I recently watched this hour-long video posted by John Folk-Williams, who writes the Storied Mind blog. The speaker is Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings. Dr. Remen has cared for patients with cancer, and their families, for over thirty years, and is recognized as one of the first physicians to accept the mind/body connection to health. I personally could listen to her speak forever and highly recommend this video and her books. Dr. Remen uses stories, her own and those of her colleagues and patients, to help us find the deeper meaning in our lives.
This video is meant for the general public, and is filled with inspirational, entertaining stories. I was struck by how much of what she says might be of particular interest to OCD sufferers and their loved ones. For example, Dr. Remen encourages us all to “befriend the unknown.” It is human nature to seek knowledge, to want answers, and to make sense of it all. But in always following this path, are we missing out on the mystery of life? As we know, living with uncertainty is a major issue for those with OCD, and part of effective treatment for the disorder involves learning to live with this uncertainty. Dr. Remen takes it one step further and suggests that we should not just tolerate living with uncertainty; we should embrace it. As she says, “Know a little less, wonder a little more.” While no doubt this is a lofty goal for OCD sufferers, it may be one their loved ones could also strive for. When Dan’s OCD was severe, all I wanted was assurance that he would be okay. I needed to know, for sure, that all would be well. It is now clear to me that nobody can predict the future or give us any guarantees. Of course, once our family learned that even severe OCD is treatable, we had a lot of hope for Dan, but hope should not be confused with certainty. Since all of our lives are bound to have unexpected twists and turns, I think the advice to “befriend the unknown” is well taken.
Another point that Dr. Remen makes through her stories is that we all touch others lives in ways we will never realize. I immediately thought of all of the OCD sufferers and their families, as well as doctors and therapists, who share their stories through blogging, speaking, or connecting one-on-one with others. This sharing makes a difference. Their stories matter.
Dr. Remen closes her talk by saying, “So in the end we may measure our value, and the value of our lives, not by our knowledge, not by our possessions, but by our stories. In the end our stories will bless us, and enable us to know at last who we are, what our true value is, and to find peace with our lives.”
I could not have said it better myself.