Taking Up ‘The Invitation’

monday inspirationsWelcome back to another post in the Monday Inspirations series, where guest bloggers write about the books and authors that have inspired them. Today’s post is by Dr Gulara Vincent, who has also written the most visited post in the series: How Agatha Christie Saved My Life. You can check out OTHER Monday Inspirations posts here.


I found Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s ‘The Invitation’ in a toilet. One of my housemates left it on the floor.

51PNYTV87VLIt took me 10 minutes to finally get myself to the toilet. Both bathrooms were occupied. There were seven of us in the house, and outrageously some of those people liked reading on a throne, I fumed. No wonder it’s impossible to get to the toilet, I grumbled under my breath picking up the purple-covered book. Mountain Dreamer. Huh? What sort of name is that? I rolled my eyes. Some of my housemates were distinctly flaky. Well, they liked to introduce me to visitors as ‘normal’. As I harrumphed internally, my eyes were scanning first through the back cover and then the opening poem.

‘It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.’

My insides clenched in response. A part of me wanted to close the book down and forget about it. I kept reading the poem. By the sixth paragraph, I was crying.

‘It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.’

The pull of the book felt unbearable. This woman I’ve never heard of was speaking directly to my soul.

It was only when someone tried to open the toilet door, I realised that I forgot about the primary purpose of my visit into this spacious bathroom with warm orange walls. Sun was streaming through two windows. It felt, as if I woke up from a dream.

Reluctantly, I placed the book where I found it. I had no time for books like this. My eyes could take only so much strain. Reading hundreds of pages of books and magazines for my PhD project had to take priority over enjoying myself.

Except… I could not stop thinking of this strange book. Eventually, I borrowed the book and decided to read it during my breaks. My productivity sky-rocketed. I got up at five or six in the morning and worked till mid-day when I took a well-deserved break. Packing the purple book into my bag, I went to the local cafe in a nearby park. The autumn was setting in so most customers were indoors. The alley of chestnut trees with yellow leaves in front of me looked like a gateway into new life. I sat on a cold iron chair outside and savoured every word of this invitation to be true to myself. I didn’t dare to sit with other people even when it drizzled because…. There was no predicting when and how this book could touch me. As I read achingly raw words in the book, tears streamed down my face. They were pulling at the cords of deep longing, longing I could not even name.

I know now. My being was craving to be true, authentic and real. To drop all masks, stop trying to fit in so hard, to be… ‘normal’. And most importantly, to speak my truth.

Five years after reading this book (and all the other books Oriah has written), I started writing my memoir. Writing this post made me realise how much ‘The Invitation’ has influenced my writing journey. As a writer, I am not willing to betray my soul any more, even at the risk of disappointing others.


Dr Gulara Vincent is a writer, blogger and a university law lecturer. She lives in Birmingham, England, with her husband and two young children. You can visit her writer’s blog at http://gularavincent.com/blog

29 thoughts on “Taking Up ‘The Invitation’

  1. Pingback: Taking Up ‘The Invitation’ | Dr Gulara Vincent

  2. What a beautiful post, Gulara. It kicks off with humour (I loved the idea of you finding such an important book in the bathroom and I also dislike reading on the toilet) and then digs so deep, bringing a tear to the eye. It reminds me of a poem that influenced me in a similar way – I can’t remember the title or who it was by that the line:
    Save the only one you can save, yourself
    stopped me in my tracks.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for such warm feedback. It was funny to find it in the toilet. I couldn’t make it up (as reading in the toilet is not something that crosses my mind). I am so glad it touched you (my husband cried too, which is usually my test on how well the post is written 🙂 ) The line from the poem you remember is exquisite. So very-very true!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a story. Reminded me a little of The Shadow Of The Wind by Zafon where a young boy is drawn to a book in the same way you have although this ‘book within a book’ was fictional. Your isn’t and you’ve got me so incredibly intrigued I will be buying it.
    Another brilliant post, Gulara! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Elissaveta, I love your taste in books, I’ll have to look up the title you mentioned here, and I love ‘book within a book’ stories. They can be so rich. Thank you for reading and commenting, and I truly hope The Invitation resonates with you. It’s a beautiful book.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re most welcome. I love your writing, it’s inspirational! And by the looks of it, I think you would enjoy Ben Jelloun’s books too.
        I’m contemplating the idea of buying The Invitation very soon. This poem… it just spoke to me…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Beautiful, I am definitely intrigued by this book now Gulara! I love the backstory too, who’d have guessed that you’d find such an important book in the toilet?
    Thankfully you did not leave it at only judging the book by its cover…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I want to read this book I love that poem, especially the ‘It doesn’t interest me if the story you’re telling is true’. So many times what is true for one, isn’t true for another. I’m coming to realize, the truth is more about the feelings we are left with anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s my favourite line, Louise, especially since I’ve been writing my memoir. I bet if each member of my family told our family story, we’d have quite a collection. But what is perhaps the key line for me in that poem is the invitation to stay true to myself. It’s very subtle, but certainly life-changing. Thank you for reading and commenting here. Ula is an amazing writer. Her fiction is superb! How can one tell a story in as little as 25 words?!!! Anyway, she can. A very talented and inspiring writer!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t understand the reading-on-toilet thing. And I cringe when I see “reading material” in someone’s water closet. Well, the excerpts are beautiful. Great post. Thanks for sharing this inspiration!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Bathroom business for me is brisk and reading is best savored in fresher air! But I know this book and had actually forgotten how it had led to my persistence in living out my writing dream, one that has come to fruition. Thanks for the reminder of a heart-moving, spirit-empowering invitation of Oriah’s poem.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thank you for reading, Charli, I am glad it’s not just me 🙂 I’ve read this book in ‘another life’ and was getting worried by a flurry of interest readers of this post expressed in relation to the book. I wondered whether it was as good as I remembered it. So you’ve put all my concerns to rest and I am so glad you are pursuing your writing dream! Lovely to connect here and on Twitter. Thank you for RT.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Gulara, this is another amazing post. I’ve thought about it a lot since I first read it. This series is adding to an already long list of books to read, but this is one is on the priority list.
    I admit to reading on the toilet. I know it’s not for everyone, but I do it. I developed the habit when my son was younger as it was the only place I’d have some alone time. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a way to read several books at a time. I always have a bathroom book I’m reading and usually a book I read before going to bed. Sometimes also a book I read during the day (if I have the time). In my defense, I also read in the tub (I know, I know – not very environmentally friendly). There’s something about bathrooms and their conduciveness to reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am sure there is, Ula and sometimes, particularly when we have young kids, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. 🙂 I guess I went on a bit of a rant because it was a bit of a problem in the house I shared with six other people. Maybe that’s why our current home has two bathrooms. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can totally understand. I had two cousins living with me a few years ago, and then bathroom time became very scarce. They were both female with long hair and I was astonished at how much time hair and make-up can take.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you very much for this thought-proking post. Your experience with this book reminds me of when I first visited Byron Bay back in my 20s (Northern NSW, Australia) When I returned back home to Sydney, it was like I’d been through some kind of seismic shift and nothing was familiar. Byron Bay, especially back then, was a real hippy, creative community and I really loved the freedom. It was incredible…so liberating!!
    Here’s a link to a post covering more recent visits with the family:
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 2 people

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