I’m cold, I’m tired and I’m hungry. It seems that I am in the mood to whine lately, and there’s just nothing to be done about it. Or is there? Perhaps it’s time to read about people who have it, or had it, worse than I do. Let’s see how this works…
Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder (who is coming to the Drue Heinz Lectures this month, by the way!). This is the story of Deo, who lives in a tiny village in Burundi. He wants nothing more than to be a doctor, so somehow he gets to medical school. Once he gets there, though, the violence in Rwanda spills over to Burundi, and he’s forced to run for his life. From there, he manages to get to New York City, where he has to learn to survive all over again, since he speaks no English, has no contacts and only $200 in his pocket.
My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor. She’s doing well now, of course, but Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist at Harvard, woke up one morning to find herself having a stroke. It took her eight years to recover from a complete state of no identity and non-functionality.
The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, by Elyn R. Saks. The brain of a schizophrenic tells its owner all sorts of things, often scary, violent and nonsensical. Imagine having that going on in your head while you’re trying to go to law school and you’ll have a sense of what life is like with what can be a debilitating mental illness.
Ten Thousand Joys & Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s, by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle. It’s hard to say who has a more difficult time with a disease like Alzheimers, the patient or the caregiver. For Ms. Hoblitzelle and her husband, who is diagnosed at the age of 72, it’s a chance to put all their understandings of psychology and meditation into practice.
I Remember Running: The Year I Got Everything I Ever Wanted – and ALS, by Darcy Wakefield. Living with a terminal illness like Lou Gehrig’s disease could be such a downer – serious whine potential. Yet so many quotes from this book sum up Darcy Wakefield’s attitude, such as “The real truth of my ALS is that it takes daily acts of courage to get up, live the day fully, be grateful for what I have, and to find the humor and grace and the pleasure, yes, pleasure, in not being able to clip my own nails.”
The Best Seat in the House: How I Woke Up One Tuesday and Was Paralyzed for Life, by Allen Rucker. Another title that tells you most of the story, but you’ve got to read it to get the full benefit of Allen Rucker’s humor, such as his idea for a daily flip calendar for people who are paralyzed, “flip” being the operative word.
To tell you the truth, I actually feel better. Not so much because I’m glad that I don’t have a physical or mental disease, but that I’m grateful that there are folks out there who have had tough rows to hoe and were still willing to share their inspiring stories with me. You never know, though, when I will slip again and start whining. What would you suggest to get me out of it?
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