I think I have been following “A Journey With You – surviving schizophrenia” for about a year now. I read every post that comes up on my Reader. Not because I have schizophrenia, or because I am caring for someone who has it, not because I am particularly interested in the disease. I read each post because I enjoy well-written words. I read because the author is a lot like me.
We only have a few things in common: We were both social workers when we were young. She worked in Child Protective Services – investigating reports of abuse and neglect and removing children from their homes if necessary.
I worked in Foster Care, supervising the care of the children once they were placed in foster homes, and working with their birth parents toward the goal of reuniting the family, if possible. It was rarely possible.
We are close to the same age.
We both care. She cares more, I think, because she knows more. She is teaching me.
I read her blog for the wonderful slices of her everyday life. My favorites involve her relationship with her husband.
I’ve thought a few times of buying her book, Pills, Poetry & Prose: Life with Schizophrenia (by Rebecca Chamaa). I thought I might add it to my Amazon cart when I do my Christmas shopping. And then in late October Rebecca posted that she was giving away a copy of it. So I left my blog address in the comment section of her post and I won the drawing!
My husband brought in the mail Saturday and handed me a padded envelope, “Someone from California sent you something.”
“Oh, oh, oh, it’s the book!” I tore open the envelope and pulled it out. I opened the front cover, “Dang it, I should have asked her to sign it.”
Yesterday, before church I read the first eleven pages. When the hub and I returned home from church, I found my daughter reading it.
This morning I sat down with the book and a big mug of hot coffee. Just as the coffee was growing cold, I finished it.
And I learned that we have another thing in common – rejection by a spouse and the pain of divorce.
If I hadn’t been reading her blog, if I didn’t know that she is remarried and has such a wonderful friendship with her husband, such a strong and supportive bond with him, I would not have been able to bear the poem on page 28.
Saturday, when I let Rebecca know that the book arrived, she replied, “Ohhhhh, please let me know how you like it.”
Okay, talented, sweet, wise and wonderful woman, if you are reading this, here’s how I like it:
I only like poetry when it says a lot, with a few concise, masterfully chosen and arranged words. I only like poetry when it is not so obscure that I can’t figure out what the poet is saying. I like your poetry, Rebecca. I love it.
And I love how you used prose to flesh out the details. I loved the glimpse into your childhood.
On page 45 you wrote, “I am a ghost that only certain people can see.”
One of the best things about your blog and your book is that you are giving shape and form to ghosts; you are stirring understanding and compassion in people like me.
Your book is your story, artfully told, and I love true stories.
I used to show clips of the movie “A Beautiful Mind” when speaking to high school students as an example of true love. I showed them the scene in which Alicia and one of John’s former co-workers were walking and talking, Alicia pushing a stroller. After talking a bit about John’s current condition and limitations, the former co-worker told Alicia that John was a lucky man (to have her). Alicia replied, almost in a whisper, that John was so unlucky (to have the disease).
I showed them the scene in which John’s psychiatrist advised Alicia to leave home for her own safety. Instead, she decided to stay. She kneeled in front of John, who was seated on the edge of their bed, and said, “I need to believe that something extraordinary is possible.”
And the final scene when John, accepting the Nobel Prize, said to Alicia, “I’m only here because of you.”
I don’t know how true to life the movie is, but “Poisonous Thoughts” on pages 52 and 53 reminded me of those scenes.
And it pinpointed why I read A Journey With You – to watch extraordinary love unfold in the big and small of your everyday life.
To watch love and commitment – in sickness and in health – play out in the lives of two ordinary, extraordinary people.
Pills, Poetry & Prose is a collection of poems and essays that tell a beautiful, poignant, hopeful, insightful, scary, honest story. And I am privileged to have read it.