“You suffer the blow, but you capitalize on the opportunity left in its wake.”
― Michael J. Fox, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist
How can you not love Michael J. Fox? I mean, seriously?! The guy’s an adorable, approachable, talented, family man and tireless advocate for Parkinson’s! And since the release of this book (in 2009) we know to add that he’s also an optimist.
Just look at this short quote, taken from the back of the book jacket:
At the turn from our bedroom into the hallway, there is an old full-length mirror in a wooden frame. I can’t help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass. Turning fully toward the glass, I consider what I see. This reflected version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, pinched, and slightly stooped, would be alarming were it not for the self-satisfied expression pasted across my face. I would ask the obvious question, “What are you smiling about?” but I already know the answer: “It just gets better from here.”
— from Always Looking Up
Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox is the story of his life after Spin City… and is, at turns, a memoir and medical journey, with some laugh-out-loud funny moments and a whole lot of heart.
I was afraid to read it at first… you know, because of my health anxiety and hypochondria. I could go off on a whole “thing” right here about the “in my head” machinations needed to convince myself that I will live through reading about symptoms … and … just because someone else has a certain disease, doesn’t mean I also have it. Even if I do get twitchy sometimes, which could be anything from anxiety to a pinched nerve. <<< See, that’s actually the real-live stuff I sometimes have to say to myself. So very tiring!
However, as so often happens, something about this book cried out to be picked up, read and admired… plus… see first paragraph… it’s Michael J. Fox, for crying out loud!
Once I did (pick it up) I couldn’t put it down. Fox is an excellent storyteller, writer and thoughty-guy. 🙂
The book is divided into four parts: Work, Politics, Faith and Family. Within those parts, there are dated journal-style entries that are easy to read and conversational. It’s a first-person dialogue and we get to listen in… as a welcomed guest. Lucky us! Gotta love it.
There are the day-to-day details of his life, from getting out of bed onward… with quiet moments alone and busy days with his family. He isn’t maudlin about his wife Tracy Pollan, though no one would fault him if he were. They obviously have a deep, abiding love and respect for each other. When one thinks of successful long-term Hollywood marriages, the Fox marriage is certainly among them.
I thought of Christopher Reeve while reading this book… because he was young and famous when he became disabled, but also because of the spiritual aspect. I’d read Reeve’s book Still Me several years before and was struck that Reeve could find the strength to go on without a faith in organized religion. At the time, I was wrestling with my own relationship with God, so I found comfort in it, actually. The thing was, Reeve had *something* that I didn’t quite understand, and Fox has it, too. It is… an unwavering belief in self. I don’t mean that in an egotistical way… I mean it in a … gosh, I’m kind of at a loss for words… an inner strength, I guess.
I will say that Fox, however, did find the Jewish community offered the kind of spiritual home he desired and talks at length about his journey there in the section on “Faith”.
And then, Fox brought up Reeve… and I shook my head in recognition.
“Chris[topher] Reeve wisely parsed the difference between optimism and hope. Unlike optimism, he said, ‘Hope is the product of knowledge and the projection of where the knowledge can take us.” ― Michael J. Fox, Always Looking Up
Yes, yes! That is the difference… and one day, I must write about hope. I have thoughts, you know.
In the meantime… let’s concentrate on optimism! And this fabulous book…
*Originally written by me for this blog on August 1, 2018