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The Light We Carry: Overcoming In Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama

"We are a whole and uncontainable people with whole and uncontainable lives. Our messes sometimes travel with us to work. Our vulnerabilities surface, our worries spil over. Our personalities, not to mention those of others around us, aren't so easily tamped into a mold." (page 261)

I am glad that it's a new year because that means I get to smash some new reading goals! I started the year on a high note reading Michelle Obama's 'The Light We Carry,' which was on my wishlist last year. Things got a bit hectic during the last quarter of the year and I had to reduce my reading time but I am so glad to be back! I've never had so many mixed feelings about a book as much as I did while reading The Light We Carry. Well, it's not another Becoming and depending on how you rated Becoming, that could be a good thing or a great disappointment...Then there's me who is in the middle! I am thankful that it's a different book from the first because I enjoy reads that tap into a writer's different wells be it stylistic, thematic or content wise. This book is divided into three parts bearing a lot of what Obama considers tools she's used in this journey of life so far. This book is a glimpse inside her personal toolbox. As always, with books like this I take what I find valuable and I loved Obama's writing on friendship, parenting and working towards living with boldness.

So many things make up a community and a solid community can help one to go through change and face obstacles. Obama highlights the importance of community in Chapter 5 and one key aspect of that is having solid close friendships. As a person who highly values friendships I found Obama's personal experiences and views on this enlightening and to a certain extent affirming. From her personal experiences I loved how her friendships are reciprocal relationships where investment in one another is taken seriously. Building a community of your own requires connection and investment. I think friendships should be safe spaces but to get to that level requires a lot of work and the parties involved must be willing to put in the work. Obama says, 'I try to provide the same thing for my friends now: a sense of home, a sense of safety and belonging, a sympathetic ear. And that's what I look for inside friendships, the same enveloping feeling. I refer to my friend group as my "Kitchen Table," the people beyond my family whom I trust, delight in, and rely on the most - and for whom I would do anything. These are the friends I've asked to pull up a chair and sit with me in life.' (page 142) My key lessons from this beautiful chapter that I've bookmarked are: some friends come and go and that's alright, all your friends do not need to know each other what matters is their collective power in your life, be open to making new connections and don't do life alone.

Obama gushes about her mother, Marian Robinson, in Becoming and the talk continues in The Light We Carry. In her current book Obama reveals that when it comes to parenting her secret weapon is her own mother. She has learned a lot just by watching her mother, mother her and more importantly being a great grandmother to her two daughters, Malia and Sasha. This has meant that she and her husband, Barack, draw from her wise perspective and presence. Obama shares her mother's five tried and tested maxims for parenting. I loved this one, '4. Parent the child you've got...In the end, the child you have will grow into the person they're meant to be. They will learn life their own way. You will control some but definitely not all of how it goes for them.' (pages 206-12) I feel like more parents need to hear this because this business of bringing up children in the way you wish you had/think you should have been brought up or reading all the parenting books in the world and experimenting every lesson using your child is not right. Obama calls upon parents/guardians to give their children the opportunity to be heard and seen.

Being bold in a world that is constantly trying to set you up in one way or another can be tiring. It's easy to give up on ourselves and any hope that we have that this world may become a better place...some day. We cannot give up. Part Three of the book reminded me a lot of Brené Brown's 'Daring Greatly' (you can read my review here). Obama talks about when and how to share authentically and effectively in the face of the obstacles placed before us. "All around me, I see smart and creative folks who are working their way step-by-step into greater power and visibility, in many instances having figured out how to harness rather than hide whatever sets them apart. When we do this, we start to acknowledge all the contradictions and influences that make us unique. We normalize differentness. We reveal more of the larger human mosaic." (Page 233-34) We need to do more of that, accepting how different we all are and how we can co-exist. Working towards that courage takes time and I am encouraged by Obama's words to keep trying, it doesn't change that sometimes my expressiveness may be judged or interepreted in ways beyond my control.

Obama's writing style and language tilts more on the simple side and that's one thing that makes this an easy read. It's a book of 336 pages and heavy on the repetition and this makes The Light We Carry longer than it should. Some of what she says in this text has already been highlighted in Becoming which is also a long book. I love the picture sections in the book and the fact that they are in black and white. There are things that I love about Michelle Obama and if you want to dig out what you don't know about her and what she has to say then this book is for you.


Book Details

Title: The Light We Carry: Overcoming In Uncertain Times

Genre: Non-fiction

Author: Michelle Obama

Publisher: Viking (2022)

Pages: 336

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