#1: My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This is the quote that inspired Noelle Hancock to do something she feared every day for a year. Her fears were anything from not wearing make up in public to public speaking to death (no, she did not die to face that fear.)

I learned so much about Eleanor Roosevelt through this book and while there aren’t any Eleanor books on my 2017 shelf, I do plan to include some in my 2018 endeavors. There was one thing that really stuck with me about Eleanor. While on a mindfulness retreat, Noelle read that Eleanor once wrote letters with a less-than-subtle anti-Semitic tone. I won’t repeat the quotes, but Google them if you must. It was not a high point in the Roosevelt history. This was alarming to Noelle, who had already spent quite some time idolizing Eleanor. But upon reading further, Noelle found that Eleanor ended up becoming a strong advocate for Jewish rights and was a supporter of Israel. Very few people, if any at all, are lucky enough to be born into a family without any prejudices. Eleanor was no exception and her hatred toward Jewish people was certainly a learned behavior from that time period. She, however, overcame that and admitted that she was in the wrong by becoming an advocate for their human rights. I strongly admire people who can notice and correct their own faults.

Enough about Eleanor, though. While Noelle did spend a good amount of time talking about Eleanor and her upbringing, the majority of the book was centered around Noelle conquering her fears. She sky dived, performed stand up comedy, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (with no prior hiking experience) and swam with sharks. I read the first few chapters and this is what inspired me to read 30 books through the end of 2017. Goals are what keep me moving forward, without them I get into boring routines that don’t progress me forward as a person. I needed this book to remind me to set a new goal. I think my last one was nearly a year ago when I decided to run a half marathon. It was time for a new one.

Here are some quotes (I’ll specify the one’s directly from Eleanor Roosevelt) that stuck with me:

“Each time you learn something new you must readjust the whole framework of you knowledge. And yet, for a great many people, this is a continuing problem because they appear to have an innate fear of change, no matter what form it takes: changed personal relationships, changed social or financial conditions. The new or unknown becomes in their minds something hostile, almost malignant.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“When I was little I was always trying new things…We didn’t have a choice. Back then we had teachers and parents making sure we challenged ourselves. Then I became an adult. The luxury of being an adult is you no longer have to do things that make you uncomfortable.”

“”There was a study where psychologists placed an infant on a table with a pane of Plexiglas in the center. Now, the baby could easily crawl across the Plexiglas – but almost all the kids refused. Why?”

“Because the Plexiglas made it look like they were going to fall.”

“Kittens and puppies also refused to cross the glass,” he said. “Then they brought baby ducks. Guess what? The ducks walked across without a quack of protest. Now why weren’t the baby ducks afraid?”

“Because they have wings?” I venture.

“Exactly.”

I think about this for a moment. “But if a fear is instinctual, aren’t we just…stuck with it?”

“If we can experience a seemingly risky situation over and over, without harmful consequences, we can train our brains to be less afraid.”

“So you grow your own wings, basically.”

“Exactly.””

“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying any attention to you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

 “Worry was how my mother loved, I realized.

“But you’re teaching her to equate caring with worrying,” I said gently. “She’ll grow up thinking that if you really care about your career, you should always be worrying about work. Or that if you really care about your relationship, you should worry whether your partner is cheating on you or falling out of love with you. That’s not an easy way to go through life.” “

“We were all so different. Death was the one thing we had in common. There was something incredibly lovely about that.”

And lastly, one that makes me think of my mother…

“A meaningful experience is a glass of wine. It needs to breathe and open up; it can only be fully appreciated when you return to it later.”

 

I really enjoyed this book, and can’t wait to continue on with the 29 more books I have left. Next up: The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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