Friday, May 12, 2017

Kitchen Table Wisdom - Stories that Heal (Book Review/Notes)

Kitchen Table Wisdom - Stories that Heal by Rachel Remen, M.D. is a book that I've had on my "Want to Read" list for some time now.

She believes that despite technology and its power to help those with medical issues, many people still do not live well. One of the things she recommends is to listen to other people's stories. This book is a collection of true stories that remind "us that the things we cannot measure may be the things that ultimately sustain and enrich our lives."

One of the stories, Meeting Mr. Right, talked about one of her former clients who was a psychologist and athlete who ran daily before going to her office. She often met a colleague there who was a psychiatrist. They ran together for many years.

After she was diagnosed with cancer, she noticed that the psychiatrist began avoiding her on the runs and didn't return her calls. About a year after going through chemotherapy and healing; she took a different running route and saw him. She caught up to him and asked him why he had avoided her.

"I'm sorry. I simply did not know the right thing to say," she said.

Dr. Remen asked the woman what she had hoped to hear, "Oh, something like, 'I heard it's been a hard year. How are you doing?' Some simple human thing like that."

This gave me pause for thought at how I have handled or mishandled situations in the past; and how when my parents were struggling with Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, and other health issues - and how I had to take on a lot of caregiving responsibilities - that many people "disappeared" - both in terms of my parents' family and friends, and mine.


Another interesting passage was this one:
Many of the people who come to talk about their cancer have ended up telling me that they have in some fundamental way felt alone all their lives. They have felt loved and valued by others for what they can do but not for who they are, and they have loved and valued themselves in this same way.
They have had relationships, lived among families, had neighbors, and worked with others, yet they have felt they have never really known the people around them or been known by them. Their cancer has made them aware of this for the first time.


This is one about listening that I know I have experienced as well as done. It was eye-opening reading it:
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. And especially if it's given from the heart.
One of my patients told me that when she tried to tell her story people often interrupted to tell her that they once had something just like that happen to them. Subtly her pain became a story about themselves. Eventually she stopped talking to most people. It was just too lonely. We connect through listening.

This was another passage that I found interesting:

Death has been referred to as the great teacher. It may be the great healer as well. Educare, the root word of "education," means to lead forth the innate wholeness in a person. So, in the deepest sense, that which truly educates us also heals us.

Kitchen Table Wisdom has many moving and thought-provoking stories worth reflecting upon - whether or not a person has cancer or is touched by it in some way.

1 comment:

Rita said...

Definitely sounds like a thought provoking book worth reading and pondering. :)