What Being Bittersweet Can Teach Us

:: entering 2013 I set myself a personal challenge: read 52 books this year. why? if you read well you write well. read the book list here ::


[image from shaunaniequist.com]

“Bitterness is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter + the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth + your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, which helps us earn the lines on our faces + the calluses on our hands. Sweet is night enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth + complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy.” – Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet p11

For ages I’ve adored Shauna Niequist’s work. She’s a treasure of a wordsmith. I’ve posted some of her work on here before because her words deserve to be seen + heard by the many. A couple of weeks ago a lovely friend of mine surprised me with her book Bittersweet – big love, big thank you! Having not personally read one of her books before, only quotes from them + her blog, I was eager to dive in.

But this book broke my ‘read one book a week’ rule + read this over a couple.

See, once I began, I found myself savouring her words. Although the chapters are really short, I couldn’t continue reading more than a couple of chapters (40 altogether) at one time. Her words have such depth that it would be criminal to read the book in one sitting.

And that’s okay!

More than the depth her words bring such peace, raw emotion, freshness, honesty, genuine kindness, + wholeness. It requires you to breathe, slow down in life, + enjoy it.

Above all, this book taught me so much about living a bittersweet life.

 :: what bittersweet can teach us ::

To heal is a journey. One we all walk differently, take various paths + timeframes, + go at differing paces in. But it’s a journey. And a beautiful one.

The importance of  homemade meals shared around a table with friends. Shauna found much of her healing through cooking – in fact, her latest book is all about meals being a love letter.

Everyone needs healing + everyone heals in their own way – what’s important is that you take the time to heal well.

It’s okay to be bitter. It’s just not okay to stay there for a long period of time.

The importance of friends. Of sharing in each other’s journey – being excited for a friend who’s pregnant even though you’ve just miscarried, or seeing all your friends become engaged + still being single.

Know what you don’t do, know what you do do, + don’t worry about doing the things that you don’t do. You don’t have to do everything better.

When something bad happens to someone, always say something. Even if it’s simply: ”I heard what happened, and I don’t know what to say.” Not saying anything can be more hurtful than saying the wrong thing.

:: the rundown ::

First Sentence: “I learned about waves when I was little, swimming in Lake Michigan in navy blue water under a clear sky, and the most important thing I learned was this: if you try to stand + face the wave, it will smash you to bits, but if you trust the water + let it carry you, there’s nothing sweeter.”

Least Favourite Part: Apparently she wrote the book in two weeks. Wrote a book in two weeks. ** correction: thanks to the lovely Shauna herself for commenting, turns out she wrote the book over a couple of years + did the last edit it in 2 weeks.

Favourite Quote: “..when life is sweet, say thank you + celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you + grow.” (p.13)

Favourite Part: You never know what story you’re going to read next – there’s a love letter for her son, grief through miscarriage, brokenness after losing her job at her local church, the importance of hospitality, etc. And it feels as though she’s sitting there telling them to you over a cup of tea. A special quality in a writer. 

Who should read it? Those who are broken. Those who are whole. Those on the mountaintop of sweetness. Those in the valley of bitterness. Many of people won’t like this book because of its structure, for those who do, it’s a real treasure to find.

// You can download a couple of free chapters of the book here, or purchase Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way here.

  • Shauna

    What a lovely post–thank you! And regarding your least favorite part: I would love to write a book in two weeks, but what I meant was that I finished a very very last 2 week edit…the book took more like two years! :) Thanks for your sweet words. :)

    • http://bybethanyjae.com/ Bethany Morris

      oh, thank you so much for stopping by + reading! ahh, that makes much more sense — didn’t think it meant you wrote it in that period, but some reviews I had seen said you actually did… so I thought you must have then, haha. thanks for clearing it up :) thank you so so much for sharing your heart + penning it to paper. very grateful xx