Everyone says 50 is the new 30 but Annie is definitely not feeling like a 30-year-old.
What should have been a fantastic birthday turns into a nightmare she will definitely not forget when she is fired from her job working for a website because she isn’t up to date enough with the lingo, the computer system or even the celebrity gossip she is meant to be reporting on. Thinking her day couldn’t get any worse she heads home to her two wonderful kids and a loving husband, although it seems things aren’t so great there either because after she has scoffed down a triple serving of death by chocolate cake, Joe, her husband, appears in the doorway of their bedroom saying that he wants a divorce and then disappears off.
So 50 and fabulous she is not.
She knows things haven’t been right between her and Joe for years and instead of confronting them she has buried her feelings deep inside, normally along with a good-sized chocolate bar or piece of cake. Annie knows she needs to kick her own arse into gear, but will her willpower let her?
After dropping her kids – 9 and 6 – off at school she resolves to turn herself into a one-woman powerhouse, after a quick power nap, but does she have the will to turn her own life around?
“At this point, I can practically hear the familiar dull thud of my self-esteem falling to the floor.”
With nowhere else to turn she phones her mum for guidance who informs her that with no job and no money coming in perhaps the London lifestyle is no longer for her and that her aunt’s cottage in the Chilterns will be available for the foreseeable future as she is off on one of her life reaffirming trips again.
After speaking with her aunt and realising that actually the little two-bed run-down cottage could be the perfect place to reinvent herself she feels a sudden nostalgia for her old self; perhaps this would be the perfect place, after all, to get her life back on track.
Turning up at Aunt Aud’s house feels liberating and before she knows what she has done, Annie has given both bedrooms to the kids knowing that she will have to sleep on the sofa but doesn’t care, this is a new phase in her life, one she plans to excel at and nothing can dampen her high spirits.
She knows her Aunt is into all sorts of strange and wonderful things, her bookshelves loaded with volumes on everything from Wicca to tarot reading but even she is surprised by the letter she receives about a little book – her aunt’s “comfort and joy” when she is feeling “lost and alone” – suggesting that she also picks it up to help her regain her confidence.
However, Annie’s skeptical, to say the least.
“… What would some hippy_dippy, touchy-feely positive psychologist know about divorcing your booze-hound husband and bringing up two kids on your own? Bugger all, is my guess.”
It probably doesn’t help that when she opens the first page it says to neutral a negative thought, you need three positives and that the human brain automatically leans to the negative.
Really? Even I am beginning to question the ability of this little book to turn one’s life around, I mean sure if you want people to think positively you don’t start a book so negatively?
“All this positive thinking – it’s just a load of empty, earning less platitudes, pointless clichés and one-size-fits-all philosophy, really, isn’t it?”
I can imagine that there are a lot of people out there who feel exactly the same way about self-help books but bookshop shelves are full of them.
To kick-start her year of positive thinking Annie decides to spend an evening inducing a sugar-filled coma while looking up helpful hints on the Internet. This leads to her falling asleep on the sofa and waking up feeling worse than before. To make matters worse she then sneaks outside for a cheeky cigarette, gets caught by her new wonderful sounding neighbour who quickly sets about inviting her around for an evening of getting to know the local women.
Introverts the world over are currently shrinking further into the pages of this book at the ghastly thought of such a social setting.
“I wasn’t always like this, you know. I was once quite the gregarious one… That good time girl, the fun one, the one who didn’t care what anybody else thought…”
Kids and an ex-husband clearly have a lot to answer for in this case.
To try and make herself feel better she turns to her Aunt Aud’s epic collection of self-help guides for a quick fix of motivation and an injection of self-esteem and confidence.
“… to build your self-esteem, you have to learn how to accept those things about yourself that you have no control over and make an effort to work on those things about yourself that you can improve and change… If you go around comparing yourself to others, and keep coming off worst, you’ll never accept yourself. “
Through the following chapters, we discover more about Annie’s self-critical personality. Her desire to achieve but her complete lack of motivation; her wish to fit in with the local yummy mummies stopped only by her own internal monologue that turns into nervous chit chat that makes her come across as a crazy lady and her complete lack of confidence when it comes to finding a job she will enjoy but also be good at.
It’s during one weekend, minus the kids, where she comes up with the idea of writing her own blog. Okay, so she doesn’t have the tech skills but she is full of funny antidotes and believes she could help others in a similar situation to herself. Likewise, one day, when having coffee with a yummy mummy from school, who is quite a successful businesswoman, she agrees to become the local agony aunt for a local magazine. It seems Joe’s knockdowns about being a lazy cow are not so truthful after all. And so, her career as a blogger and columnist begins.
Unfortunately, not everything is plain sailing from this point and we spend the rest of the novel reliving horrendous parts of Annie’s messed up world, hoping that she makes it through in one piece.
My Thoughts on Annie Beaton’s Year of Positive Thinking
I was concerned when I picked this up that it would be one of those didactic, patronising novels loaded full of diatribe about how we should best help ourselves in life. I know, I sound cynical but I feel we have many books like that out there right now.
Fears were soon adverted, however, and instead, I found myself laughing along to all of Annie’s mishaps thinking that this book must reflect, if not all of the other people’s lives, certainly part of it. There are elements of this novel that I can certainly relate to and often felt myself berating myself for sounding just like her. It did lead to moments of reflection for me where I questioned whether there were elements of my life I needed to take more control over.
I had no intention of reading this as a self-help manual however and instead settled in for an evening of humour at someone else’s expense – sorry Annie. Armed with my own selection of chocolates I delved into the pages and found myself churning up the pages to find out what calamity was going to strike next.
Annie Beaton’s Year of Positive Thinking is the perfect book for those struggling and in need of a little pick-me-up. If all self-help books were like this, I might be inclined to pick more of them up.
Have you read Annie Beaton’s Year of Positive Thinking or any similar books you would recommend?
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