Book Review: Life is a Verb

"Life is a Verb” by Patti Digh, Skirt!, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press ISBN 978-1-59921-295-1

Writing has been my form of reflection, whether in a journal, a poem or a personal essay, for a long time. Patti Digh has written her reflections on an award-winning blog, Those personal essays have now been published as Life is a Verb.

You don’t have to switch religions, change your spiritual practice or go on a pilgrimage to a far-off land. Patti Digh’s advice is to pay attention right here at home.

In 2003, Digh’s stepfather, Boyce, was diagnosed with lung cancer and died 37 days later. Following his death, Digh wondered what she would be doing today if she only had 37 days to live. She realized she didn’t need to seek enlightenment in a faraway land. Living each day with intention was about "more fully inhabiting the life I have, not creating a new one”. Also, she wanted to leave a "greater part” of herself behind for her two daughters, Emma and Tess

Throughout each chapter, "action challenges”, usually ten-minute writing exercises, reinforce the story preceding them. Following the action challenges are "movement challenges” meant to keep you attentive to something for 37 days such as making eye contact with people who are living on the streets. I appreciate Digh’s inclusivity of people who deserve our "respectful curiosity” for at least 37 days: people who are homeless, disabled, or transgender for instance. As advised in one of the many quotations included in the book: When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world (Harold Kushner).

Following Digh’s own writing experience she saw a pattern emerge: six main ingredients for a fuller, richer life. Each is followed by a practice, described in detail:

Intensity: Say yes

Inclusion: Be generous

Integrity: Speak up

Intimacy: Love more

Intuition: Trust yourself

Intention: Slow down.

The design of the book is especially enticing. It’s in full colour, illustrated with whimsical collages by many artists. The collages really enhance the written word and entice you to keep dipping in for a daily message. Digh’s writing is light-hearted and warm-hearted as she reflects on the very ordinary events of her daily life.

This is a book to be savoured. I loved its message, its colours, even the feel of its paper. A book that encourages you to "inhabit your own story” is well worth recommending and taking to heart.

Mary Ann Moore is a writer, poet and creativity facilitator living in Nanaimo.