Personal transformation through going wild? Yes! Yes! Yes! (And if those three words remind you of Meg Ryan’s wildly enthusiastic fake orgasm from “When Harry Met Sally” — then — great! our minds run in the same rom-com neural pathway. But I digress.)
What I’m yelling Yes! about is Martha Beck‘s newest book, and first novel, Diana, Herself. An Allegory of Awakening, which I recently read (it came out in 2016, which shows you just how far behind I am in my reading!)
With a relaxed, best-friend-y, round-the-campfire writing style, in Diana, Herself, Beck takes the reader on a beguiling, bewildering journey about a woman becoming herself, and by extension, the book, an allegory in the truest sense, is a lesson for you, dear reader, on YOU, becoming YOURSELF.
Diana, Herself is an imaginative, looping (and loping), trippy, fantastical (and fantastic) romp through possibility. The possibility of what we might possibly BE and be able to DO — if we only could — if we only would – access that ancient wisdom of our once-WILDer selves. (I just might adopt “Be Wild(er) Now,” as my new motto after reading this book, which, by the way, I could hardly put down.)
Beck subtitles her book with this bold proclamation: “an allegory of awakening.” I admit I was put off a bit by those words — it felt like being told how I should experience the book. But as I read page after page, I saw she was right to use those words — not simply because the book actually is an allegory of awakening, but to reassure readers. Her subtitle sends a subtle “fasten your seatbelts, folks” message – giving a bit of fair warning to readers for the wild ride they’re about to embark upon.
And that subtle warning is needed. Because Diana, Herself is not for everyone.
It’s not a book for those who cannot take a leap of imagination or for readers who cannot suspend disbelief. It’s definitely not for die-hard skeptics or anyone who has lost (or tossed, or bossed into oblivion) that essential innocent trusting that infants possess, that wide-eyed wonder of children experiencing anything for the first time, or that willingness to believe in every possibility that propelled us through adolescence.
Actually, wait! Those are precisely the people who need to read this book! If you no longer can access trust, wonder, and a willingness to consider the possibility of magical influences and experiences in your life, then you’d do well to throw your cautious, careful, creaky self to the wind, and dive into this allegorical tale. It’s a weird book, for sure. But we’re all a bit weird, aren’t we? Why not let your own inner weirdo come out and play with this book and see where it leads?
Weirdo or not (I am, for sure), Diana, Herself is a book I recommend for anyone who has even the slightest desire to wake up, open up and live more truthfully, more boldly.
That’s a major takeaway of this book: That we — humans — must awaken and heal ourselves. RIGHT NOW in this “most perilous time in history” (page 247).
Diana, Herself is a clarion call to action. Not just for the individual but for the whole of humanity.
I invite you to get out of your head, your reliance on accepted norms of logic, your day-to-day desire to “get things done, dammit,” and even your desire to seem rational and to fit in — all this will be challenged by this book. I know that’s how it was for me.
But at some point, I gave into this rollicking ride and got WILD. Just went with it. Just let the story-telling, the allegory, the bee-nurturers, the snakes, the wild cats, and, oh, yes, the flying pigs, wash over me, seeping into my pores, and my consciousness. And, it was good. And, it was wild.
A major aspect of the book is about how meeting the “perfect nemesis,” — a force of opposition — is a sometimes necessary key to jump-start the process of awakening and personal transformation. We’ve seen that concept over and over in literature and film and real life — everything from Star Wars to Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild,” to .Michael J. Fox’s graceful work to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
It’s the idea behind the age-old phrase, “That which doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger,” or as American Idol Kelly Clarkson puts it, “What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter.”
I’ve had my own experiences with someone who tried to break me. I know first-hand that while often times not pleasant at all — in fact, frequently downright painful — coming face-to-face with the perfect nemesis who rattles your cage in the deepest, sometimes most hurtful ways, is one of the most powerful ways to engage in the journey of your own transformation. Conquering your nemesis – whatever form it takes – also exquisitely prepares you for your unique opportunity and ability to effect positive change in the world at large.
Whether you desire a whole-life transformation, jettisoning just one bad habit that has wreaked havoc on your life, or simply dumping a gone-cold approach to life in exchange for a going-for-the-bold life you deserve — being willing to confront whatever obstacle that’s in your way — whether it be a toxic person, a sticky belief, or a beleaguered bank account — is pretty much the only way you’re going to get from the old you to the new you.
And, one thing more: it only works if you’re willing to go deep, go beyond, go WILD — and be, to put a twist on Beck’s book title, “You, Yourself.”
I’d say the book’s impact didn’t knock my socks off, so much as it beguiled and entreated me to knock my own socks off just a little bit every day. I’m expecting to be barefoot any day now. 😉
And, lest you conclude that learning and loving the ability to knock one’s own socks off is the ultimate message I took away from Diana, Herself — it’s not. After reading Beck’s charming (and, at times, charmingly terrifying) book, the most compelling lesson I’ve concluded for myself is this:
The world and everything we love in it is in danger right now.
Saving and transforming the world begins with saving and transforming ourselves.
Transformation is really just the unveiling of truth.
The unveiling begins with bewildering — being willing to question ourselves about what is true; and being willing to be wild(er) in our lives: seeking and trusting the instinctual wisdom that guides us all.
You can learn more about Diana, Herself, at http://marthabeck.com/diana-herself/. Here’s the link to buy on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Diana-Herself-Awakening-Bewilderment-Chronicles/dp/1944264000.
And here’s a snippet of a great Q&A with Beck about Diana, Herself, from the San Luis Obispo, California, newspaper, The Tribune.
Everybody has a Diana in them, a divine element that could wake up. Everybody has a boar, the self that is always gently encouraging and not afraid of death. And everyone has a (materialistic) Roy. … The part of us that is divine, that wants to awaken, experiences more and more joy the more we learn, and the part of us that wants to grasp a material existence … becomes more and more miserable.
Ultimately, all suffering longs to end itself and all joy longs to survive forever. And we always get what we long for.