Let me first begin with the story of how this new addition to the blog came to be.
Living with mental health issues can prevent the enjoyment of a lot of things that are sometimes taken for granted by most. One of which is the pleasure and escapism that comes from reading a book. When I say reading, I do not mean on a tablet, or an online article, I am referring to the tangible experience that comes from reading an actual book that you turn the pages of to unfold the story within the pages.
With my struggles relating to my anxiety and depression, I have set off with the intention to challenge myself in ways that I haven’t really dared to before, one of which is to make time to read a book.
I wouldn’t have written this post if it wasn’t a positive outcome, but that in itself can be another topic to cover at a later date.
The book that made this achievement possible was the remarkable words of Matt Haig. This man has helped me more than just with reading an entire book again, he has also helped to save my life through his work. Matt is a writer of novels, screenplays, children’s novels and journalism, as well as a testament to mental health awareness and campaigning. Though his book ‘How To Stop Time’ was published in February this year, I still believe that it’s still important to express my thoughts on it in order to help you to decide if this your type of page-turner.
“A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live”
– Matt Haig on ‘How to Stop Time’
Tom Hazard is no ordinary man who looks 41-years old, he has a very rare condition that has kept him alive for centuries. Having witnessed some of the most iconic historical figures throughout the ages, Tom now just wants to lead a normal life. However, he is apart of the Albatross Society (funny name I know, but read and you shall see why), which is a group there to protect those who have the same condition. The main aim of the society is to keep the secret of their condition from being exposed and away from harm. One danger that the leader Hendrich is adamant will endanger them all is that they should never fall in love.
The story of Tom’s life goes through explores the painful memories of his past, and the constant turmoil he endures living with his condition, as he starts to discover that the one thing he is told he should do might be the answer to his happiness.
There comes a time when the only way to start living is, to tell the truth. To be who you really are, even if it is dangerous” – Mary Peters, p265
What I Took From It
The way this book is written captivates the imagination whilst simultaneously raising questions about the 21st century we are living in. There are many references on how distant we have become from the real world around us and the meaning of what it means to truly live a fulfilling life.
“Places don’t matter to people anymore. Places aren’t the point. People are only ever half present where they are these days. They always have a least one foot in the great digital nowhere.” – Tom Hazard, p109
We have lost connection with the moments we are in right now, always concerned with what has been, what ought to be and what might be. It is clear to me that Matt is indicating the negative impact that technology advances have had on generations, how wrapped up in the digital age we have become. We are more connected than ever, yet further from what really matters than before.
“It is a popular modern idea. That the inner us is something different to the outer us. That there is an authentic realer and better and richer version of ourselves which we can only tap into by buying a solution. This idea that we are separate from nature, as separate as a bottle of Dior perfume is from the plants of a forest.” – Tom Hazard, p270
The materialistic, aesthetical, artificial, and superficial appear to be the only things that count. We have a continual pressure to aspires towards these things to be classed as successful. To be seen as the idol of society is the goal, as we all seek acceptance, approval, and admiration for our very being. This is itself is destroying us, making a dent in our confidence, belief and ability to see the wonder that is both around us and within us.
Throughout the book, there are mentions of mental health in relation to how Tom is feeling about his condition and the experiences he has been through. I love how Matt has articulated what sorts of things a person might go through. It is done in a way that doesn’t explicitly make it out to be a difficulty with mental health but suggests that it is common for certain thoughts, feeling, and behaviours to happen during a person’s life.
Another references made is to that of fear. Fear of loss, loneliness, exposure and most importantly the future. Tom goes through so many cycles of fear, as he looks back on losing people who he loved and blames himself for it. He fears being found out, that those around him are constantly in danger and that his condition will be exploited. He fears for what will happen to him the future, having to move on once again from those he has grown close to. His worry and doubt reflect on to you as the reader, it is so easy to relate to the anxiety that folds Tom’s mind. It prevents him from following his heart and not his head, it stops him from taking a risks, being open and honest about who he really is.
In the end, it was fear that was stopping Tom from living. It took him 437 years to learn this lesson on life, yet we do not have such a luxury of that infinite amount of time. We can only slow time down instead of always looking ahead. There is so much emphasis placed we ought to aspire towards in our careers, relationships, lifestyles, travel, capital and appearance what others think of us. None of us really stop to think about what we have right now.
“I understand that the way you stop time is by stopping being ruled by it.”
– Tom Hazard
The biggest message I have taken away from How To Stop Time is that key to being truly happy means for us to fully embrace who we are, and where we are at in the present moment. Thinking what has been and what might be we can’t change, but we always have the ability to change the way we feel and respond to what is going on for us now.
I truly loved reading this, and can’t recommend it more to anyone who is looking for clarification that it is okay to be who you are and to allow that person to thrive exactly the way they are intended to.
How To Stop Time is available through Amazon – buy here