I haven’t read Cecelia Ahern in such a long time, I have forgotten how her fairytale-like novels used to blow me away with its perfect fusion of reality and the unimaginable. They are like fairytales but like, realistic fairytales. Unlike Disney ones that whisk us off to some fantasy world, cecelia ahern’s tales are fairy tales with a realistic and practical setting, fairytales in real life.
The thing about Cecelia Ahern’s books is that it is very easy to read. I never realised this before because I have taken such a long hiatus from reading her books (my last book was one hundred names, about 2 years ago) that maybe my vocabulary has increased ever since, or that my command of the English language has improved so much ever since I came to uni, that made her books seem easier to read now. I finished it in two days.
Even when my English was poor in the past, I got what she was trying to say. I have started reading her books since I was 13 years old and struggled a little. Then, it got better. They are simpler than most books like ‘The Hobbit’ or ‘Pride and Prejudice’, no fancy metaphors, no crazy jargons so she made it really enjoyable and effortless to follow through the story and even, devour it in one sitting. I love it.
But it’s her narratives that’s deep. She twists the storyline in such a magical and unexpected way.
How to Fall in Love, as misleading as the title appears, is not a guidebook about how to fall in love with people. It’s a fictional story about a woman who shows a man how to fall in love with his own life. It has themes, about suicide, mental illness…themes that i have come into close contact for the past few days. I found it peculiar regarding this recurring theme appearing in my life for the past one week.
Ironically, the book even said, “lightning never strikes twice”, meaning the same highly unlikely event never happens to the same person twice. Untrue. I can’t believe I heard of some kind of death/mental illness over the same short span of one week.
Firstly, a close friend confided to me that she was diagnosed with anxiety. Then, I read a book about eating disorders, and the second book (this one) about suicide. I went to FOCUS and the message that day happened to be about how to help ourselves/our friends struggling with depression and anxiety. And to sum up my great experience, I heard about two deaths on the same day yesterday, one of which due to suicide.
I don’t know if its just purely coincidental but I don’t think so. If these incidents say anything at all, it is saying that depression, mental illness and suicide is common and everywhere, something prevalent as an issue and something to be taken seriously. It is an issue to be sensitive about.
I can’t help thinking that this is my calling, at least for now. To show support and love to those going through hard times or have lost their loved ones. To show support and care to those going through mental illnesses. I want to.
In the book, Christine wants to help Adam, who tried to commit suicide a few days ago. In doing so, she tries desperately to “fix” him, but the part I liked most was the argument presented that you can’t fix people and they need to help themselves. Christine was a fixer, like me. I always wanted to bring out the best in people. I never left a guy I dated in the past, thinking I could “fix” him. That, obviously, led to my own destruction. Truth is, you can’t “fix” a person that doesn’t want to be helped.
Cecelia Ahern actually read up professional help about suicide before writing this book. The best ways to help a suicidal person is to confine yourself to being there for him, listening to him, supporting him, but whatever you do, stop trying to fix him before it gets too far. Be a friend to them, and let them do the work themselves. Be there for him. That’s all.
As I said, I was always a fixer. I love to help people but sadly not many people come to me for advice and help. When asking if there’s anything wrong, replies like these would always be heard:
“I tend to keep things to myself, its a habit”
“I don’t want to burden other people.”
You know what? Bullshit.
All these are bullshit. I have heard these so many times, it makes my blood boil. Have you ever thought that in the midst of not wanting to burden people, you keep things from them and actually cause them to worry about you even more? Have you thought that by not confiding to me, it actually makes me feel more guilty, makes me question if I am a good friend, and whether there was trust in our friendship in the first place? Have you ever thought that ironically, it is in all these “I don’t want to burden others” talk, that you actually made me feel EVEN MORE burdened?! Geez.
