Book Review: “Blessed Are the Weird”

This, my dear friends, is my book review of Blessed Are the Weird by Jacob Nordby.

In quotes alone (all from Mr. Nordby’s wonderful book), this post is going to be a long one. You’re welcome to keep reading, but if you identify as strange, out of place, creative, INFJ, INFP, HSP, or any of the other types I commonly talk about on this blog, just go buy it here. I was lucky enough to get it while on a sale for kindle, but I fully intend to buy the hardback when I have a physical library. It will go right next to Lauren Sapala’s books. In fact, this book was one of her recommendations to me, and I’m grateful to her for that.

So, here we go!

In his book, Blessed Are the Weird, Mr. Nordby explores the experiences and virtues of all kinds of Weird People. He talks about poets, misfits, writers, mystics, heretics, painters, and troubadours, but his words encompass any and all people who see the world differently.

Now, more than ever, I feel I am on the right path. It’s simultaneously the most difficult and easiest path I’ve ever taken, but every step seems to bring me more of the answers I’ve sought my whole life. Since finishing my novel and starting this social media journey, I have crossed paths with the most amazing people, been introduced to works of writing I never could have dreamed existed, and realized something life-changing: I am not alone in my weirdness.

“Where it all begins, I cannot say, this sense of being a stranger in a world full of people who seem to belong in it. All I know is that some of us are not like the others–something in us doesn’t fit. Most of us start to know this in early childhood when we run to our mother or father or a friend with some idea–some way of expressing what we feel–and watch them pull away. Their faces close like shutters, leaving us lonely and afraid that we have done something wrong. We learn to hide and lie about our true selves because what felt like our treasure turned out to be dangerous or of little value. These moments are scattered through our childhood, each stealing a piece of our innocence, leaving in its place a wounded patch of flesh now covered in armor. We learn to protect ourselves, to act normal and turn down our light.”

When I read this passage, as with many others in this book, I couldn’t help wondering how Mr. Nordby was able to see into my past and put it into words so well. Until Lauren’s books and this one, I had no idea there were others experiencing these things and pretty much just figured I was born “wrong” in some way.

“In general, Weird People are highly self-conscious. We tend to observe the world–and ourselves–constantly in ways that other people don’t. We watch our own mind and watch our mind watching itself! This makes for a lot of awkwardness.”

I love this quote. I’ve always assumed that everyone did this ‘watching your mind watch itself’ thing. It’s an automatic response for me, and I didn’t actually realize how few people do it until 8 or so years ago, when I met my SO, who was baffled by my thought process and said so. “Normal” people don’t do this.

There are a lot of things we do that “normal” people don’t. Most of my life, I tried to fit in, never understanding why it didn’t make me happy. Everyone else was happy, so why couldn’t I be? This book addresses these feelings, but also shows us why we need to stop trying to be like everyone else.

“No matter how well we might follow someone else’s map, something in us silently screams, “You’re a fraud!” Nothing is worth that kind of life–not money, not fame, not superficial acceptance. Nothing. But it is worth everything to live by our own lights and know for sure we are doing our very own thing in this world.”

It’s ok to be normal. In fact, it makes life a lot easier when things make sense like that. What’s not ok, is to pretend to be normal when you’re not. Anyone pretending to be something they’re not, can never be truly happy. Instead of pretending, this book points out that, above all, we need to truly be ourselves, whatever form that takes.

“Being creative is not about being artsy; it is the rugged forever-commitment to carve a life that allows full expression of ourselves, however that looks.”

It even shows us how denying ourselves can hurt us on a physical level. If you’d told me this as a younger person, I would have nodded without really absorbing what you were saying. I “knew” this, but never really let the meaning sink into consciousness. I didn’t understand why I was emotional and depressed and got the flu or colds that would hang on well past their normal range, so this next quote really hit home for me.

“The thing is, though, denying our sensitivities and gifts makes us sick. We might develop psychoses, depression, or physical problems because we have suppressed the impulses of our own souls. We might have a nervous breakdown that can’t be explained by anything other than the fact that we have ignored what’s real for too long. Learning to accept and use our anomalous gifts is a prescription for health.”

I have a hard time seeing my weirdness as a “gift” or something special, but Mr. Nordby seems to believe that we Weird People have the ability and opportunity to heal the world. It’s a hard idea to wrap my head around. Can the creatives of this world really save it?

“The only success now is living and creating a work-of-art-life: unique, rich with meaning, naked of anything we don’t care about, and ruthless about carving out something absolutely real from a world that has gorged itself on fakeness and become critically ill from it. The only failure now is pulling back from that quest because of fear.”

That sure does sound like our world…one that appears to be dying, where nothing is real, and fakeness is the norm. Just look at our leaders. (I’m not trying to get political, just stating an observation.) We’re supposed to be able to look up to those in charge, admire them for their courage in doing the right thing and trust they have our best interests in mind. All over the world, all we see are liars and cheats and hateful, greedy people vying for more and more attention.

So, maybe some of us Weird People, through our creative endeavors, might offset that negativity…some day. I don’t know if we have the kind of power that this book suggests, but if we do our best to live honestly, maybe others will want to do the same. I have definitely noticed more people craving things of reality and truth, tired and sick with grief for the world in which we are living. Can you imagine what things would be possible in a world of honesty? I hope Mr. Nordby is right.

“In other words, living creatively rescues us from the soulless existence that has swept across the world and makes the zombie pandemic in The Walking Dead look like just an average flu season.”

Here are some things in this book that I’ve always felt, but rarely seen other people understand:

“Most Weird People I know are only truly afraid when they start to get numb. Our depth of feeling–our ability to sense things and constantly process them–is our most valuable currency in this world, even if it isn’t always easy to turn it into cash in the bank.”

“Acceptance. We all crave that. It is the same thing as the feeling of being at home–home in the best way, home if home were the safest place on earth and no one would ever put us down or make us feel like strangers there.”

“And home, in this case, is the great comfort of living deeply real lives that match who they really are.”

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve felt the pain of the void inside and begged to go “home” despite not knowing where or what “home” really meant. I didn’t understand the need, but it was strong, and the lack of it was close to unbearable, physically painful and emotionally consuming. The lowest times in my life are punctuated by this feeling. I tried to talk to other people about this, but always got blank “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help you” stares. To have it written out in plain words is beyond comforting.

Something kind of random I wanted to mention. As a writer, I’ve started paying attention to the Acknowledgments in other people’s books, finding them much more fascinating now that I’m writing my own. Mr. Nordby has one of the more unique “Acknowledgments” sections, and I love that he included a “Fuck yous” section as well. This made me laugh out loud.

Looking over this, I’m not sure if I’ve actually managed to do a review, or just posted a bunch of my new favorite quotes. I feel scattered because it made me think about so many things at once, but hope I’ve at least conveyed the feeling of it for you. Reading some of the Amazon and Goodreads reviews, I realized this book will either really resonate, or not make sense at all. So, if any of these words strike a chord within you, you’ll know Blessed Are the Weird is meant for you. The quotes I chose were narrowed down from over 30 that I liked, and there were so many more that I wanted to include. If I had added them all, it would have just been…the book.

I will leave you with this quote, because it’s one of my favorites:

“Let’s listen to our hearts beating and tell lies that are truer than truth and feel again the electric throb of whatever great creative Force crackles through our veins at times like this. Let’s remember the joy of being here and the magic of what might be possible if enough of us are once again free.”