A Review of Steve Austin’s “Catching Your Breath”
Some Stone Cold Good Advice
I saw a headline somewhere on the Internet that advice books on anxiety are currently doing good business, but didn’t read much further than that. I know that the headline is true, not just in the secular world, but in the Christian theology one, too. From Jen Hatmaker to Shauna Niequist to Ann Voskamp to Jonathan Martin, books about accepting God’s messy grace are a dime a dozen — which is not a criticism, just an observation. Now we have another writer wading into anxiety’s fray: American author Steve Austin (not to be confused with the wrestler), and he’s a good guy for advice on the subject as he has weathered ups and downs in life, speaking openly about a failed suicide attempt in his work. He’s also a pretty courageous guy to boot because his latest book, which is on the topic of anxiety and finding peace, is being self-published, and you have to appreciate a guy who is willing to take on a major financial risk just to see his work hit print. While some may scoff at self-publishing, I see it as a legitimate way of getting your work out into the world, and I can say that a lot of time and care went into crafting this book — there were no glaring copy errors that I could spot in my galley copy of the work, for instance. The guy has hired a good proof-reader and editor.
The book is an easy read, being only 100 pages or so, and can be consumed basically in one or two sittings. It’s the perfect thing to crack open on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you’re in need of a bit of relaxation. Austin is a Christian writer, but the Jesus talk is relatively muted in Catching Your Breath, ostensibly because he wants to cast as wide a net as possible. In fact, Austin positions himself as a progressive Christian — he calls himself an agnostic Christian actually, but doesn’t touch too long on that point — and pulls teachings from all sorts of places, such as Buddhist writers and, well, the Eagles (I’ll try to not hold that against him), so this just isn’t a book for Christians, even though there’s the odd Bible quotation. Austin is just laying himself on the line, putting himself out there as he is, which comes across as being refreshingly non-toxic.
Catching Your Breath is told in a linear fashion, essentially laying out the tools you will need to slow down, take a deep breath and relax when life is handing you nothing but lemons. I think I can be honest and say that it doesn’t replace or supplement the need for good therapy or coaching, but Austin’s candid about that, too, and points readers who may face particularly troubling issues in that other direction. Basically, this is a book written in a memoir style about how to face life’s difficulties, and what you might have to do to address them. For instance, one bit of good advice I took from the book is to ration out your “Give a Damns” or things worthy of getting wound up about on those things only that desperately need them — such as holding down your job or providing for your wife and family. The guy who cut you off in your car at that intersection? Probably not so much.
This is an important book for this social media age because the pressure has been really ramped up on people to always perform to high standards and look their best always, especially online. I know I’ve been guilty of this myself — I had a bit of a hard time this past week, and worried that maybe I was too direct in some of my own Facebook postings in the last little while. Austin is the release valve on this way of thinking. If I’m reading the book correctly, he essentially says it’s okay to not be perfect, but strive for a way of excellence that’s perfect for you. For me, that meant cutting at least one person out of my life who wasn’t being supportive in my trials and tribulations, and, following Austin’s advice, really opening myself up with a good friend a few days ago about how I was feeling. Austin makes a clear case in this book about surrounding yourself with a solid support network of friends and family who can help you out when times are tough.
What helps is that the book is pleasantly written with sometimes humorous anecdotes. For instance, I had to chuckle a little bit at his story about watching the ’80s movie Working Girl with his grandparents, and his grandmother’s failed attempt at fast-forwarding through a soft-core sex scene that ends in failure and a paused screen instead to much laughter. Still, the takeaways of life lessons learned are the core of the volume, and they are all sound and practical. You basically get the sense that Austin has come through a fair bit of strife in his life, and has actually learned a thing or two about them that has allowed him to grow and help others in need. To that end, I should note that the book comes with a supplemental study guide on Austin’s website, so the level of thinking and practicality of the book is pretty high and accomplished — which is more than I can say about books that aren’t self-published.
Overall, would I say that Catching Your Breath is perfect? Perhaps not, but who or what is? It might have helped if the book didn’t try to attempt to cross platforms and had a few more examples of exercises an individual could do to get a handle on things in the book itself — though it should be noted that there are already a few helpful suggestions of things to try in Catching Your Breath proper. Alternatively, those who are about ready to slash their wrists in real time might find the book too lightweight. However, as Austin alludes in his tome, he can’t help everybody at the risk of damaging his own self-care, so he takes a more triaged approach in his writing, trying to help those more who are thinking dark thoughts than those at the edge of actually being ready to do something dark about them. In the end, Catching Your Breath is a well-written book that’s not too preachy and keeps the Christianity more or less in check for those who might not be of the faith tradition yet (and I should add that the book is not a mere sales pitch for Christianity, as though being Christian is the one thing that will help you out of whatever pit you’re stuck in). It deals with the topic at a surface level, enough for those who need more help to be able to recognize that they do and then go out and find it. Catching Your Breath is a breathtaking and honest read that reminds us that no matter how dark things may get, there’s always sunshine around the corner — and sometimes you just need the reminder. Austin has done a largely good thing with this book, and hopefully it will reach its intended audience through its self-published means.
Steve Austin’s Catching Your Breath: The Sacred Journey from Chaos to Calm will be self-published on October 22, 2018.
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