"I am changed by these now dog-eared pages, and I will return to them again and again for inspiration.” —Annabel Monaghan, author of The Digit Series, columnist for The Week and The Huffington Post
In a world so often filled with distressing news and bewildering violence, being “human” often gets a bad rap. Rejoice in everyday reasons to smile with positive thoughts and enjoy the gift of life.
Take a walk on the bright side and celebrate life. In Glad to Be Human: Adventures in Optimism, award-winning writer Irene O’Garden reminds us of the radiance of human existence. From kitchens to gardens to busy city streets, all around, in your everyday life, you can find plenty of reasons to feel gratitude and hope and find joy.
It’s the little things. In this collection of essays, O’Garden explores a wide range of practical reasons to celebrate life―just look closely around you. In one essay, she describes the simple pleasure that comes from clearing clutter off a desk―in another, the thrill of visiting the Statue of Liberty. The book’s grand finale is the Pushcart Prize-winning essay, “Glad to Be Human.”
One simple message. Through contemplation, meditation and with literary style, Glad to Be Human invites you to view life through a positive lens. From small, daily activities to journeys overseas, O’Garden has a knack for finding beauty and meaning in all life’s adventures―even in our deepest pain and suffering―helping all of us feel glad to be human.
If you enjoy Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Anne Lamott, or books like Risking the Rapids, The Book of Joy, The Book of Delights, or The Gratitude Diaries, you’ll love O’Garden’s Glad to Be Human.
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About the Author
Kristine Carlson, New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned speaker, is passionate about spreading her message of waking up to life with joy and gratitude amidst the ups and downs of this earthly existence.
Kris’ life mission expands upon the phenomenal success of her late husband Dr. Richard Carlson’s work in the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series. She continues his legacy of peaceful and mindful living through her own bestselling books—Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Women, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms, An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love: The True Story of the Best Gift Ever, and Heartbroken-Open: A Memoir Through Loss to Self Discovery—as well as her well-known “What Now?” program and her upcoming Happiness Training Courses.
Over the past two decades, Kris and Richard have sold more than 25 million books. She has been featured on national radio and television broadcasts, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The View, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Read an Excerpt
From Glad to Be Human
Why is it even important to be glad to be human? We may be the only species that questions gladness.
If cells weren’t glad to be cells could they metabolize? Could they have the little cellular barn raisings that lead to the creation of petals or peanuts or pineal glands?
If atoms were ashamed of being atoms, could they even join atomic hands to make a cell for a while? They’d skip the dance and stay home. No whirling around tonight, honey. I’m just not up to making a cell. Why bother anyway? I’m not that great at doing it, and after all cells only die, so why even make one?
Humans cannot comprehend the larger body we compose, though we can feel its organs in a symphony orchestra, a sports team, a school, a hospital, a movie set. These larger selves need us to function just as we need the beings who compose our bodies. There is great joy when these larger bodies function well, because functioning well is the nature of Nature. Of course, any cell, plant or animal will tell you the purpose of life is not function, but joy.
This coursing sense of connected well-being, or gladness, is the default setting of each living creature and doubtless the inanimates as well. (If it’s all spinning particles, is anything really inanimate?) The holographic fractal beauty of physical reality is that gladness is important to each, and each is important to all.
I am personally glad to be safe and dry and educated and supplied and empowered and free of children, glad there are people glad to have children. Glad to choose, to help to nourish, to bless.
Glad to have coached a baby into this world, excruciating and exquisite. No sleep for twenty four hours, my sister twisting in the birthing bed, her husband and me squeezing her hand, feeding her ice, our very breaths as one till salty weepy laughter chokes out of us as the red hairy head appears.
Glad to be human for all the ages that surround me always, for the precious ability always to catch sight of a baby somewhere, a toddler and children, and the sweet pure unconsciousness of, even in anger, youth, staggering in its unknowing beauty. And the reposed beauty of lined faces, relaxing into life, tendered by experience, the comfort of the presence of wisdom, with vigor yet, a beauty like a leatherbound book. And the grace of elders realized in full capacity, inspiring as centuries-old trees, the crowning loveliness of natures fulfilled, experience like rings around them of their growth, not separate into years, these feelings, but sensed around them as a life, a single mighty sheath of living over their ordinary comings and goings, sap rising and falling in them in thin streams, surrounded by the immensity of their truth.
Table of Contents
A Question of Gladness 27
Written in Stone 29
Cleared for Take-Off 34
Taking the Plunge 37
Charmed, I'm Sure 43
The Nature of Niches 50
A Sign of Gratitude 52
A Visit to Liberty 57
Bless This Mess 64
Having a Cigarette 66
Demittere Diem 68
A Personal Holiday Tradition 71
Intimate Furniture 75
Tending Pleasures 77
Root Truth 80
Ridiculously Tiny Trees 82
Quizzical Squash 85
Muguets and Tissues 88
Startle Display 92
Coincidence of Rarities 95
The Smudge Between the Stars 99
A Pocket Sized Mystery 105
Questionable Qualifications 108
A Cherished Mistake 111
No Masterpiece 114
The Birthing Tent 118
Why Write 124
Paris: A Literary Truffle 127
Derailed and Rerailed 151
Angle Matters 153
Words on a Page 154
Phorgotten Phone 156
Tapping Power 158
The Cookie Crumbles 163
What to Tell and When 168
An Argument with Water 171
City of Strings 175
Walking South 180
Tell of Isarel 187
Broken Just So 200
A Phrase to Melt Anxiety 202
A Wish for Any Wedding 204
The Limitless Within 211
Glad to Be Human 214
Publication Credits 230
About the Author 232
What People are Saying About This
“Irene O’Garden has inspired gladness throughout this masterpiece of creativity...Glad to Be Human will inspire you to live your most vibrant life—and to keep it all in perspective as you take in these extraordinary passages.” —Kris Carlson, coauthor of the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff series and author of From Heartbreak to Wholeness: The Hero’s Journey to Joy and Heartbroken Open: A Memoir Through Loss to Self-Discovery
“Glad to Be Human is an immersion into what we relish, how we live, a kind of shining beacon that doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff...Highly recommended.” —Janet Pierson, producer of the SXSW Film Conference and Festival
“Glad to Be Human takes a defibrillator to your creative center! It’s a field guide to embracing the creativity and spontaneity that bring joy to the business of being human. With an artist’s eye and a poet’s soul, Irene O’Garden shines her light on the bliss that surrounds us. Each of her essays turns the eye toward love and possibility. I am changed by these now dog-eared pages, and I will return to them again and again for inspiration.” —Annabel Monaghan, author of The Digit Series, columnist for The Week and The Huffington Post
“Through contemplation, meditation and with literary style, Glad to Be Human: Adventures in Optimism invites readers to view life through a positive lens. From small, daily activities to journeys overseas, Irene has a knack for finding beauty and meaning in all life's adventures (even in our deepest pain and suffering) helping all of us feel glad to be human. If ever there was a time for Glad to Be Human, it is in these dark days of pandemic.” —Midwest Reviews