Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Review: The Opposite of Certainty

It's been awhile since I've read a non-fiction but as soon as I saw the description for this I knew I had to read it and jumped at the chance. Even if you have never had a child with cancer you are going to relate to this mom and the journey of emotions just being a mom.

The Opposite of Certainty
Janine Urbaniak Reid

What happens when we can no longer pretend that the ground underfoot is bedrock and the sky above predictable?

All Janine Urbaniak Reid ever wanted was for everyone she loved to be okay so she might relax and maybe be happy. Her life strategy was simple: do everything right. This included trying to be the perfect mother to her three kids so they would never experience the kind of pain she pretended not to feel growing up. What she didn’t expect was the chaos of an out-of-control life that begins when her young son’s hand begins to shake.

The Opposite of Certainty is the story of Janine’s reluctant journey beyond easy answers and platitudes. She searches for a source of strength bigger than her circumstances, only to have her circumstances become even thornier with her own crisis. Drawn deeply and against her will into herself, and into the eternal questions we all ask, she discovers hidden reserves of strength, humor, and a no-matter-what faith that looks nothing like she thought it would. 

Beautifully written and deeply hopeful, Janine shows us how can we come through impossible times, transformed and yet more ourselves than we’d ever allowed ourselves to be.

Phew... I don't know where to even start with this one but when I say that this was therapy in a book, I really mean it. I go to therapy a few times a month and I feel seen when I'm there, but this book is written so well and I felt seen by the author. She gets it. It makes me feel like all of the irrational things that rattle through my head aren't crazy after all.

In this book we have Janine, a mom with three kids, a wife to a husband with a rising career. She's a Pinterest worthy mom at the cost of herself at times. Oftentimes it takes a tragedy for us to take a hard look at ourselves and gather the courage to fix it. For me, it was dying during giving birth, for Janine is was learning her son had been born with a brain tumor which was like them throwing themselves off the cliff. So much information with little time to process the situation let alone your options,but then having the feelings you do, trying to make sure you're doing the right thing for his son and maintaining his mental health, but making sure your marriage doesn't tank during all of it.

Frankly, how anyone makes it is a miracle, and I have first hand experience at how hard it is to keep going after that traumatic thing that happens to people.

I have to give you a couple of things that made me cry because it was someone else verbalizing something I feel and I can't articulate myself:
I wipe my eyes with the heel of my hand. Growing up I'd learned to stomp out inconvenient and scary feelings that threatened my ability to maintain control amid the chaos. This is a skill I've honed as an adult, a superpower I use to run the business of our family with a mostly affectionate efficiency. The problem is I now find myself leaking-all the time. 
I can relate to that so much. My parents weren't mean about it but it was made clear nobody had time for you to cry about things. People had real problems out there and I'm sitting here crying over something stupid. I find myself doing the same thing to my children sometimes and I have to consciously stop and validate those feelings and help them work through it.
My neediness is embarrassing. As a person who devoted her life to being super capable, it's particularly unsettling. I feel relief when Annie is on the other end of the phone. Eventually, though, we have to hang up, and I'm left with me. But this morning, instead of trying not to think about what might be going wrong in Mason's brain, I shift my focus to the neurologist who "forgot" to order an MRI during Mason's era of "migraines" and "normal" tremors. I also think of Dr. Window-In-The-Head scouring Mason's chart for what I'd done wrong, anything that could absolve the hospital and his colleague of liability. Had I breastfed him enough? Vacationed near Chernobyl? 
You guys. I had to actually put the book down and just cry it out because YES. Yes to all of this. I feel like I'm four years from my trauma and I'm not anywhere near over it for lots of reasons and though professionals tell me it is normal and maybe I won't ever get there and it's OK to not be OK, I'm certain people think I should be OK. After awhile on really bad days you stop reaching out because surely they see their phone and think, "are you kidding me? AGAIN?". Rational? Not really, but here we are. I identified with the guilt. I have experienced doctors telling me this is all my fault but I go over everything in my head wondering what did I do wrong? How does this happen on a fourth pregnancy? Why am I just NOW allergic to my own amniotic fluid?! Maybe I shouldn't have eaten so much pizza and nachos. Maybe I should have exercised more. Drank more water. It's endless and pointless, but I wanted to hug this author because I get it.

She mentions people, with well intentions surely, giving her unsolicited advice and suggestions. There is always someone who has something to say and knows someone or has a fifth cousin with the SAME issue and you know what they did? Ate grass and called it a salad. Worked wonders. *sarcasm*

In between all of that, there is this gripping story about her son, and imagining what it would be like if this is my child. You find yourself on this emotional roller coaster with her. She talks about her relationship to God and it being this confusing thing but also something she is relying on because at some point you have to just let go and hold onto hope. Aside from the surgeries, bleeds, and treatments, its a whole new life once you go home and her comparing it to like bringing a new baby home seems so on point.

I just... I could talk about this book for days and it'll certainly be on my mind for a long time. If you're a mom who has a child who is (or has) gone down a similar path, you might gain some peace from this. If you're a mom struggling with the world right now, burning at both ends and feeling like a failure, this will remind you how critical you are. There's that quote along the lines of being a speck in the world, but to your kids you're the entire world? That's this book.
Thank you so much to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour but also Thomas Nelson and W Publishing for sending me a copy to review. The biggest thanks of all to Janine Urbaniak Reid for not just getting it all down on paper but putting it out into the world. I don't think you realize how perfect and timely this will be for so many people.
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Why Girls Are Weird said...

You are on a roll right now, I am so adding this to my Goodreads.

Jen Mc said...

Wow! I will have to pick up this book, it sounds well written and interesting. Thanks for the review!