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This Messy Magnificent Life
A Field Guide
Table of Contents
About The Book
Geneen Roth, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Women Food and God, explains how to take the journey to find one’s own best self in this “beautiful, funny, deeply relevant” (Glennon Doyle) collection of personal reflections.
With an introduction by Anne Lamott, This Messy Magnificent Life is a personal and exhilarating read on freeing ourselves from daily anxiety, lack, and discontent. It’s a deep dive into what lies behind our self-criticism, whether it is about the size of our thighs, the expression of our thoughts, or the shape of our ambitions. And it’s about stopping the search to fix ourselves by realizing that on the other side of the “Me Project” is spaciousness, peace, and the capacity to reclaim one’s power and joy.
This Messy Magnificent Life explores the personal beliefs, hidden traumas, and social pressures that shape not just women’s feelings about their bodies but also their confidence, choices, and relationships. After years of teaching retreats and workshops on weight, money, and other obsessions, Roth realized that there was a connection that held her students captive in their unhappiness. With laugh-out-loud humor, compassion, and dead-on insight she reveals the paradoxes in our beliefs and shows how to move beyond our past to build lives that reflect our singularity and inherent power. This Messy Magnificent Life is a brilliant, bravura meditation on who we take ourselves to be, what enough means in our gotta-get-more culture, and being at home in our minds and bodies.
Reading Group Guide
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With humor, compassion, and insight, This Messy Magnificent Life explores the personal beliefs, hidden traumas, and social pressures that shape not just women’s feelings about their bodies, but also their confidence, choices, and relationships. This provocative, enchanting, and sometimes laugh-out-loud look at the imperfect path women take to step into their own power, presence, and ownership is based on author Geneen Roth’s personal journey and her decades of work with thousands of women around the country.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. In the introduction, Anne Lamott says of Geneen Roth, “Never before had someone expressed so brilliantly, and with such wit, that curiosity and self-love were the way home” (x). What does Lamott mean by home here? Does it have more than one meaning?
2. In relinquishing the “Project of Me” Roth says she had “tried versions of not fixing myself before, but always with the secret hope that not fixing myself would fix me” (3). Where are the hidden traps in hoping to fix yourself by not fixing yourself? Why is it difficult to let go of the idea of fixing ourselves?
3. Throughout This Messy Magnificent Life Roth stresses the importance of attention, where we direct our attention and how it affects our awareness of ourselves. Discuss the divisions between “you” and what you pay attention to.
4. Roth repeats “There is no away” (38) to herself as she recovers from a fractured vertebrae to remind herself that she and her body are indivisible. Do you find yourselves using an “away” in your own lives? Discuss how this might be disserving you.
5. Why do we often focus on a future that we put ourselves “on hold for” (49)? What are the benefits and disadvantages of that?
6. What does it mean to “muster equal parts kindness and fierceness” (84) and why is it important to do so?
7. Is it possible to know who we “are at the deepest level” (125)? Why or why not?
8. On page 106, Roth says, “Joy takes realizing what separates us from it and challenging our familiar stories” (106). What are some of the familiar stories you tell yourselves? How do they separate you from joy?
9. Roth describes “songs” (137) that play in her mind when circumstances trigger negative feelings, painful memories, or past selves that she wishes to leave behind. Why can’t these songs be deleted? What songs play in your mind? What are some ways to cope with our own personal songs?
10. If you stopped complaining for a time, as Roth did (148), would you notice a difference? Would those around you notice a difference? What might take up the space left by not complaining?
11. How do we miss “showing up for this messy magnificent life” (196)? How do we start showing up? What does that look like?
12. Discuss as a group which touchstones (197) have the most resonance for you personally and why. Which touchstones do you think you might carry with you?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Try the red string exercise from pages 52 to 61. Discuss as a group where your boundaries are, both mentally and physically, and where you would like them to be.
2. On page 126, Roth quotes author Annie Dillard: “The way you spend your days is the way you spend your life.” Read Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and discuss the way she spends her days as well as the power of observation. Try paying close attention to your own experiences for a day and then write about them.
3. Make a “messy” and “magnificent” collage that reflects your life and share it with your group. What does messy and magnificent look like for different people? What might these differences convey?
- Publisher: Scribner (March 6, 2018)
- Length: 224 pages
- ISBN13: 9781501182488
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Raves and Reviews
"Geneen Roth's early work pulled my sister out of the abyss of eating disorders. My gratitude and admiration for Geneen has deepened still with her newest book. In This Messy Magnificent Life, we experience her signature divine wisdom and hilarious humanity—but Geneen also gives us something new and important. Here, Geneen shows us how our individual body and food obsessions are directly linked to our collective oppression as women—and how getting free from our personal prisons is crucial to seeking liberation at every level. This is a beautiful, funny, deeply relevant book -- a vital work for this moment."
– Glennon Doyle, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Love Warrior and founder and president of Together Rising
“Geneen Roth's secret sauce—the ingredients of which are warmth, wisdom, honesty and powerful self-scrutiny—are all blended to perfection in this lovely book, which will be a welcome companion to her legions of readers, and bring her many lucky new ones. There's a reason she's such a treasure.”
– Dani Shapiro, author of Hourglass and Devotion
“I’ve long admired Geneen Roth’s approach to food and its place in our lives. In This Messy Magnificent Life she goes beyond food and shows the complex interconnection between our minds and the bodies we have the power to heal. Her insights and simple practices will help readers rediscover the power to live their most vibrant lives.”
– Mark Hyman, MD, author of the New York Times bestseller Eat Fat, Get Thin
“This Messy Magnificent Life delivers a brilliant, funny, and frank offering at the stroke of midnight (just when we need it). By page ten you're convinced she's your smartest and funniest best friend. This Messy Magnificent Life is—dare I say it? Yep. Messy. It's magnificent, hilarious and 100% the generous, complicated gift that is Geneen Roth's imagination, experience and soul, on a platter. 2018 will be made easier to navigate with This Messy Magnificent Life by my side.”
– Kathy Najimy, actor, activist, director
“Roth’s pioneering work on mindful eating and spirituality has helped countless dieters do as the extreme yo-yo dieting author did herself: Make peace with food — or at least call a truce.”
– NPR’s The Salt
“Roth is an intellectual, but her tone is warm and comfortable, and she knows when to add a touch of humor. She willingly shares her own emotional baggage, and her advice is life-affirming.”
“Now is the time to celebrate the qualities that make you unique and to be bold in your pursuit of personal bliss. This book will help get you started.”
“Roth, who has become more resilient with age, will captivate readers with her energetic yet calming wisdom.”
– Publishers Weekly
“These chapters of simple advice are easily digestible, and reading one per day is a good way to start this practice. Empowering words for women—especially those struggling with body issues—to regain control of their lives.”
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