Life’s Messy, Live Happy:

Things Don’t Have to Be Perfect for You to Be Content

By Cy Wakeman

St. Martin’s

Pub date: 29-March-2022

Life's Messy cover

AMBER LOVE 01-MAR-2022 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’ve also curated lists of books and other things I like on Amazon so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.

Publisher’s summary:

A simple shift in thinking can change everything you believe about your own happiness.

By the time we become adults, most of us have joined the religion of suffering, which preaches that unless circumstances are controlled, life will be a mess. We compare ourselves to others and speculate about an impossible-to-know future, holding out hope for an improved life through getting ahead, fulfilling passion, or finding true love. But the idea that happiness comes from putting effort toward altering one’s circumstances is harmful and backward. What if we instead learned to understand that circumstances can rarely be controlled, and that life is, and always will be, messy?

From that starting point, we could learn to use our minds to create happiness despite life’s ever-changing circumstances and events. Life’s Messy, Live Happy by Cy Wakeman is about dramatically changing the level of happiness you feel in your daily life, by learning to disconnect happiness from external forces, stop worrying about the future, and realize that most of your negative feelings are about things that never even happened.

Wakeman is a credible, relatable teacher—a business owner, mother, and community member who has lived her philosophy and achieved profound happiness and success in a crazy, messy life. Filled with concrete daily practices and true stories that are hilarious, painful, and poignant, this book will change everything: your perspective, your focus, and your energy level for everyday life.


What I loved about Cy Wakeman’s autobiographical self-help book, LIFE’S MESSY, LIVE HAPPY is her willingness to air her dirty laundry of two divorces, raising four boys (at times eight boys when counting step-children), homelessness, and thriving as a successful businesswoman. Some people would keep certain things hidden, masked if you will, to only show their highlight reel. Not Wakeman.

The other great thing about her personality is that she acknowledges where she is privileged. At times, perhaps she wasn’t. When her first long-term relationship ended, she called to her father for help. She wanted to go back home. (I’ve done that – twice.) But her father rejected her which caused years of distance and walls between them. She went to live by a lake in a tent and would shower at her office. Wakeman isn’t resentful. She loved her time at the water which is an image that repeats throughout her life. The more recent anecdotes have her living out the COVID-19 pandemic at her house in Mexico on the oceanfront. From a tent to multiple houses and appearing on television’s Say Yes to the Dress.

No success, no achievement, no compliment or accolade will heal old wounds or bestow a sense of being worthy. Knowing that you are enough is an inner game. It comes from accepting yourself fully, from being your own source of love and abundance.

To be honest, when I read the title, I expected a vapid self-help book from someone with so much privilege and no sense of “the real world” that it would a quick read leaving me unmoved. I am happy to be wrong. Though there are parts I believe an editor should have suggested cutting out, like an entire chapter in italics of a letter the author wrote to one of her sons. It’s lengthy and offers nothing to the reading. It may have been cathartic for Wakeman to write it, but even in non-fiction every component has to be relevant. This chapter simply wasn’t.

There’s more memoir than advice. According to research, (I was listening to an episode of Science Vs podcast embedded), people remember personal anecdotes better than statistics. Wakeman could have approached this book with globs of data and science about mindfulness, self-care, trauma and abuse, and divorce; she didn’t. She opted for very detailed, sometimes repetitive, personal stories. They make an impact. They give a reader something to then tell a friend or client when recommending this book.

LIFE’S MESSY, LIVE HAPPY is a book that I allowed to germinate as I took almost a month to read it. Wakeman breaks down what it is that people want from other people: to be chosen. This is often engrained in girls. She clearly wants people who are at the stage of looking for partners (life or business) to learn from her mistakes and lessons. Maybe you’re searching for a job. Wakeman wants you to consider that your idea of a “dream” job doesn’t have to be what society defines as successful like a corner office with underlings or being internet famous. The position that’s truly the best for YOU and can accommodate your needs and your goals. She wants that to be a place that allows you to grow and welcomes your talent.

Okay, that’s often easy as a dream than reality. How many of us end up in dead end jobs for the paycheck? I’d say 99% of friends. Yet a few do find their ways to what seems like their “dream” jobs only to find that they have no time for themselves, their families, they’re exhausted, they need to be “on” all the time, emails never end, and what was a dream ends up a big disappointment. Dead end and low on the ladder in a warehouse or one of the big dogs with a New York salary? LIFE’S MESSY asks you to figure out your needs.

The chapter “Love Big and Let Go” features an incredible story of Wakeman’s time as a social worker when an African father was going through the death of his six-year-old daughter. I want you to read that! The TL;dr is that people view death in very different ways. In this father’s culture, he wasn’t groomed to be sobbing, wailing, and depressed. He saw dying young as a bit of a blessing because someone so young has not had the time to see the injustices and violence of the world. She was just a little girl riding her bike and loving life.

Wakeman’s themes run through a variety of what it is to be human: forgiveness, vulnerability, living with anger and resentment, ending and beginnings, grief, growth, and acceptance. She pretty much covers the Serenity Prayer but with her own words.


Cy Wakeman’s memoir/self-help book, Life’s Messy, Live Happy: Things Don’t Have to be Perfect for You to be Content is one I recommend. It will not be relatable to everyone — as noted, she checks her privilege — yet, I believe that her heartful stories can inspire anyone. If you like Brené Brown, you’ll like this.

Rating: 5 stars

five star rating

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