A Book Review of When Everyone Shines But You, by Kelly Martin
What an arresting title. When everyone shines but you. The bald honesty in that horrible statement, the humility inherent in shouting that to the world—that takes guts. Can’t we all admit to feeling that way at some point in our lives? Even if not out loud?
Part of Kelly Martin’s book is about exactly that, but it’s much more than owning your own despair or frustration. She tells us to embrace all of our worst feelings as actual gifts. I’m reminded of the Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi’s words in The Guest House about welcoming all your emotions,
“The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
I’ve always felt such revelations to be profound, but hard to follow or to remember, especially when I might be struggling with those dark thoughts. How exactly does one embrace rage, for example, when in the midst of a blood-boiling temper tantrum?
Martin tells us those nasty feelings are like alarms alerting us to change, and she uses colorful, memorable imagery when explaining how to deal with them as they come. Her vivid metaphors stuck in my mind like glue, seeping into my consciousness for days—often enough that they became a part of me. She writes about “the rapids of rage,” with jutting boulders on a turbulent course that finally tumbles over a waterfall to land safely on the other side. It’s perfect imagery for a person enraged. I imagine my feet stuck out in front of me, kicking away from the sharpest rocks, and the cold water of the rapids cooling my anger. Another of my favorite metaphors in the book is Martin’s comparison of our own life cycles with seasons of year. She describes a tree in the depths of winter, leafless and barren on the surface, but conserving and growing underneath, strengthening itself to blossom in the spring and ripen with fat fruit in the summer. She writes,
“If you are in a winter, you can rest more, go within, breathe into your feelings, experience your moments. If you are in a summer you can be more naturally active, achieving things…Your roots are steady and your growth and expansion is sustainable.”
The author’s choice to write in the second person was, at first, disconcerting. Especially since I was reading advice on how to better myself, my hackles were raised more than once in the first few pages. “As humans you often find it difficult to trust,” or “You may look outside and see yourself falling apart,” had me taking a defensive stance, ridiculously thinking, “Me? What about you, then?” Yet, her prescriptions tend to flow in a stream of consciousness style, and she comments in the introduction that, “In many ways this book was not written by me, but was written through me.” Divinely inspired? I was willing to suspend disbelief and go with the flow (which is exactly what Martin is encouraging). I was glad I did, because I found golden nuggets of wisdom, and fervent sincerity in this book.
I would recommend a reader take it slowly, however, as does Martin. The beauty in her language lies in its tendency to resurface, the eloquent pictures she creates blooming later for private reflection. One such gem that I’m not likely to soon forget: “As you begin the creative process it is essential that you carry your new expression as a woman carries a baby; carry it in your creative womb.”