I think it is in mutual confiding that makes a friendship stronger. Both parties have to confide their problems to each other. I used to have a friend which is a really good listener, gives perfect advice and thus always gives me the solace I needed when I turned to him about my issues. But he never did the same. He was always listening, always helping, but never unloading his burdens onto me. I don’t feel honoured. In fact, it wasn’t that he didn’t have any problems, he did, but he just…does not talk about them to me, even when prompted. He thought it was helping me, that he doesn’t like to burden people, but y’know what? This attitude of self-sufficiency (thinking that you don’t need anyone) is just…destructing for a friendship. Friends are supposed to be there for one another. Unloading burdens onto another friend’s shoulder is an honourable thing. It means that you’re worthy enough, trustable enough to shoulder that person’s load.
Soon after, I stopped confiding in him. Why? Because what’s the point if it’s one-sided? I felt guilty—guilty for always bothering him with my problems when he never bothered me with his. (if he reads this, good, because I would like to see a behaviour change LOL) Have you ever thought that by not confiding in your friend, you think you are giving them a huge favour but no, you’re just making sure they feel more guilty? Soon after your friends are going to think twice before always coming to you for help because they feel bad about always being at the receiving end. This is guilt tripping in its finest form. Not cool.
…..That day another incident happened again: a close friend of mine chooses to call another friend after a bad day instead of me, when I have been sitting beside in the taxi beside her all along. I feel so bad. SO so bad. When she was in the car I noticed she was a little moody. She could’ve confided in me then. But no, she went home, called the other friend and cried over the phone. “Nah I don’t really tell people my problems,” she said. “Habit,” she added.
“Well, yeah, it seems like all of my friends have that habit,” I wanted to say. I am so sick with people not telling me what’s wrong.
I know the fault doesn’t lie with her that I’m upset. I can’t totally blame her. I know it is partly my issues and past experiences. After all the friends failing to confide in me, I wondered if the fault lies with me, and that accumulates. Maybe I just give bad advice, or maybe I just don’t look like someone people can depend/rely on. I begin to wonder. Is there something wrong with me?
The most valuable quotes in the book, however, relates to me and occurred randomly. Here are some:
“If a person’s behaviour has a negative effect on your life, you have to communicate with them, share the problem, discuss it, come to a conclusion.” I thought immediately about mum and a friend of mine whose speech was so toxic it bothered me for a long while. I did tell her though, in the end, even though it was futile and the conversation just ended with her telling me to suck it up. There was no conclusion when the person refused to change his or her behaviour. But I guess what I liked about this quote is the confrontational approach to a problem instead of sitting down and bitching about the person behind his or her back. You have to let the person know. As for my mum, letting her know and getting her to change is a tedious process because yknow, it consumes a lot of energy just to talk to her.
But besides talking about heavy themes such as suicide, it does have romance in it, including quirky tips I found helpful hahaha. For example, falling in love occurs when a series of events occur with one person. When you guys hang out repeatedly. It doesn’t just happen by chance. And tips for dating like try listening for 80% of the time and speaking for 20%. Or that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
‘Sometimes you can know something and not know it at the same time.’ (pg205, pg296)
This quote haunts me. It’s creepy because it’s like a self-fulfilled prophecy. You know this would happen to you in future, when you’re not supposed to know, but you just…you just know. Like there’s an unjustifiable knowledge, at the back of your head, you just know. It goes many times for me. People just know their results would be bad when they haven’t received it yet. Some people just know when they would die when death is unpredictable just yet. It’s just a feeling…maybe it would go away..I don’t know. And sometimes, knowing something enables me to ‘live a scene in my head for like a thousand times in various ways and through the eyes of many people in my late night/morning fears’, fearing that one day, it will come to fruition, fearing that one day, the scene in my head would be reality, and if that’s not tormenting I don’t know what is. In the book, when it finally did come to fruition, Christine Rose said ‘but I didn’t think it would actually come to fruition’. ‘Sometimes you can know something and not know it at the same time.’
What a dark thought.