Scary Close: How ‘close’ do you dare to get to others?

Disclaimer: My first English review ever! For this is an English book and has not been translated yet, I want to write some reviews in its original language. My English is far from advanced level and the point of this review is to share my thoughts on the book in an easy-to-comprehend way. Therefore, I hope you don’t mind if I make some mistakes. Do correct me if you may.

First thing first, the full title of the book is Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller. Its genres are self-help, non-fiction and autobiography. Though I am not a fan of self-help books (including books written in Vietnamese or translated into Vietnamese), reading Scary Close did make sense to me. To clarify, I once thought that self-help books were all the same, they only help the person who wrote them and they would not work with others. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I did not choose the suitable book.

If some of you are worry about losing interest when reading English books because you encounter with unfamiliar words, Scary Close definitely is not one of them. Don’t let the language deter you from enjoying this book, because self-help books merely use simple words and sentences for easy understanding. In this book, Donald Miller states his views very clearly. Here’s the brief description of the book on Amazon.
Scary Close is a book about the risk involved in choosing to impress fewer people and connect with more, about the freedom that comes when we stop acting and start loving. It is a story about knocking down old walls to create a healthy mind, a strong family, and a satisfying career. And it all feels like a conversation with the best kind of friend: smart, funny, true, important.”

Having finished reading Scary Close since this February, luckily I had noted a few things I love about the book. My memory is terrible for no doubt, so without my note I hardly can recollect my impressions and feelings for this book. The author – from now I will informally call his first name Don – started the book by telling his true stories and experiences after years of failed relationships, then he shared his journey on finding the absolute solution for his problem. Scary Close is a good “match” for me because I am also struggling with intimacy, with opening up and building a relationship with other people. Uncovering yourself is tough, it’s like peeling your own skin or in Don’s word: vulnerable. You have to be honest to yourself first, you have to drop the act to show your persona. Deep down, I fear. I fear of being judged and I’m afraid of getting hurt when people see my true colors. But I’d learned from the book that turning the other cheek and forgiving people (who aren’t appreciate me and try to pull me down) are better way towards self-healing. Opening up or not doesn’t relate to the fact that you’re gonna be betrayed and left someday. The one who loves you no matter who you are is the precious one and worth caring.

In Scary Close, Don also emphasized how writing can uncover your true self and he did it with his book. I believe it’s one thing we all have in common. When I write, I do it as genuine as possible. Sometimes I get writer’s block because I cannot state my mind or be myself, I think about others’ expectations and worry I will not meet them. Perhaps my words will offend people as well. I write quite often but not many of my writings were posted publicly. I had to rewrite them, proofread them but in the end, a lot of unlucky drafts had never been shown.

When I read two-thirds of the book, I felt easier to express my feelings and thoughts and opinions (in person and online) even though I wasn’t completely comfortable with it. Like Don wrote ‘writing would serve me well’. I write because I love to not for people to read what they want. To some extent, I write for myself first, then think about my reader. When I say ‘writing’, I mean free-writing rather than an article or a specific commercial advertising post. I’d love to cite a quote from chapter 11 named ‘The risk of being careful’:

I think we were supposed to be ourselves and we were meant as a miracle. Be courage. Your heart is writing a poem on the world and it’s being turned into a thousand songs.

Next, Don had also mentioned a broad issue about love, trust, relationship, friendship, self, healthy person, etc. in Scary Close. One thing did impress me was the 5 types of manipulator. To figure out more details about that, please read the book and who knows, you might now be a victim of manipulation or are surrounded by manipulators.

The whole point of this book is reaching intimacy, so Don had gathered and shared with us the basic components of intimacy in any relationship, that are vunerability, security, trusting, honesty, not-to-hide-faults-and-imperfection. They are applied to family relationship, too. Don wrote from his point of view but mainly aim at parents, and he hoped to change parents’ perspective on how to build a healthy and happy family. The problem of some families is: parents want to create a perfect image of the family for their children by hiding their flaws or not telling their dark truth. Other problem is the lack of real conversations between parents and kids.

It breaks my heart when I have to admit that it is exactly what happens to my family. I can’t talk to my parents, we have no trust in each other. Partly due to the generation gaps and partly because my parents even not consider it’s a problem right under their nose. Can you imagine the fear of being judged by your own parents? I did many things against my parents’ will just to prove I was not wrong, to say out loud that not follow the norms doesn’t mean you are odd, to let them know I am responsible for what I do, even it leads to failures or regrets. I remember the last sentences in one chapter: “Maybe what children really need is simple. Maybe they just need somebody to show them it’s okay to be human.” (So right!)

In a few last chapters, Don reinforced the idea of intimacy by putting it into life context, he also pointed out the differences between men and women in doing intimacy to show that there’s no certain formula for gaining intimacy. The fact that you will not complete others is one thing you should remember, too. Intimacy doesn’t mean codependency or no private space for each other. You have your own life and your own longings that can only be fulfilled by you.

In conclusion, Scary Close creates an big impact on me. It affects the way I used to think about those intimacy problems and gives me a lot of solutions. The book teaches me how to pull other closer to me without controlling over them. I suppose Scary Close is the book you have to read more than once to understand and put Don’s word into practice. Finally, only with good intentions and open hearts can we start dropping the act and finding true intimacy.

Source: The New York Times

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