The cover is soft, pliable… and the pages aren’t cut to straight edges. They look torn, as if from a journal or ancient book of poetry. This is something you will never, ever get from an electronic source… the sensual relationship that exists between a real book and its reader. But darn, there I go already… I digress.
You will not be surprised to know that my mother picked it up for me. I’ve mentioned my mom a few times. (Click on the link and go to the bottom of the post to see what I wrote about her.) She called it a “Must Read” and she’s usually right. I can count the times I’ve disagreed with a recommendation of hers on one hand.
In the interest of transparency, I will share that I haven’t yet finished it, even though I’ve had it for two years. I began it… a half-dozen times. Here’s the thing: I generally stay away from stories, Facebook posts and real-life discussions about health. Not easy at nearly 60! We’re all talking about the falling-apart bits and pieces. My knees, my hips, my aching back! Know what I mean?
Reading a book like this can snag into my health anxiety and become a snarled mess. I can read one sentence… a symptom, perhaps… and my day is shot. Maybe the month… or year. You laugh, but I can still remember, with pin-point clarity, the moment I learned certain signs and symptoms of disease. I carry those moments with me. Forever. And think I’m having a heart attack/ stroke/ epileptic seizure/ etc. etc. etc. once or twice or twenty times throughout any given day. Health anxiety gets in the way of my daily life… especially when I’m trying to get better. Why then? Because I’m focussed on it.
However, one of the ways to overcome health anxiety is to do what scares you most… which in my case includes discussions about health, seeking advice, and medical tests. To that end, I am getting braver. Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. is a gentle way of wading in. She’s not smacking you in the face with gruesome details or medical jargon. In a way, it’s not a book about disease at all. It’s all about the healing.
Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. is a master storyteller. Reading this book is like sitting under a cashmere throw by the fire… and if it’s in the kitchen, even better! I once lived in a house like this. It was decadent! (Yikes! I digressed again!)
I’d like to share a short – very short but oh, so poignant – snippet of a story from the preface, written ten years after the book was first published. A woman told her she’d been diagnosed with cancer and the book helped her, so she was buying it for a friend. Remen asked how it helped, and this is what she said…
“I am less afraid.”
This is also my answer for why I am sharing it with you today, if you’d like to know.
This book is like a precious gift. I hope you will accept it and pass it on.