I almost chose to not write about Women, Work, and the Art of Savoir Faire. Why? Because, quite frankly, yet another the-French-do-it-better-than-us book is overkill in American society, but also her other books perpetuate ideas about how a person is only worthy if they’re thin and traditionally acceptable to Western Society. This book has some of that bias too. There is a section on presentability.
But here’s the thing: somehow, sometimes, you need to be reminded in the right way that the point of work is getting things done, and you need to both believe in what you are doing and it has to match your skill set. This book worked as a good reminder for me about that.
I still skipped a fair bit of this – I never want to manage other people again, so that chapter wasn’t relevant – but it did give me some motivation I was lacking, and that’s not a bad thing.
True story: I once ended up in therapy because I was so stressed out about adding a bunch – too many – self care to dos to my regular to do list. Like, how am I supposed to do everything I regularly need to get done while also doing all the other things I’m supposed to be doing to take care of myself? Deliberate self-care just made the problem worse.
Which is, I suppose, life’s way of telling me that I was doing it wrong. Self-care is supposed to be about making sure you’re taking the time to do what’s right for you, not what other people tell you are the things you should do.
What does this have to do with The Happy Healthy Non-Profit? Well, for the first two chapters (basically: all the ways we stress ourselves out) I was there. I enjoyed reading them and noticed that I was eating more vegetables, walking more, and taking more time for myself during the day. Then, in the third chapter where it got really detailed about all of the self-care items you should add to your to do list? All those pages of do-this-not-that? Stress city.
I was out. Just done. Completely. I’ve been there before, and it didn’t work for me. There was more of the book to be read, perhaps tips and tricks that would have been helpful, but I was having none of it.
That’s the point of self-care. It’s about you doing what’s right for you – my self care is not going to be your self care. My salad for breakfast (don’t knock it till you try it) is your too-much-work-too-early-in-the-morning.
Which, I guess means I should say: this book didn’t work for me. It might for you.
What’s it about?
The movie version of The Remains of the Day is an elegant but sad love story between the butler and the housekeeper of an English estate between WWI and WWII. The butler’s uncompromising standards and obsession with his work doom their romantic relationship. The book version is an entirely different story. The attraction is still there, but it is secondary to the main plot. That story is about how the butler’s uncompromising standards and obsession with his work make him unable to hold his own opinions about literally anything else. Between the wars, some British, including the butler’s employer, Lord Darlingon, were trying to appease the Nazis. All the butler is able to do is go about his work. In this case, there is a conference between the Germans and the Brits in the house; it ends badly.
Why should you read it?
See, now this is a book about an awful yet sympathetic person that was a delight to read. Kazuo Ishiguro writes divinely, you sympathize with the butler who wants to do his job as best he can, and you see the German-British relationship for the tragedy it was. You might even mourn the end of the British Empire. While the book was entirely different than what I expected, I still enjoyed it.