I first discovered Amanda Palmer thanks to a blog post by the very funny, wise and wonderful Bloggess (AKA Jenny Lawson). She told a story of Amanda giving her a free ticket to see her show and then, being so overwhelmed by the social anxiety she experiences, feeling unable to attend. Amanda didn’t want Jenny to miss out so she arranged for her to watch the entire thing from a cat walk above the stage. Jenny was up, out of the crowd and still able to view and enjoy the performance.
I remember reading this story, not knowing who Amanda Palmer was, but thinking that it was so lovely how she’d created a safe space to accommodate the social anxiety of a friend and fan. But I didn’t go listen to her music and didn’t think to until The Bloggess posted about Amanda again, this time sharing a link to the music video for ‘In My Mind’.
This song became an immediate favourite for me. I put it on my OCD playlist, a playlist of songs I can listen to on repeat three or four or even five times in a row.
I memorised it.
I also found out she was married to Neil Gaiman, an author I greatly admire and have been reading for years. I did think to myself, “What an awesome couple.”
So I became a fan of Amanda Palmer and while not following her terribly closely, I was aware of her work in the periphery - like the incredible open letter song she performed for the Daily Mail (NSFW but entirely worth watching). I also got more of her music, including ‘The Killing Type’, which was a therapeutic anthem for me whilst I was nursing a broken heart.
I had seen, probably through social media, that she’d published a book but I hadn’t considered buying it. In fact - confession time: I have a tendency to avoid things by people I feel are too similar to me out of some bizarre kind of jealousy. I can’t quite explain it but it’s like, my envy of them expressing something I believe so well, and getting paid for it, makes me shut down entirely around the idea of reading what they’ve written.
I appreciate this jealousy is my brain shouting at me to ‘WRITE MORE AND GET PUBLISHED AND MAKE YOUR LIVING AS A WRITER FULL TIME ALREADY’ - but it still doesn’t really stop me from feeling like not reading this stuff will somehow protect my ideas. Which is silly because as soon as I do read this stuff it’s always amazing! It’s always wonderful! I feel great gratitude and generosity and joy to know that there are others out there with the same appreciate for empathy, compassion, wonder, curiosity, questioning etc. etc.
But I digress.
I was resistant to reading Amanda’s book so I wasn’t going to go out of my way to buy it. But then I spotted it in a bookstore in Colorado on a rack labelled ‘signed copies’. I flipped it open and sure enough, there was a signature in red marker on the second page in. It was a signed copy of a hardback book.
I’m a child of nerds and my parents, especially my dad, have taught me well. Buy books with signatures. Buy books in hardcover. Protect the dust jacket. Love it.
I wanted this book. I didn’t want this book. I was still jealous. So I put the book back down.
But I wasn’t alone. I was with my fiancee, who spotted it in my hand and asked about it.
“It’s signed,” I told her. “And Amanda is amazing.”
“Do you want it?”
I did. But I didn’t.
Having read the book now, the irony of what happened next is not lost on me.
My fiancee earns more than me, significantly so. The cost of the book wasn’t significant to her. While I was battling my jealousy I was also aware that I could hide behind the excuse of not being able to justify the cost. I was at that moment on a very expensive trip to the States to attend a retreat. I had wiped out ‘free spending money’ to even be able to be standing in that bookstore.
But I knew she’d buy me the book. And I didn’t want her to. I didn’t want her to think I expected it of her. I didn’t want to risk that she’d ever resent me for not being able to afford things - that was uncomfortable, familiar territory I was never interested in visiting again.
She bought me the book.
I accepted it graciously while on the inside I felt useless for not buying it for myself and equally miserable for agonizing over being given a gift when some people don’t even have clean water or decent shelter. In short - I was beating myself up for my #FirstWorldProblem.
So I accepted the book, took it home and put it on my ‘To Read’ shelf. Then I went to war with my jealousy.
The book was a gift. It would be a supremely asshole thing not to read it out of some weird (unhelpful and neurotic) jealous streak when it was bought lovingly and with the intention that it would be something I would enjoy.
So I read the book.
And I love it.
This is not actually a book about asking.
It’s a book about generosity.
It’s about being kind, being genuine and showing gratitude.
It’s a book about love.
Real, genuine, heartfelt love and trust. Love, not as an emotion, but love as a place in which we can all reside. A limitless thing with no conditions on it.
Amanda shares what it is to love and be loved through a random assortment of narratives, stories and contemplations. She talks about love openly, in all its flavours, and how, if we let life touch us, we can open up to that and see just how abundant love really is. She totally understands love and communicates her understanding beautifully.
I don’t want to give anything away. I will just say this:
I cried multiple times when reading this book, spontaneously, because of how genuine and relatable it is.
I am feeling so inspired by what she has shared that I am never going to let my jealous mind keep me from reading something. In fact, I’ve been avoiding Brene Brown (who wrote the forward of the book) since I first saw mention of her TED talk. Amanda herself writes about how Brene Brown’s book was exactly her book, but written from a different point of view. Reading Amanda I have come to understand how like-minded we are. So I’m going to read Brene Brown next.
Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman are an example of what it is to genuinely love and be loved, to accept someone just as they are, warts and all for better OR FOR WORSE and OMG I know exactly how that feels. May I never, ever stop appreciating how valuable it is to be seen and to see.
Read this book.
Just. Read it.
When not writing, making art or recording podcasts,
Kaitlyn can be found in trees, listening to Dharma talks on her iPod, Boon.
Thusly named because
Brian Froud = Awesome.