Michelle Obama speaks during the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, broadcast on May 23, 2021 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Photo: Billboard Music Awards 2021 via Getty Images
Michelle Obama Combines Advice and Introspection in “The Light We Carry”
Four takeaways from the former First Lady’s inspirational tome to help you navigate change / BY Rosemary Counter / December 15th, 2022
Former First Lady Michelle Obama, after delivering her bestselling 2018 memoir Becoming, is back with a follow-up, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times. “I don’t intend this to be a how-to manual,” the 58-year-old writes, but the book is nonetheless a guide to living with hope and grace in trying times.
She is kindly alluding to the disastrous Trump years, rioters storming the Capitol, the unforeseen gut punch from the pandemic and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, so her inspirational, uplifting self-help-ish tome is impressive, given that it miraculously manages to make you feel a little bit better. In fact, Obama’s book is sprinkled with small, sometimes surprising, steps anyone can do to boost self-esteem, calm the mind and make a friend. Here, Zoomer highlights four takeaways so you can Obama-fy your day.
Greet Yourself in the Morning: Obama suggests you dork out every morning in the mirror, with a very embarrassing, “Heeeey, Buddy!” It’s not easy or fun, particularly for self-critical women, but Obama picked up the habit from a friend. Its appeal lies in skipping a syrupy-sweet, life-affirming mantra in favour of a short greeting that is distinctly not a pep talk. “It’s merely a friendly hello,” she writes, but also a deliberate act of “choosing to begin the day with kindness.” It requires directing a minimal amount of positive energy – no more or less than what you would offer to a stranger on the street –to yourself.
Ask a Lady Out: You think you have problems making new friends? Obama tells a charming story about a mom picking up her child from a playdate at the White House, where this otherwise mundane task requires the visitor to get security clearance by submitting a license plate and Social Security number. Protocol was so strict that, when the First Lady went out to say hello, the nervous woman refused to get out of her car. Albeit all kinds of awkward, Obama started sitting beside the woman at their girls’ basketball games, and eventually invited her new friend to play at the White House, too. “Years later, when we could laugh about it,” Obama says her now-friend admitted she had “also got her hair done. And her nails.”
Give More Hugs: In a rare misstep as First Lady, Obama broke royal protocol when she embraced the Queen during a 2009 state visit to England. The Light We Carry proves it wasn’t a rare occurrence; Obama hugs constantly – family and strangers, and especially children. When talking to a class of school-age kids, she laughed and hugged a girl who said the First Lady “looked too young to be that old.” The next question from the crowd: “Can I please get a hug?” And then, “Me too! Me too!” Obama proceeded to cuddle each one of them.
Get a Hobby Already: It’s hard to imagine the list-loving, schedule-happy, super-productive lawyer snuggling up with a craft project, but, like everyone else who was bored during pandemic lockdowns, Obama leaned into skills from yesteryear. Specifically, she took up knitting, relying on how-to books and YouTube videos to learn the stitches. The meticulous act of knitting and purling, purling and knitting, “devoured me away from my anxiety,” she writes, and ultimately helped her “come to understand that sometimes the big stuff become easier to handle when you deliberately put something small alongside it.” So, if you needed a reason to dust off the sewing machine (or paint tubes, or gardening gloves) and while away the time, now you have it. Thanks, Michelle Obama!