Glad No Matter What:
Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity


New World Library, 2010. ISBN 978-1-577-31935-1.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 04/06/2011

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Creative Life

SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) has been called a Pollyanna all her life. Perhaps that's why so many people have been drawn to her books and other products: they celebrate life in vivid color. Looking at her hand-lettered books and her whimsical illustrations gives one permission to play.

SARK has been known to build a fort with her velvet cloak and luggage carrier in an airport when there was a three-hour flight delay. Also, as she recounts in the book, when she found a lot of unhappy looking people at the Department of Motor Vehicles, she began to sing "Amazing Grace" and by the last verse, "the whole room had joined in, including the people working behind the bulletproof glass."

Pollyanna, as SARK describes her, is someone who "invented 'The Glad Game' and relentlessly found something good in every situation..." That doesn't mean "disregarding pain, sorrow or suffering." As SARK reveals in this book, "It means that you choose to see the gift in every situation, and believe it's always there."

I hadn't read a SARK book for awhile and so was interested to see her latest: Glad No Matter What. SARK's inspiration for writing the book were the deaths of her mother, her cat Jupiter and the end of a romantic relationship. "Transformation," she said in an interview, "is always my greatest inspiration, and how we can literally 'change the form' of what happens to us and what we do with that."

As an example, in everyday life, if a good friend changes a plan, SARK says you can express your disappointment as well as feel glad to have extra time for yourself. She promotes "honoring both feelings simultaneously."

The foundation of all the suggestions and transformational practices is self-love and care. "You loving you so that you can truly love others" is SARK's wise advice. She shares a "menu of self-love practices" so you can try the ones that resonate with you. SARK sends text messages to her own phone for instance. This may sound corny at first, but who is going to acknowledge you and your ways in the world as expertly as your own wise self?

SARK sees what I call "your own wise self" as "a kind of spiritual channel" that "contains wisdom beyond my human understanding." I do agree, that when we engage in creativity we are tapping into something larger than ourselves.

I mentioned that SARK, through her own creativity, gives readers permission to play. She also gives "primary permission" for self-care with a list of suggestions for putting ourselves first. This means engaging in our emotions which, in the long run, works much better than avoidance, denial and covering up.

SARK makes "so sad" lists and "so glad" lists which she did at the end of a relationship. By doing so she wove a "luminous nest in between love and hate, gladness and sadness" where she found "acceptance, allowing, realizations, wonder, and mystery." She writes of the "middle place" where rather than extremes, feelings are just "this or that." It's a place where relief, weariness, wistfulness and longing can be felt.

Each chapter includes a list of books, music, internet resources and quotations that SARK calls "quotes for change." We all can become "transformational change agents" with inspiration from SARK.

SARK sent a questionnaire, which she includes at the back of the book, to hundreds of people. She has included some of their "glad portraits" as an inspiring addition with their stories of loss and vulnerability, strength and courage.

Although SARK has handwritten the contributors' names, their stories have been typed, making them easier to read than the book itself, which is handwritten. I'm thinking now of a friend of mine who reads my handwritten letters and finds it a challenge to do so but she makes a cup of tea and takes her time reading my letters. Slowing down is, I think, a wise and self-caring thing to do.

SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) is a bestselling author and artist who lives in San Franciso. She is the founder and creator of Planet SARK, a thriving business that creates products and services to support empowered living. Visit her website.

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