Sunday Reads: How do you enjoy life during challenging times?

In case you missed it, Madison Magazine is sharing our introduction to the last month's edition of our monthly 'Sunday Reads' newsletter.
Sunday Reads banner with red bars and an illustrated cat sitting atop a stack of books next to a plant and coffee mug.

This short essay originally appeared as the introduction to the May edition of Madison Magazine’s monthly “Sunday Reads” newsletter, curated by Associate Editor Maggie Ginsberg. The rest of the monthly newsletter includes links to other articles within and outside of the magazine, plus book coverage and other literary news around town. Sign up for future newsletters here. There is still time to sign up for the next newsletter, which will be emailed on Sunday, June 26.

How do you enjoy life during challenging times? Spoiler alert: I don’t have the answer. But it’s the question we posed to bestselling author and internationally renowned animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell when we asked her to write a personal essay for our new June issue (which is — magnificently — entirely pet-themed). She obliged, and the result is a moving meditation on that unsettling mixed bag of emotions so many of us carry these days: It can feel so wrong to feel good when there is so much bad happening all around us, and sometimes to us.

McConnell wrote the essay months ago, and since then we’ve experienced new, unimaginable horrors, including two more devastating mass shootings and … well, there are no words. (And I personally feel it’s long past the time for words without action — but that’s an essay for another day.)

But McConnell’s piece about how her dogs’ live-in-the-moment joyfulness gave her permission to embrace the same at least gave me words for that push-pull feeling. It articulated why I sometimes struggle with the mandate to enjoy this one precious life while others are suffering, and that helped. It also helped to be surrounded by so many animals for our two photoshoots, and just generally being immersed in page after page of furry goodness for my actual job, can you believe — but even then, as we were putting the celebratory June issue together, I was losing my beloved rescue Labrador retriever mix, Sully, to cancer. Push-pull, push-pull, push-pull.

Joy and suffering are inextricably linked in the human experience. Trauma recovery and our relationship with animals is often intwined, too, as it is in McConnell’s powerful memoir, “The Education of Will.” That’s one of the books I’m reading this month — and I’m curious what you’re reading, too, so I’ve added a new section to this newsletter where I will share your answers so we can all add new titles to our teetering to-be-read stacks.

Until then, I leave you today where I often do, which is searching for comfort in the words of fellow travelers on this wild trip of life. It’s something I’ve done since long before I ever read lines like, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Because it always is.

This short essay originally appeared as the introduction to the May edition of Madison Magazine’s monthly “Sunday Reads” newsletter, which is curated by Associate Editor Maggie Ginsberg and includes a rundown on current the print issue, links to print stories you might have missed, web exclusive content like the Doug Moe’s Madison blog, author Q&As and other literary coverage around town. To sign up for the monthly newsletter, enter your email address below. The next newsletter will be emailed on Sunday, June 26.

Footer that says Subscribe with covers of Madison Magazine