Wife. Mother. Editor. Writer. Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira seems to have achieved the American Dream. Yet living outside Chicago with a loving family and a pit bull, she wants more . . . or wanted more. Until the tragic realization that the life she wanted had disappeared behind the life she maintained. This “dark midafternoon of the soul” shook her world and led her to Grumble Hallelujah.
Grumbling begins with grieving. Rivadeneira encourages her readers to grieve the life he or she desires, but will never attain. Utilizing personal experience, she directs readers to identify broken dreams: “What breaks my heart is a wonderful trigger in knowing what I need to grieve. It’s one of the emotions that separates the simple disappointments in my life from the big not-supposed-to-be’s” (p 21). She develops this solid advice through illustrations geared toward a specific audience: those who have chosen a life they now regret. The author’s own grief glitters as confetti of tears over distant dreams. She gives permission to grieve big things and small things with the only requirement that it has broken your heart. She walks the reader through her own grieving from small things such as envying a friend’s lake house and not having a larger home to the larger impact of her parent’s divorce and financial stress.
Readers will walk with Rivadeneira through her “big not-supposed-to-be’s” of jealousy, unfulfilled desire, and financial disappointments. But if your suffering, your grief, plumbs the depths of having lost children, struggles with infertility, or battling illness, you may feel lost through the beginning of Grumble Hallelujah. Nevertheless, hang on until the last section of the book which overflows with unique insights and thought provoking suggestions applicable to any walk of life.
Each chapter divides on the life we should live and the life we should give up. Toward the end of the book, Rivadeneira strikes gold with such statements as: “Love enables mercy. And mercy enables change in the lives of everyone around us (not to mention our own). So we have to learn to live it” (p 135). Once we embrace a life of love and mercy, it seems impossible to grumble after the life we have and envy someone else’s.
Rivadeneira uses honesty and humor to engage her readers. Playful language of “totally” and “bazillions” draw the reader into a blog-like conversation while providing tidbits of wisdom gleaned from grieving the life she chose. Each chapter concludes with reflective questions and personal prayer. Tips for loving your life splash through numerous personal stories, while her open, snarky take on life tastes refreshing against the stale water of mainstream how-to books.
If you feel your life “looks nothing like it was supposed to,” this book will bring a smile to your face, a clutch to your heart, and a nod to your need of humility. For a fun, relaxing read, and a chance to look at your own life experiences through another’s perspective, take some time and grumble through your past until you can shout your hallelujahs.