Irvin D. Yalom - 2015 Basic Books
In Creatures of a Day: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy, novelist and psychotherapist, Irvin Yalom shares (10) interesting tales of individuals he has counseled over the years in his private practice. Of course, the names have changed as have elements of their stories for the purpose of this book.
Most of the stories felt very real and personal, and involved patients who were dealing with aging issues and/or terminal illness. Most of the individuals, middle-aged or seniors had anxiety issues as they deal with their own mortality or the thought of losing someone near and dear to them. How does one embrace the fact that most of one's life is over, especially when we can't undo a sometimes imperfect past?
One story was about an aged former dancer and ballerina who couldn't stop obsessing about what became of an old love from her younger days. There was also a story about a well educated, 37 year-old man with a great job and high income who was filled with self-doubt. Another involving an elderly man suffering from writer's block, who has been trying to write the same novel for decades, and, one about a mother who has been estranged from her only son for years.
My favorite story was "Get Your Own Damn Fatal Illness: Homage to Ellie", a woman dying of cancer. Early on Ellie was deeply troubled by all the healthy, happy people she crossed paths with, but eventually came to terms with her situation and acceptance of her situation.
"For family and friends I'm more of a scarce commodity. And I feel special to myself also. My time feels more valuable. I feel a sense of importance, gravitas, confidence. I think I'm actually less afraid of dying than I was before cancer, but I'm more preoccupied with it. I don't worry about getting old. I don't give myself a hard time about what I'm doing or not doing. I feel like I have not just permission but almost a mandate to enjoy myself. I love the advice I came across on some cancer website: 'Enjoy every sandwich'."
"Life is temporary---always, for everyone. We always carry our death in our bodies. But to feel it, to feel with a particular name--that is very different."
Through some of theses stories, Yalom's own personal thoughts are revealed. At 83, it's easy to see that the author knows a little bit about living as well as the fears associated with dying. He's practiced psychotherapy for 55 years.
This was a wonderful collection that I read over several weeks -- so happy I tried this one.