What’s your favorite book, and why?
at first, i was surprised that people with the same disease had such very different stories. later, i became deeply moved by these stories, by the people and the meaning they found in their problems, by the unsuspected strengths, the depths of love and devotion, the rich human tapestry initiated by the pathology I was studying and treating.
[rachel naomi remen]
In writing this, I allowed myself to spend some time getting lost in a very well worn book. One with countless dog eared pages, highlighted passages, underlined sentiments. One with emotional margin notes echoing the fears and needs building up behind my eyes this summer.
Kitchen Table Wisdom, Stories that Heal by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen was the book the changed my life. That saved my life. That helped me to understand, to believe, to quantify my strength, to begin writing, to tell my story.
On March 27th, I sat slumped over, clutching my sides in pain and exhaustion in my therapists office. I was without fight. I was without strength. After making several phone calls, I left her office, ready to surrender to medical professionals. I was desperate for relief, and under the guidance of my therapist, my doctor, and my parents, I was headed to the emergency room. Without having planned for the outing, my purse was empty of magazines or books or anything to divert my attention and help me wait through the challenges that laid ahead of me. She quietly placed Kitchen Table Wisdom in my hands, and told me that of anything she had, she felt like I could most find myself within these pages.
For fifteen days, this book sat on the table next to my hospital bed. I couldn’t think straight enough to open it. When I returned home, another month went by. The magazines I had collected from friends slowly dwindled, but the book remained closed. The medicine gave me headaches and it was hard to read.
But one morning, in the beginning of May, I was ready. I picked up the book. I opened the spine, and I began reading. Within about 15 pages, I called my dad and asked him to stop at the bookstore on the way home. I knew I needed my own copy. This was going to be like Eat, Pray, Love in the chapter of my life that I encountered it – deep, sentimental, and incredibly relevant. In less than week, I devoured the 337 pages. As a compilation of short stories (mostly 2-4 pages long), it was incredibly easy to read, to put down, to think about, to pick back up again. But most importantly, it was impossible to NOT relate to.
being brave does not mean being unafraid
Of the hundreds of quotes from this book that resonate within my soul, this is one of the most important. I will admit, amongst my biggest weaknesses is the need for my thoughts and feelings to be validated. To be talked through. To be completely understood by another. In the world I have lived in all my life, courage and fear live at opposing ends of the spectrum; unable to work or play together. This is something I have always struggled with. I am both. I have both. One of the first steps I took forward was to embrace the fact that I can be afraid, and be brave too. I needed to hear it. I needed it to be validated.
When I read this book, I felt loneliness in the depths of my being. I was surrounded by incredible family and friends, individuals who had not let me physically or emotionally be alone for any step of this journey. The thing they didn’t understand, the thing I didn’t understand, was that I had lost myself.
the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. just listen.
perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…
a loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.
This book helped me in being a friend, in needing friends, in simply trying to survive. It overwhelmed my heart and soul and spirit in the moments they needed it most. It made me feel less alone. This book is exactly the type of book I wanted to write, and upon reading it, I was ready to sit down at my computer. I was ready to share my story. I was ready to follow my dreams.
This book brought me back to life in ways I am still coming to understand. For the writing, and the author, I am forever grateful.
[Adapted from the original post: Stories that Heal, on 11/13/12 from &this I believe]
Amanda Kasper is a writer, reader, quote lover, CASA advocate, and non-profit believer, seeking space as a lifelong learner, passionate lover, and irreplaceable friend. Amanda tweets at @AKasper513 and blogs over at “& this I believe”