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If you enjoyed the novel or the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, you will want to read Julie Butler’s debut novel entitled Paper Girl. Butler’s novel exposes the perfect storm of cruelty, misunderstanding, and manipulation that contributes to a young girl’s unspoken raw pain. The music of Kurt Cobain is central to the book’s story line.
Butler is a long-time fan of Kurt Cobain, the front man of the group Nirvana. She, like millions of others, understands what it’s like to feel “stupid and contagious” (lyrics from Nirvana’s teen anthem, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”). Although the author understands all too well the debilitating power of “The Bully,” as she refers to depression in the novel, she has spent many hours combing articles and Cobain biographies in an attempt to understand his specific pain and where it may have begun. How did Cobain’s illness and addiction develop and ultimately cause him to end his own life?
Paper Girl will make you feel Nikki’s pain. You will cheer for her on every page. You will understand how cruelty and the inability to fully be yourself in the world contributes to unbearable pain for those who are paying attention. In a way, the author is a bit envious of those who don’t notice the homeless or the elderly. At times she has wished to be unfeeling and oblivious to the ways in which people cause harm to one another. Below is a quote from Michael Stipe during Nirvana’s induction to the Hall of Fame.
“It is the highest calling for an artist…to expose our struggles, our aspirations, our desires…Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl were Nirvana…Nirvana defined a moment, a movement for outsiders: for the fags; for the fat girls for the broken toys; the shy nerds; the Goth kids from Tennessee and Kentucky; for the rockers and the awkward; for the fed-up; the too-smart kids and the bullied.” (Michael Stipe)
As a writer, I do a lot of quiet observing. There’s a gentleman I call Tupperware Man who works at the local grocery in my town. He may end up as a future character in a story I write. He’s probably in his 50s. He brings his own Tupperware container to the high school basketball games. He buys food at the concession stand, but then he puts it in his Tupperware container and heads back to the stands where he eats his meal and watches the game. I noticed him about five years ago and I always check to see if he has his container when I see him at the games. He always does. You can’t make these types of observations if you’re always talking. Here are some thought-provoking quotes about quiet.
- Quiet people notice everything.
- Speak only if it improves the silence.
- The quieter you become, the more you can hear.
- Never assume that loud is strong and quiet is weak.
- Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.
- Everything in your head doesn’t need to be said.
- Just because I am quiet does not mean I am not a force to be reckoned with.
I don’t sit down to pray specific prayers very often, but I do find myself noticing people every day. My heart goes out to the elderly woman standing on the street corner selling newspapers for two dollars. She smiles but I see that she is lonely. I often wonder about the childhood of the drunk man stumbling down the street with nowhere to live. What horrible things happened to him that no one knows? I also notice elderly shoppers checking their coupons in the grocery store. I am interested in these people. Sometimes I speak to them. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I give the woman selling newspapers some money. Other times I don’t. But I always notice them.
I love a post I saw on Twitter from Glennon Doyle Melton@Momastery recently.
“Noticing and feeling the joy and pain of the world is a prayer. I call it praying attention. I understand now that I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. When someone asks me why I cry so often, I say, ‘For the same reason I laugh so often – because I’m paying attention.'”
Melton calls it “praying attention,” and I have adopted the phrase, too. Don’t be so quick to try to fix people and fix their “problems.” Sit with them emotionally in their stuff. Go ahead and feel sad for them. The reason it hurts is because you are praying attention. As Melton also said, “Stay woke, loves.”
People who are depressed cannot simply “pull themselves together” and be cured. Without proper treatment, including antidepressants and/or psychotherapy, untreated clinical depression can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression. (WebMD) – If your doctor shames you for feeling depressed, find another doctor. Some pediatricians and internists simply don’t understand depression and they may not take you seriously. Find another doctor! Find a psychiatrist who listens and validates you and your feelings. You are worth it.
Children are not meant to be tiny clones of us. I’ll say it again, because it’s critical that you get this. Your children are NOT meant to be tiny clones of you! Ouch. That realization can be a painful one at times. You, as parents, want to show your beloved children how to live in this world. You want to influence their decisions. You want to give them good advice. You want them to like the music you like. You want to influence them politically, spiritually, and socially. After all, you have been charged with their care and well-being. Shouldn’t they be formed in your image? These little people belong to us and it’s our job to make sure they turn out right. Not exactly. Your children don’t actually belong to you. Possessions belong to us. Money belongs to us. Car keys belong to us. But not children.
In order to be a truly great parent, you must realize that your children have their own purpose in this world. Their individual life is sacred and must be supported and validated by you. So many parents get this wrong. They believe that, somehow, these little humans belong to them and that it is the their job to mold the child into what the parent wants the child to be. This could not be further from the truth. Discard this lie. It is, in fact, a lie. This is where so many of us, as parents, go wrong. When we view these small humans as “ours” and as little people who need to grow up to be just like us, we rob our children of the life they were intended to live. Think of your child’s life as a wild flower. You don’t really know what it’s going to look like or be like once it is grown, but you still water it and give it sunlight and love. You don’t try to make the wildflower be a rose or a tulip or a sunflower. You just let it be what it was meant to be. One of my favorite quotes is by poet Kahlil Gibran. Wiser words were never spoken:
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and thought they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”
It is a sacred job to be a parent. Be careful with your children. Think of each person’s life as a sacred spiritual journey. Only the Universe knows what your child’s purpose is for this human experience. Your child’s life is a sacred instrument in the world. Your jobs are to keep them safe, allow them to experience the consequences of life, and to validate their feelings. One example of validation is when a young child comes to you and says, “Adam is being mean.”
Your initial response might be to say, “No, he isn’t. He’s just trying to let you know…” Be very, very careful when your children come to you and express their feelings. You are the person who can most validate their feelings. If you do not validate their feelings, they will grow up lacking strong self-esteem and a solid identity. When you say, “No, he isn’t…” what your child “learns” is that her perceptions and feelings are incorrect and that she cannot trust herself. She then begins to doubt her gut instincts.
A better course of action would be to respond with something like, “I’m sorry, sweetheart. What happened?” This allows your child to feel heard and to learn that you are a safe place to come when the world is hard. Letting her know that you care about her feelings will cause her to open up to you and share more of the painful experience. It’s really what adults do when they pay a therapist to listen and validate their feelings during a mid-life crisis, for example. By validating your child’s feelings, you are allowing your child to express the hurt. Most of the time, children (and adults) don’t need answers. We just need a friendly listener.
Once your child has expressed her emotions and has had the opportunity to explain the details of the painful situation, you may then try to steer them in a good direction or help them see the truth of the situation if the truth is different than what they experienced. In any event, it is crucial that you first are actively listening and validating them. You will not regret it.
Dreams were wonderful that way — transcending gravity and physics — all confines of the physical world. Kurt’s two-day facial scruff added grit to his demeanor. Stage lights shined hot on his gold locks as he rocked back and forth. A cigarette burn hole was front and center on the ragged too-large sweater hanging on his small frame. Nikki felt the bass in her chest. She could see occasional darts of saliva shoot from his beautiful mouth as the sandpaper angst made its way into the world. She loved him. But not like a girl loves a boy. The love was something spiritual. She could rely on him. He was always the same. He was not afraid to be himself totally. He was not afraid to let the ugly show. He was not afraid to let the anger show. He felt deeply. He lived deeply.
Excerpt from “Paper Girl.” Click BUY NOW link to purchase the paperback or the e-book.