The election of Donald Trump in 2016 affected comedienne, writer and late-night talk show host Chelsea Handler so profoundly she altered her entire life to cope with the implications. If you’ve ever watched her late night show Chelsea Lately, listened to her standup routine or read any of her books, you’ll know Handler is smart, beautiful, opinionated and abrasive. Turning forty and the election of Trump forced her to address an inner turmoil that she’d been ignoring her entire life. She suddenly realized that America and herself in particular were going down a very dangerous road. In her own words, “The news was giving me diarrhea.” I can certainly empathize—the news gives me stomach pains.
She put her career on hold for more than a year to focus on leveraging her celebrity status to get women elected in 2018 and increase the turnout of apathetic voters. This transformation happened with the assistance of an effective therapist whom she credits with finally helping her see life through a different lens. Her new book, “Life Will Be The Death Of Me” is a recounting of this journey.
Reading Handler’s book reminded me of the special dynamics inherent in families with many children. Handler is the youngest of six children. Her oldest and favourite brother Chet was killed in a hiking accident when she was nine and she never recovered from that loss. As I read about the Handler family’s experiences I was reminded of the colourful childhood of David Sedaris who also grew up with multiple sisters, a brother and parents trying to cope with a demanding family.
Handler was unhappy with her life, always being on the offensive, sabotaging relationships, both romantic and otherwise, and being generally frustrated with the state of the world. She took great pride in her independence and the fact whatever she had achieved had been done without the benefit of a college education, connections or financial support. She’d worked hard and apologized to no one. After the November 2016 election she was so depressed she felt she had to take some responsibility for the state of things. “How could Americans have turned their back on decency, and why was I so misinformed? How did I not know this outcome was even a possibility?” she says early in the book.
Recognizing herself as a privileged white elitist, one of the entitled one percent who was incapable of managing life’s simple chores by herself (despite her blue collar upbringing), she concluded she was part of the problem and set about remaking herself. “I couldn’t carry on the way I had been carrying on, just coasting and cashing checks for essentially being a loudmouth.”
Previous attempts at therapy had not been successful, mainly because, like so many troubled people, she hadn’t connected with the right therapist. Then, she met Dr. Dan Siegel who patiently introduced her to new possibilities, perceptions and an action plan for moving forward in a more positive way. Through intensive psychotherapy, Handler identified the source of her anger, defensiveness and frustration. What could easily descend into psycho-babble does not. The science is intriguing and it’s worth reading about the process she underwent. It involved a lot of time building trust in her therapist, then slowly uncovering and mitigating the causes of her anger.
With her typical humour and intelligence, Handler not only walks us through her transformation but throws in many bits about her personal life that were enlightening and funny. Her drug and alcohol problems have been well documented in her earlier books and this time around she is once again frank and honest about her use of cannibus in particular. Like many people without children, she has enthusiastically adopted a series of rescue dogs to satisfy her need for nurturing and love. The stories about her various canine pals are hilarious and she is equally generous in exposing her shortcomings in stories about her relationship with her domestic staff and family members.
This book also describes her handling of the death of both her mother and father but the early death of her oldest brother when she was nine years old was particularly significant. She also recognizes that her failures in romantic relationships are completely the result of her unwillingness to accept other people’s shortcomings while acknowledging no one is perfect. Part of the purpose of this book is to right this wrong and in typical Chelsea Handler fashion she dedicates the book to “My Future Husband”. She prefers older men and in particular has a crush on Robert Mueller.
If we were real life BFFs, I’d be encouraging a relationship with Bill Maher. I’m a hopeless (and probably the world’s worst) matchmaker. I know how difficult it is to meet “the right person” so I’m always trying (unsuccessfully) to fix people up. I know Handler and Maher have been friends for years and I’m hoping now that she’s done all this work on herself she’ll open her eyes to the possibilities of my suggestion. Just once I’d like my matchmaking to work. She prefers older men and Bill Maher’s about 20 years older than her; they’re both political and very smart; neither wants children and both love dogs; they both are passionate about the environment—and weed. Bill—pick up the phone. I think she’s ready.
I loved this book and read it in less than two days. In my opinion, it’s a 9 out of 10. Let me know what you think.
Disclosure: If you order from the Amazon link shown here you will receive Amazon’s best price and I may receive a teeny tiny commission. Thanks.