Three Forces to Bring You Beauty: How a book can change your life

You always hear people talk about books that have impacted their life so much that it inspired a new action or a shift in perspective but for me, finding that type of book has been a rare occurrence.

I've read some memorable fiction, and I’ve learned a lot about history and different cultures, but I had yet to read a book that I could deeply and honestly say changed my personal life.

Until now.

I won't keep you in suspense. The book is The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness: A Memoir by Sarah Ramey, and I picked it up at my friend’s suggestion for her upcoming book club. 

The Lady's Handbook For Her Mysterious Illness

Sarah defines herself as a WOMI, a woman with a mysterious illness. You know these illnesses as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and a host of other named and unnamed disorders. They are typically invisible, and too often, doctors don't believe they’re real and dismiss them as psychological.

The book describes Sarah's years-long journey navigating her many illnesses, suffering blatant mistreatment and misdiagnoses in the medical system, and enduring debilitating pain.

Though my medical history is different than Sarah's, her challenges as a woman looking to find answers through physicians and alternative healers resonated with me on a level I hadn't known was there. I knew the emotions she was describing because I had felt them, too.

The shame, embarrassment, frustration, despair, and hot anger had also coursed through my veins, and it was validating to know I wasn’t the only one.

Ramey pairs her personal story with robust sections about the science, data, and research behind the foundational systems of our body and how their imbalance can adversely affect a whole chain of events, opening the door to these illnesses. I inhaled this education and made many notes regarding my own health.

Most powerful of all, Ramey connects her story, and the story of women everywhere, to a unique heroine's journey. Unlike the hero who slays the dragon or conquers the enemy to solve the problem and save the day, the heroine goes down the rabbit hole, descending into the depths of pain and suffering to search for answers, reflect on events, and learn more about who she is. Then she returns to the surface with a newfound inner wisdom that guides her life and helps others. This was exactly what I had been doing on my medical journey, and now I finally had an ancient and soul-deep story arc to describe it.

Near the end of the book, I made plans to recommend it to several girlfriends, hoping it would change their lives as much as it had mine. And I was looking forward to the book club.

Our virtual meeting took place on a Saturday morning with seven other women, five of whom I had never met. Half of them identified as a WOMI.

I was in awe at the vulnerability of these women, especially as some of them were complete strangers to each other. There were tears and raw emotions and soul-baring honesty. The discussion was nonjudgmental, meaningful, and heartbreaking as each of us described our reaction to and resonance with the story.

Even those women who weren't WOMIs were affected, arguably just as much as the others, as they gained empathetic insight into the lives of their friends who have a mysterious illness.

Then the author herself joined our meeting, and the gratitude flowed as we thanked Sarah for writing the book and changing our lives.

It was beautiful. And it deepened the book's impact on my life.

I witnessed the power of three forces that day.
  1. The courage to write, publish, and share your story with others. 
  2. The receptivity to allow a book to change your attitude, beliefs, or actions.
  3. The willingness to express your emotions and be vulnerable. 
This is what connects us to our humanity. Let these forces bring beauty into your world.

What book(s) has changed your life?

What does courage, receptiveness, and willingness look like for you?

Some recent Doorways:

  • My backyard trees were blooming last week. As I was sitting on the deck in the sunshine, a gust of wind sent little blossoms swirling around me like snowflakes. I smiled as I watched them float to the ground.
  • On a recent camping trip, my husband brought out his spotting scope and set his sights on a distant hillside. After a few minutes of searching he found a small herd of elk and deer bedding down for the evening. It was peaceful to watch this magnified beauty.
  • After more than two months at home I finally ventured out to pick up curbside groceries. Wearing my cloth mask, I felt a burst of courage as I set aside my anxiety to complete the task.


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