I was sitting on the platform at Brighton station, waiting for a train. It had been a bit of a frustrating day: the trains had all not been running on time, and I’d only needed to go down there to pick up a single envelope. In total so far, the journey had taken me three hours for a five-minute conversation and envelope handover, and I still had the journey home on a stuffy train to look forward to. And the announcement boards weren’t working, and the train man had told me the train would “probably” be arriving soon, on platform five.
So there I was, sitting on a bench waiting for a train. I’m a patient person and had resigned myself to the idea of spending all day on public transport. I’d finished Augustine’s Confessions on the way down and was now in the first few pages of Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy.
A person sat down at the other end of the bench. After a couple of minutes, she said “Jenny Lawson’s great, isn’t she?”
I agreed, and we struck up a conversation. She asked what the book was about, and I pointed to the tagline: A funny book about horrible things. I told her it was about living with depression and mental illness, but that it was written in a way that felt like a real person was talking; like you were having a conversation with a friend.
The train was delayed. We carried on talking. We discussed our own struggles, not so much with mental illness as with opening up to people. We spoke about how, as The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson has brought together a whole load of people from all around the world and made them feel less alone.
We talked about how, when you actually start speaking to people, you often find out that you have more in common than you have differences. How if people just fucking spoke to each other, there might be less hate in the world. How if society were set up on a currency of kindness rather than… well, currency… we’d all see better sides of people. How people get exhausted when they watch bad news rolling in over and over again (particularly pertinent in the UK recently), and how we need to seek out things like Furiously Happy books and conversations with strangers on train platforms to remind us that there is still good in the world.
How it shouldn’t be hard to do that, but it is.
How much we admired Jenny Lawson’s boldness, her courage at putting herself out there to be listened to. How we could all learn something from that.
How we were both making pacts with ourselves to learn to share more. To reach out to other people. To bring a bit of light to the world.
And then the train drew up, and it was time for me to go.
“Thank you for sharing,” she said. I responded likewise. She smiled and went back to her Cornish pasty. I got on the train.
I read the book on the train home. It was, predictably, brilliant. Filled with Jenny Lawson’s trademark humour and searing honesty, it made me spend the journey trying to hide how much I was laughing from my fellow passengers in case I scared them.
But the main thing that makes this book special isn’t how good it is (although it is very good). It’s the fact that Jenny Lawson and her odd taxidermied animals and glittery book covers have become a trademark for the best kind of currency: the currency of kindness.
It’s not often you get spoken to in the South-East of England. We’re not very friendly here until you get to know us well. We’re reserved, and Busy and Stressed and Far Too Important To Talk. And yet because of Furiously Happy, a lady reached out to me on a train station in Sussex, and we momentarily became friends, even though I’ll probably never see her again.
I kind of want to walk around clutching the book at all times and see how many other excellent conversations I can have.
So you should buy one too, just to make sure we can all identify each other as islands of stillness and understanding as the world goes whipping by.
Oh, and go read Jenny’s blog, too.