This post was originally published on March 3, 2015.
The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way by Tracy Cleantis (Hazelden, March, 2015 and on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list) grabbed my attention with its simplistic and direct book cover. Plus, hey, I like fortune cookies. I thought, Sure…looks like something I could get down with reading. Without looking past the front cover, I had an idea of what the book was about and knew I would relate in some ways to whatever it had to reveal; after all, I am living what I consider my “next happy”: I let go of the life I had planned when I secured myself a 28-day stay in rehab for alcoholism. That was never really part of my life plan. And as far as finding a “new way forward,” I’ve been doing that the past 33 months by living sober.
Judging a Book By Its Cover
I read the first chapter and started rethinking I would relate to this book in some way. It was about letting go of the dream of having a kid? Well, not really, but that was the dream Cleantis had which she references throughout the book. After numerous fertility treatments and years of hardship in her pursuit to have a child, she was faced with the hard reality that she needed to let go of that dream and move on to her next happy.
Cleantis shares the one simple truth she discovered through her own experience counseling hundreds of clients through the loss of their dreams combined with her personal struggles: often, there comes a time when the smartest, healthiest and sanest thing to do is to let go of the original plan in order to find a new way forward toward happiness. As a result, a world of possibilities open up and tangible dreams take shape.
At Second Glance
While I can’t wrap my head around spending 10 years and $100,000 on an endocrinologist with four-and-a-half rounds of IVF, 20 or so rounds of IUI, sperm injections and sperm donors leaving her still childless, I certainly know what its like to try to control situations and outcomes that I have absolutely no control over. I know what it’s like to need to let it go and move forward for the sake of my own sanity and happiness. This novel concept was introduced to me through the Serenity Prayer a few years ago in rehab and it’s something I use on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.
I try to always look for the similarities, not the differences when wanting to connect with someone’s story and that’s exactly what I did throughout this book. I thought she must be crazy to go through what she did and not give up on that dream but then I realized that I did that for years with active addiction. Perhaps it’s not how she thought anyone would relate to this book, but I thought about the 12 years I spent trying not to be an alcoholic. I easily spent $100,000 on my alcoholic lifestyle with booze, trips to the emergency room, attorney fees and court costs—and that was only the beginning. Still, I didn’t want to give up on my dream of drinking like a normal person. I could certainly relate to “the consequences of not giving up” and understanding the physical, psychological, spiritual, financial and relational consequences you suffer at the expense of not giving up something that is no longer working for you.
The Guidebook to Surrender
In The Next Happy, Cleantis offers a road map, coaching readers through the possibility of letting go of a dream that isn’t working by accepting and facing sadness, anger and shame. Her other suggestions involve coming to understand the true reason why you wanted what you wanted and the real life reasons why you didn’t get it. The final step is to ask the questions that will let you move on and set realistic goals for finding a new way forward.
While Cleantis takes pride in calling herself the Dr. Kevorkian of Dreams, she makes clear that “not all dreams are to be let go of, and some most definitely are.” She helps the reader to understand when to call the time of death on a dream. She also provides “hope that there is life on the other side of impossible.” She gives plenty of real-life examples in each chapter and provides her professional take but my favorite part of each chapter is the “Movie Rx” section where she prescribes popular movies as a mode of instruction. Movies, she writes, “allow us the chance to experience ourselves as people who are able to overcome obstacles that we might not yet have managed to overcome in our personal life.”
With her down-to-earth approach and clear sense of humor, Cleantis infuses The Next Happy with insight, guidance and support so the reader can decide whether it’s time to give up an impossible dream. If you’re telling yourself you’ll be happy when this or that happens, maybe it’s time to consider what you have now and figure out a new plan. After all, as Woody Allen said, If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.
Image courtesy of HazeldenPublishing