Week Forty-one: Amanda Kasper

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List the five people you’d like to meet, and why.

“In that inevitable, excruciatingly human moment, we are offered a powerful choice.

This choice is perhaps one of the most vitally important choices we will ever make,

& it determines the course of our lives from that moment forward.

 The choice is this: Will we interpret this loss as so unjust, unfair, and devastating that we feel punished, angry, forever and fatally wounded — or, as our heart, torn apart, bleeds its anguish of sheer, wordless grief, will we somehow feel this loss as an opportunity to become more tender, more open, more passionately alive, more grateful for what remains?”

― Wayne MullerA Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough

Over the past several years, due to circumstances mostly beyond my own control, an extraordinary amount of people have found their way into my life, and into my heart. They’ve each brought with them war stories, tales of demons and victories, hours of empathy and sympathy, and most importantly, love. They’ve changed my world in ways I never could’ve imagined – introductions to new websites, support groups, bloggers, writers, books, movies, magazines, publishers; things to keep my mind moving, my heart going, and my steps forward (rather than stopped, or turned around).

I am very cognizant that like most other posts I’ve written for the Today Voice, my answer today may only be today’s answer, and tomorrow, or next week, or next month, this answer may change, but today, today I feel good about the list I’ve made below.

  1. Rachel Naomi Remen

Rachel wrote “Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal,” which I blogged about a few weeks back. This book was given to me on my way to the emergency room, where I ended up admitted for the longest hospital stay of my life (2.5 weeks). I didn’t read the book during that time. In fact, it sat next to my bed for several weeks after I got home, too. I wasn’t ready. Somehow, in a moment I wasn’t ready for, the book found me, and I found myself devouring it. I was underlining passages, highlighting sentences, flagging pages, texting photos of paragraphs to friends. Never have I before found myself more than in the pages of this book. It was within these pages that I realized exactly the type of book I would come to write several months later. It was within the stories, that I found one person, who undoubtedly understood the things in my head I couldn’t communicate, the fears and doubt, the bravery and courage, the emotions and the logic associated with becoming chronically ill.

Rachel and I have actually exchanged facebook messages, but I would give anything to meet wit her in person. She has lived a life full of stories, both hers and others, and to spend hours over coffee, hearing the wisdom she has gained and understanding in a complex yet utterly simplistic way the methods in which those lessons could be applied to my own struggles – would leave me star-struck and forever grateful.

  1. Katie Anthony

Now, this one might seem strange. Katie is my copilot over at Below the Radar, she’s my best friend, the person I’m in contact with about 12 hours a day, the person I share my deepest thoughts and biggest fears with. She is my partner in crime. She is undoubtedly the person in the world who MOST understands every facet of my journey – because in one way or another, she has lived it.

Katie and I were connected via facebook this summer though her older sister, who was a part of my college sorority and shared some mutual friends with me. We’ve talked on the phone, we’ve face timed, we’ve texted and skyped and done all of the communication, but we haven’t actually been able to coordinate a visit yet. Katie lives in Des Moines, IA, where I went to college, and I live just north of Chicago, IL, a 5.5 hour drive in which neither of us are healthy or strong enough to do on our own.

Most days, I feel like if Katie and I were in the same place, life would be so much better. It wouldn’t necessarily be easier for either of us individually, as our battles have yet to find answers, but the moral support would be unprecedented.

  1. Susannah Cahalan & her family

I just finished reading the book Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan. Four days ago, I didn’t know this book existed. But it was recommended by a close friend who has in the past several weeks, become intimately familiar with the demons I’ve been fighting, both physically and mentally.

In the last year, I have come to realize that each book I have read has been at exactly the right time; whether through my own intuition or divine intervention, each has brought me a feeling or a set of thoughts or quotes or greater meaning that I have subtly been looking for – whether I knew it or not. This book, if you have not read it, is short and engaging – it provides insight into the brain of a girl diagnosed (near death) with a rare autoimmune diagnosis, after several doctors almost gave up on her. The disease took away her personality, her intelligence, her spark, her ability to function, but her parents and her boyfriend kept vigil by her bedside and believed the girl they knew was still there. Although her recovery was not 100%, it came close enough for her to rejoin the world, and to painstakingly piece together the time which she had blocked form her mind.

I devoured the book in just three days, and there’s so much I would want to ask not only Susannah, but her family. The gaps in her memory are filled by video clips and stories and journals kept by others, ways that she has pieced together the time she is missing. I think about that, about the statement and the sentiment, and realize that I wish I could reach back into time, and ask those around me about this time, about this last year, about the things that have crossed their minds and their hearts, the ways they have kept hope alive when I have felt it to be impossible.

  1. Casey Greenwood

Casey and I met online through some mutual friends, and connected instantly over symptoms and stories, forums and support groups. Casey is a health advocate in every sense of the word, but she’s also a supporter, a friend, an ally on the toughest of days and during the hardest of moments. The messages, emails and texts we share make me grateful every day for her presence in my life, but also wish that she didn’t live so far away. Like Katie, Casey and I have grown close over the past year, and I know without a doubt that my days would be better, and my heart happier, if we were able to spend time face to face, heart to heart.

  1. Jamie Tworkowski – Founder, To Write Love On Her Arms

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been motivated by, inspired by, and moved by the mission and vision of the organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA).

As pasted from their vision statement:

“You were created to love and be loved

You were meant to be in a relationship with other people, to know and be known.

You need to know your story is important, and you’re part of a bigger story.

You need to know your life matters.”

Having been touched and impacted personally by the effects of suicide, self injury, and self destructive thoughts; spending time seeking out ways to help others, to offer hope, to remind them that help is real, that their life is important, that their story matters, TWLOHA has offered a great source of hope, and love, and inspiration over the last several years. Through Jamie’s blogs, their mission, the events they put on, their Fears Vs. Dreams campaign, their Heavy & Light tour (which I was lucky enough to see in Chicago in February), I’ve become enamored by not only the organization, but the powerful story of the man who began it; the way that his dream has become something so real and tangible and important.

Meeting Jaime, talking to him, sharing my story and the way TWLOHA has been able to web its way through my life and to inadvertently offer hope when I couldn’t find it anywhere else, would bring light & love to my life.

____________________

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”

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