Lessons From The Midnight Library

So, I’ve just finished The Midnight Library. I’m still trying to process it. In some ways, it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite books, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, although I don’t believe it is the same caliber of literature. That said, this book definitely had an impact on me. Perhaps it’s because of the work I’ve been doing in therapy. Perhaps I was just open to the messages contained therein. In any case, it was a good read for my current state of mind and the point of life I am at, the point where my children are gone and it’s time to put myself first again.

Without giving away any of the plot, I can say the story will give you some bold ideas to consider. Are you living your life in the direction of your dreams or someone else’s? What is holding you back? Are there alternate realities for the life you are living? Do you consider the lives you have touched and the people you have affected? What makes life worth living? Is the goal of life success and, if so, how do you measure that? Are your regrets holding you back? Are they even worth relitigating?

Here are a selection of quotes from the book that resonated with me:


“You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.”

“It’s not the lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy.”

“A person was like a city. You couldn’t let a few less desirable parts put you off the whole. There may be bits you don’t like, a few dodgy side streets and suburbs, but the good stuff makes it worthwhile.”

“Regrets don’t leave. They weren’t mosquito bites. They itch for ever.”

“There is no rejection. There is only redirection.”

“But there is no life where you can be in a state of sheer happiness forever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you’re in.”

“The prison wasn’t the place but the perspective.”

All of these quotes (and many others) got me thinking about my own journey and the things I’ve allowed to hold me back. Choices I didn’t make. Paths I didn’t take. People I let go too soon. People I didn’t let go soon enough. Times I sold myself short out of fear. Times I let others tell me what I couldn’t do. And it is fine to consider all these things, just as long as the consideration doesn’t keep you from action.

I think my biggest takeaway from the book is that I need to be more intentional. I have spent an awful lot of time making excuses for things I haven’t done rather than taking concrete steps to accomplish them. It’s time for a vision board. I need to do some soul searching about this next phase in my life, to build on the work I’ve done in therapy and make concrete plans to attack some of the things I’ve been afraid of. And perhaps along the way to accomplishing some long-ignored goals I will unearth the life I have held regrets about not yet living.

The Midnight Library And The Lives We Left Unlived

I started reading (okay, fine, listening to) a new book today, now that I have finished The Gifts of Imperfection. This book is a novel by Matt Haig entitled The Midnight Library. My sister mentioned it in passing twice last week and seemed so taken by it I decided to go ahead and get on the bandwagon. I also jumped on the Wordle bandwagon yesterday, but that matters not at this point. In any case, I’m a few hours into this damn book, and my mind is in classic overthink mode. This means it is a meaty story.

The Midnight Library is about a woman named Nora Seed who, feeling lost and depressed about her life, decides she no longer wants to live. She takes some pills and washes them down with wine. She drifts off and ends up at a library. The librarian, a woman Nora knew from her childhood, shows her a book filled with Nora’s life regrets and tells her she can go to any of a million different iterations of places her life might have led had she made different choices. She simply needs to select a regret and she will be transported to that divergent life, already in progress. The books allow Nora to answer the age old question “what if.”

It has taken me a long time and a lot of therapy to land at a place where I no longer abuse myself over my “what if” regrets. I’ve discussed that here before. Your what ifs are impossible because in the past you made choices based on who you were at that time using information you had available to you at that time. Looking back now, with a different mind and different experiences, alters the light you shine on those past events, people, and opportunities you let slip away. It makes them either shinier and more attractive or duller and less attractive but, either way, your current consciousness transforms them into something they are not. All of this makes our regrets like our worries…thinking about them will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.

I am curious to see where Nora lands after exploring these alternate-ending lives. If she finds a better existence for herself or if she decides to go back to her old life or if she dies from her overdose as she had originally intended. But all this thinking about disparate endings to our one (as far as we know it) life has me stuck on one thought. We can’t go back and change our past, which has led us to our present. We are, for better or worse, here where we’ve arrived as the result of millions of small, insignificant choices and a few quite large ones. Our story, thus far, has already been written. It’s the future that has yet to be determined. In some cases, our what ifs might still be able to come to fruition if we take steps in that direction today. We just have to find the courage to believe we can change the outcome. If we couldn’t do it in our past, perhaps we can now.

And while I noodle on what I want my life outcome to appear, for as much control as I have over it, please don’t comment here about the book if you have finished it. I will likely finish it tomorrow, and we can talk about it then. I look forward to it.