I’m not entirely sure how to start this post. If You Feel Too Much wasn’t so much a book as it was an experience. How do you explain an experience? Experiences are different for everyone.
I suppose I should start with the author. Jamie Tworkowski. If you had a close look at the cover of the book above, you’ll see that Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms. If you haven’t heard of Tworkowski, you’ve probably heard of that particular non-for-profit organisation. TWLOHA has exploded beyond its American origins and into a global phenomenon.
One day, while walking through an O Week set up at my first university, I saw a TWLOHA stand. At the time, I couldn’t afford to buy anything. But I Googled and signed up for newsletters.
Then, one day, I saw that there was a book coming. I preordered it well in advance. When it finally arrived, I put it on my shelf and waited for the perfect opportunity to read it.
It took two years. And I am sorry for that.
If You Feel Too Much is a collection of blog posts, stories, and poems. But more than that, it’s as the cover says, “thoughts on things found and lost and hoped for”. This book, and the man who wrote it, are gifts to this world. We need more people like him.
[N.B., throughout the book, Tworkowski mentions his detractors. People who tear him down for doing something as beautiful and meaningful as helping people whose insides are tearing them apart. For those people, I have no words. What is it that Tworkowski says?
People love to hate, love to be cynical, love to tear down the thing that rises.
There are some people who are so filled with hate that they let it spill out of themselves and into people who have done nothing to deserve it.]
Tworkowski invites us into his life, into heartfelt discussions with his estranged father, into his thoughts on friends who have gone, into his struggles with his own mental health, and into his faith. His unconquerable faith in love and the power it holds to do good in a world where love is sorely needed.
He talks about the film Inception in a way that I have never thought to think about it before.
An important thing to know about Jamie Tworkowski is that he is a man of faith. He believes in God and this faith comes up a lot in this book. This made me uncomfortable as all mentions of God make me uncomfortable. My family’s and my experiences with the Christian faith have been less than great. The Christian faith is was underlies the denied fundamental human rights of many of my loved ones. When I hear Christianity, I think of marriage inequality, the horrors outside of family planning centres, and the denial of people who are different as human beings. These have been my experiences. However, there is a quote from Tworkowski that sums up this phenomenon:
We are known to the world as something like the [yelling] guy outside. We tell people how to vote and think and live. We shout our judgements. We are quick with our answers and slow to confess our questions, maybe slower even still to meet other people in theirs.
A shouted “You’re going to Hell” is an awful introduction to a God who desires to love and know His children.
But what if we were known as a people in true pursuit of love, a people committed to representing it well? What if we were known for constantly showing up to wrestle the needs and questions around us, and what if we took it so far as to be honest about our own?
Religion is a dirty word in this day and age. It’s the excuse for atrocities committed against fellows human beings, whether internationally or in our own towns and cities. But Tworkowski represents what religion should be. It should bring out the best in people and help them to reach out and help the less fortunate.
There are people like Jamie Tworkowski in the world, people of faith who care about people more than judging people by rules written thousands of years ago that no longer fit our modern society. Unfortunately, it’s the people like the Westboro Baptist Church and ISIS that take centre stage. If we focused on the people who have religion and let it help them help others, rather than the religious aspects of the absolutely terrifying things that happen around the world daily, we may have a different reaction when someone says “I have faith” than to brace for an ugly tirade.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but this post is not a review. I just wanted to share my thoughts on this book with you all because many people out there struggle with the demons in their heads, or know of people battling those demons. I urge you to share If You Feel Too Much with them. I am lucky enough to be classed as neurotypical. My brain does not turn against me. But for many people I love and cherish, this battle with their brain is their daily life. If You Feel Too Much drips with love and acceptance and understanding for everyone. I believe this book is important.
The only thing that I will say that could be classed as a ‘review’ is to talk about Tworkowski’s stylistic choices when he writes. Well, just the one. He never capitalises his “i’s”. At first this bothered me, grammar purist that I am (or that I try to be), but then I saw it for what – I think – Tworkowski was trying to say. The words “you, us, together, them” are not capitalised. So to keep himself on the same level as everyone else, he keeps his i’s in lower case. It’s an act of modesty that is so quiet that it is very nearly invisible. But this tiny change speaks volumes about the man who wrote this book, and founded an organisation based purely in love.
If You Feel Too Much defies a star rating. It will cheapen this book to label it with such. Instead, I will just say that this book is hugely important. And I urge everyone to read it.