The Midnight Library Review

midnight library summary

I read The Midnight Library over the weekend, and I need to talk about it. With everyone.

(Trigger/content warnings of suicide attempt/suicidal ideation/mom loss.)

I’ve heard so much buzz about this book, but because of said trigger warnings was really nervous to read it…since those are personal triggers for me, too. But Grace said that it was actually incredibly uplifting, so I decided to give it a try and let myself stop if it became too triggering.

(Though, when I started to describe the book to my therapist this morning, before I got to the uplifting part, she asked me “where the fuck do you find these books, Theodora?!” I am known to fall into books, sometimes unknowingly, that are DEEPLY triggering.)

The book starts off with our young protagonist, Nora, losing her cat and then contemplating, and then attempting suicide. She falls into…title drop…the Midnight Library. The premise of the Midnight Library is that it’s kind of a land in between life and death. The library holds shelves of books of your regrets and all the alternate lives you might have lived.

She tries out a life where her childhood swimming led her to the Olympics, where her singing made her a rockstar, etc, etc—but realized that none of these alternate lives were what she thought they were. Every life, even the ones that look all bright and shiny, has its shit.

As someone who deals with depression—and had a pretty bad episode recently—the idea that there is a gray cloud over my head while everyone else is living in the sunshine is all too real. And of course, social media only magnifies this. (So I’ve stayed off IG a lot lately.) I got some really good news recently, and idly started scrolling through IG and saw something that made me feel deeply envious and terrible about myself. This negated the good feelings I’d just been feeling as I went quickly and deeply into a spiral.

But I don’t know what’s in her book—maybe she had to go through a whole lot of trauma to get to where she is in her beautiful house. (After being inside a 1-BR for 90% of the past year, I have DEEP house envy right now.) Maybe she has a sick parent or partner right now or or or. Maybe her shit to go through hasn’t come yet. Because, at some point, we will ALL have that shit—that feels more than we can bear—even if things look all bright and shiny now.

I like to say I have no regrets. I DO. NOT. BELIEVE. that something like a loved one dying or an illness happens for a reason AND PLEASE NEVER SAY THAT TO SOMEONE. But with that said, I think some of the decisions we make and paths we take are what—rocky road or not—get us to where we are today. My only two true regrets are not studying harder in high school/college (I did well in classes I liked but didn’t ~apply myself~ in ones I didn’t) and not getting any kind of mental health treatment earlier. I walked into my school’s counseling center either my freshman or sophomore year…and turned around at the door because I was scared. I wonder how that might have changed things, but I can’t change that and I have to have compassion for young Theodora who was struggling and was so scared to let others in.

Do I wish I had gone to treatment earlier? Or moved to California earlier? Absolutely—but I wouldn’t have been ready.

As I finished The Midnight Library, I was snuggled up in the corner of my couch, under my cozy weighted blanket, with my snuggly little puppy by my side, with the sun warming my face as I looked out at the ocean. When I put down the book and realized that, I realized how lucky I was—and was able to hold onto that. When I am having a dark moment, I am always very aware of how truly lucky I am in many ways in this life—and that makes me feel even worse that my brain won’t let me appreciate that, furthering the spiral.

Even when I am doing relatively well mentally, my mind can VERY quickly go to despair and a very dark place. Since finishing this book, when it does go to that dark place of personal despair (societal despair is a very different thing), I have been reminding myself that this is my book. There may be some pretty fucked up pages in it, there may be lots of espresso stains on the pages, Lucy might have eaten a corner of a page—but it’s mine. And it’s mine to write going forward.

I should also note that the author, Matt Haig, writes frequently on mental health and deals with depression himself. I’ve also read his Reasons to Stay Alive when I was looking deeply…for reasons to stay alive.

My Funny Valentine

Yeah, just another year with a dog as my valentine. (Though she’s a pretty damn good one, I must say.)

Because everything seems to hit differently in a pandemic, it’s hitting me extra hard today that I’m single…still.

I like to *say* I’m not one to regret things, but I’ve certainly recently uncovered some things in therapy that have me feeling like I wish I’d done things differently, and then maybe I wouldn’t be single at 38. (Or maybe I would? Who knows.) But, I can’t change the past, I can only change things going forward.

(Also there’s that whole pandemic thing making dating hard.)

This whole thread is good, but even as alone as I feel on my couch right now, wishing I were sharing a nice dinner with a nice man…I can also hold the fact that I *do* have so much love in my life. Just not in the romantic way.

I turned 38 on Thursday (wtf is time??), and I didn’t even have just a “good for pandemic birthday.” I had a good birthday, full stop.

A rare portrait of the artist looking calm and content. I’m not going to lie—I really like this pic. It feels like a good depiction of where I am right now.

I don’t love the idea of outdoor dining right now—for my safety AND the workers’ safety (who would likely be impacted far more than me)—BUT I knew I could go to Shutters for a fancy breakfast at 8am on a Thursday and there not be anyone around. (And obviously I wore a mask when they were at the table.) I love a good fancy hotel breakfast, and this previously simple thing brought me immense joy. It also reminded me of when I traveled with my mom. Of course, I was missing her on my birthday, but when I woke up, the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier said Mom?! And then there was a bird on that other chair?! Carol was never very subtle.

I had a pretty low-key day of class and trainings, but then a lovely evening. First: Kayla taught a private folkmore/evermore (yes, I am obsessed with Taylor Swift now) yoga class for me. I had really hoped I might get away with not having a pandemic birthday, but it looks like none of us will get away with that. (Except maybe Leap Day birthdays??) I would have preferred to hug people, but doing Taylor Swift yoga on a screen was as good a consolation prize as I was going to get, and not a bad one.

And then my dear friend/California family/pod upstairs, Kate, had me over for dinner and had these cute balloons up when I got there.

Between that, all the messages, sweets and flowers I got, I am feeling very loved and holding on to that right now—and the fact that I’d also like some romantic love, too.