I don’t often choose to write about a book…but I recently finished reading “Rachel’s Holiday” which I loved.
It is an easy read but gave me plenty to think about. I read it at a time when I had been mulling on a concept Richard Rohr calls “compulsive blindness” and how ‘a lack of self-perception means we often act at cross-purposes to our best interest’.
The story starts with Rachel’s life in New York where she is caught up in sex, drugs and “rock ‘n’ roll”. She has a wonderful boyfriend, Luke, but one night of too many pills, a mistaken suicide attempt and a hospital visit mean Rachel finds herself being taken back to Ireland by her parents and being put in rehab. It is not the relaxing detoxification, “holiday” that Rachel was expecting. The main story weaves her experiences in rehab (Cloisters) with her life in New York, particularly her relationship with Luke and how drugs destroyed it.
Rachel’s character is unlikeable but endearing and I found that Marian Keyes’ sensitive style allowed what could have been a depressing book to be both thought provoking and “laugh-out-loud” hilarious; a wonderful combination.
The reason the book has stayed with me, however, is the clever way that Keyes conveys Rachel’s self-deception by telling the story through Rachel’s eyes. By doing this, the reader is also misguided into not initially realising quite how bad of an addict Rachel actually is.
All this has had me thinking that in some way we are all “conditioned, programmed, wounded, addicted, habituated” by our unique life stories and that when we don’t recognise the truth about our lives, thoughts and feelings, we became part of the problem. If we do not take ownership and responsibility for our way of thinking or how “our grid” distorts reality for us, then our mind perverts reality and we become addicted to ourselves and justify our reactions. We locate ourselves inside our little world or what David Foster Wallace called “our skull sized kingdom” and we quickly take on a sense of identity and power by believing our own self-serving illusions. When one lives a lie one invariably begins to feel distant from others, and worse yet, oneself (this clearly happened with Rachel).
‘Any idealised persona does not choose to see evil in itself, so it always disguises it as good. The self-deceived self invariably presents its own selfishness as something like prudence, common sense, justice, or “I am doing this for your good,” when it is actually manifesting fear, control, manipulation, or even vengeance’
Adapted from “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr
The moral of the story is perhaps if one wants deep meaningful relationships, one must be real with others but most of all with oneself. As Rachel started seeing herself for what she was and her self-consructed world as self-serving, she also began a new relationship with herself. In the same way, as we learn to trust and bring our own “shadow-selves” into the light we are likely to grow and flourish and more likely to experience real relationships and love as we never have before.