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  • Writer's pictureRobyn Shelbourne

Not A Book Review

Updated: Jun 21, 2023



Last year I was right in the middle of a perfectly serendipitous life: real and beautiful relationships with friends, perfect marriage, a steady business, a leadership role in my community, social for the first time in a decade, travel opportunities, confidence, and the feeling of being on top of the world. For once, I didn’t question when the other shoe would drop. I lived, loved, and laughed like a decade-old Dollar Store decoration.

Solo trips out west, hot damn, they’re something. Years ago, on my first trip to Oregon, I saw my unalive father in a meditation- no drugs involved. A new world opened before my eyes, and I made a career shift. I became a yoga instructor, meditation facilitator, and herbalist. These were always curiosities of mine, but I went all in. I do that. As a guide, I helped others in magical, mystical, herbal, and other -al ways. The experiences were inexplainable. We did yoga and meditation under the full moon, burned slips of paper that held secrets no one would ever know, floated in the lake, painted our bodies with glow-in-the-dark paint, and played in the rain. I never wanted life to change because it was the best of the best.

In the middle of all that awesomeness, I took my second solo road trip to Oregon. It was the same retreat where I met my father in a different realm. Four years had passed, and my growth was exponential. I hoped for another life-changing moment, another beautiful explosion of wonder, but I mainly wanted to return to where it all began. From start to finish, everything that could go wrong went wrong. It rained through days and nights in a flood that trapped me in a tiny tent where I peed in a mug. The peaceful sound of drips and drops turned into torturous plops. Then tears came. I cried like someone told me it was finally safe to let out a lifetime of pent-up emotions. The weird part- I wasn’t even sad.

I felt like I wasn’t welcome at the retreat, like a stranger in a place I once found home. The land, people, and the experience that changed my life four years prior felt like it turned its back on me. I could’ve stuck it out, but I packed up my campsite and left. Experiences happen, and we either learn from them, or we don’t. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to learn.

Let’s backtrack for some irony.

In the time between Oregon trip one and Oregon trip two, I read and listened to every self-help and spirituality book, podcast, and YouTube video I could get my hands on. I couldn’t get enough, or so I thought. Somewhere in Kansas, during trip two, I hit self-help capacity. Did you know that could happen? Because I didn’t. What book capacitized me? Unf—k Your Brain by Faith G. Harper.

I’ll give you a moment to sit with that.

My brain wasn’t f—cked, that I knew of, at least. You may ask why I was even listening to it, valid question. We may never know. So, there I was, a couple of chapters deep when the same self-help terminology I had heard and used for years f—cked my brain so hard that I needed a transplant. Faith Harper, I’m sure your book is incredible and has helped loads of people. I wouldn’t know because I didn’t finish it. Had I listened to it a year or even a month before that moment, I’m sure it would’ve been the next best thing since sliced bread. You may love it. This isn’t a negative review or critique. I’m just saying, for the first time publicly, holy shit, life got weird.

I couldn’t listen to self-help terminology or phrases without feeling like my ears would blister. That was super problematic for a couple of reasons.

1. I was on my way to a spiritual retreat.

2. My whole career depended on that terminology.


I found myself in a full-blown existential crisis in Kansas, home of the yellow brick road. “It’ll be ok,” I told myself. “I just need rest. Driving through Kansas always sucks,” and “Tomorrow will feel different.” But tomorrow didn’t feel different, and neither did the next. I was never the same again.

I tried to make Oregon work. I tried to return to my normal life. I tried to lead yoga and meditation. I tried to listen to the same music that once healed me. I tried to fit a square peg into a round hole, but it wouldn’t. Nothing felt right. I felt broken, glitched, suuuuuper f-cked. Something was off, and whatever it was between me and myself. But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t “fix it.”

Things unraveled like a thread on your favorite t-shirt. You think you can save it, that it’ll still work, and that no one will notice. Deep down, you know that shirt will never be the same.

My former life was gone, and I grieved piece by piece. I put distance between myself and anyone and anything that caused confusion. It wasn’t their fault, but I needed space to think, sort out the mess, and figure out why I broke into a million pieces when everything felt perfect. I had to get nitty-gritty with the bare-naked truth.

Here’s what I discovered:

Both unalive and alive Dads have expirations.

Some things are hobbies, not careers.

Moments don’t last a lifetime.

Things that help you heal once may not help you heal twice.

You only have so many toes to dip in ponds. Don’t put them all in at once.

Identities can change, like the weather. Don’t get too attached.

Your people will always be home, and home is always there, even if you’re on vacation.

You are composed of your yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows, and who you are is never wrong.

Writers write.

Why am I not writing?

OH.MY.GOD.

What have I done with the last 20 years of my life?

I am a writer.

I will write.

College.

I’m back in college and doing it for me this time. In my hiatus, life gave me experiences, memories, hardships, and lessons I will carry into my novels. I’m forever thankful that Faith G. Harper Unf-cked My Brain.


This has NOT been a book review.

Robyn

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