven’t felt their brightest lately, so I listened to the Furiously Happy audiobook. And also lately, I’ve been choosing my audiobooks based on whether or not they have been nominated (or won!) an Audie award. That’s how I ended up with a copy of Furiously Happy: 2016 winner in the Humor category. And that’s all I knew going into it, well, that and my Goodreads friends had a high overall rating for this book. I expected humor, I expected stories about Jenny Lawson’s life, and… that’s about it.
I was woefully unprepared.
Furiously Happy is certainly partially Jenny Lawson’s memoir. This is her second published book, and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened tells a good portion of her life story growing up as the daughter of a taxidermist. But Furiously Happy bunkers down with the intent to talk about Jenny Lawson’s lifelong battle with severe mental illness.
And that was not what I was prepared for.
Jenny Lawson is a professional blogger. She talks to the world about her bouts of mental illness and the beautiful view she has on her life. She tells stories about her life events and the crazy things her brain tells her to do. She is honest and real and is trying to get people to talk about mental illness. And, sadly, I didn’t know that going into this book.
Don’t sabotage yourself. There are plenty of other people willing to do that for free.
The audiobook starts and I hear Jenny Lawson’s voice. The first thing I think to my very judgmental self is, “Seriously? This is the author’s voice? Bad narrators ruin audiobooks. I don’t know if I can listen to her talk for 8.5 hours.”
Bad Jackie. Don’t be so judgmental. Isn’t that the whole POINT of this book? To stop that?!?! …I digress…
Well, I start listening. And I quickly learn that Jenny Lawson is a beautiful human with an amazing view on life. Her perspective is refreshing and hilarious. The perspective that Jenny Lawson provided is so unlike current-day Jackie and is everything like what 13-year-old Jackie expected she should have become. Yes, her voice is a bit high-pitched. And yes, she phrases things strangely. But right now I’m just listening to fun notes on life, and it’s pretty cool. Silly, exaggerated, hilarious notes on life. Everything I want to be.
If you put a bunch of chameleons on top of a bunch of chameleons on top of a bowl of Skittles what would happen? Is that science? Because if so, I finally get why people want to do science.
Then shit gets serious.
Lawson mentions her depression in the first chapter, but more or less just focused on her new motto for life: Be furiously happy. She’s tired of depression running her life, and so she will now attack everything with aggressive, passionate happiness. No more will depression rule her life.
But it’s so much more than depression.
Even when everything’s going your way you can still be sad.
In the chapter Pretend you’re good at it, Lawson addresses she stifling fear she deals with regularly. Her brain tells her “You can’t do this”. She shuts down and spends days hiding from the world. This was the chapter that completely changed my perspective on this audiobook. Lawson was terrified to record the audiobook, but it was important to her that she was able to share these stories in her own voice. She was terrible at it, and after the first day of crushing defeat in the studio recording, she wanted to give up. But she got some advice from a good friend, who merely said:
Pretend you’re good at it.
You go, Lawson. You go.
Going forward, I better understood Lawson. I didn’t care that her voice was a bit annoying to me. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Jenny Lawson stood up to something that terrified her and WON. Now I can’t imagine hearing this book in any other voice.
The only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.
Furiously Happy goes on to talk more and more about mental illness. Specifically, from the perspective of Jenny Lawson. She is frank, honest, and sometimes terrifyingly brutal. I have never experienced an author being so comfortable in their own skin. She is obviously hiding nothing from her readers. Lawson also is clear that she isn’t trying to force her experiences or perspective on her readers either.
When you come out of the grips of depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you are allowed to celebrate. Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again.
I’m so glad that this book fell into my lap. Mental illness is something that we don’t know enough about. It’s something that is only just coming out of taboo. Just like gender politics, equality, racism, etc. we won’t improve the situation unless we talk about it. Plus, this is incredibly important to me as an individual. Many of the closest people in my life are suffering, or have suffered, from some sort of mental illness. And yet, I barely understand. Hearing Lawson talk about how mental illness affects her life so profoundly makes me want to learn more. Time to educate myself!
Don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides.
You’ll laugh until you cry. You’ll wonder, “Who even thinks of that, let alone does it?!”. You’ll be sad. But that’s okay. This book is worth all those emotions, and more.
This book is brilliant. Go. Learn. And be Furiously Happy.