Friday, March 31, 2006

A Little Soup

Last night I was pacing up and down my room, my mind churning vitriol, the worst of the worst thoughts swirling around, making myself furious with imaginary conversations, when I paused at the bookshelf.

What should I read now to ease my mind and put me to sleep? Agatha Christie? No, I read all these at least 40 times each. Jennings? No. Not interested. A little too banal. Charles Dickens? Not really. Jane Austen? Not in the mood. Salman, I'll read that when I get back and real life begins.

Then my eyes flickered over my Chicken Soup for the Soul collection. Several times. You see, there was a time when these were a mainstay with me. I would read and re-read the stories about people being nice to each other, overcoming obstacles, expressing love, and I would feel comforted. I remember when I was living alone and having a horrible time of it. So lonely that I would scream silently into pillows to relieve my feelings. I didn't have any money at the time (it was all being poured into rent, and as this was during the financial crisis, the company had frozen all our overtime, with which I had planned to pay the rent in the first place), but when I saw a new Chicken Soup book out, I would scrape together my coins, sally forth and buy it.

Then I would spend the next night going through each story, weeping copiously (but it was good tears, tears of release) and somehow feeling better after it. It was like talking to a non-existent friend. It was like someone stroking my hair. The reminder that love was out there, even if I was not personally experiencing it in my life at the time. But somehow, it was almost as if I was. It leapt from the page and comforted my sore and battered heart.

It was around this time that I actually met one of the co-writers, Mark Victor Hansen. He was speaking in Kuala Lumpur, and being a reporter, I managed to wrangle an interview with him. What can I say, he was as lovely as his books suggested. The anxious PRs hovered around, telling me sternly to keep it short as Mr Hansen needed to have his lunch, but he said, no problem, ask as many questions as you want. And he kept saying, one more story, one more story...

Like how there was this guy in jail (let's call him Jake) who spent all his time trying to plan the murder of the one who put him in there. Jake's sister sent him a copy of one of the Chicken Soup books and he read it six times. Then he wrote to the authors saying he was no longer planning that murder: "I bet that guy's relieved," Mark laughed.

He could see that there was something wrong with me at the time, so he gave me an extra special hug and told me to write to him when I had come through to the other side and had my own obstacle overcoming, coming-out-of-the-dark story to tell. I promised I would (and I will, once I have that story).

So I picked up a 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul and started reading. Pretty soon, I was blubbering, but like before, they were tears of release. I felt the ice walls inside dissolve and I went to sleep peacefully, without those destructive tapes playing havoc in my head.

A little soup goes a long way.


goldennib said...

I have always wished I was nice. I get so inspired by nice stories and people and then someone will pull out in front of me in the street and I lose my mind.

Jenn said...

I dunno. Those nice stories kind of thin out the sludge, I have found. For a while you don't think the world is a howling wilderness where everyone is just rotten to each other. You catch yourself feeling differently.