I started watching the movie Still Alice tonight. Y’all probably know that book–it’s by Lisa Genova, and she tells the story of a college professor who found out that she had early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease at the age of fifty. I never knew much about Lisa Genova until I went to her website, and started reading. She’s a neuroscientist who now writes novels. That doesn’t sound like a jump that most scientists would make.
This is her explanation for why she has decided to do what she does.
If you read my novels, you will learn some real science and clinical information (yes, I sneak it in). But beyond intellectual knowledge, what I think and hope most readers take away from my books is a compassionate awareness.
Compassionate awareness. This is my contribution. And I believe it’s an important contribution because it is this kind of awareness that can help break down the stigma and alienation imposed on families affected by these diseases and conditions. It is compassionate awareness that says to the world, “I see you. You exist. You matter. And I care.”
If you are one of us who has a disability or mental illness or chronic illness or even something like AIDS or cancer, or you want to bring “compassionate awareness” to break down that stigma and alienation people who live with these conditions feel, you have a unique perspective to share it from.
That’s what I’d like to learn to do. Fiction is a way to reach others that breaks down their defenses and gives them an insight into how people in the stories feel. Fiction teaches us to be empathetic to others by telling us that there are people who need us to say, “I see you. You exist. You matter. And I care.”
If you are a writer, think about this. Maybe you can help bring more compassionate awareness to the world.
I see you
I know it hurts
You’re still the same person you were before the bad thing hit.
It’s hard when you feel yourself fading away.
But you’re still here.
There’s a place for you until you’re ready to go.
One day you will know that love always lasts.
It never, ever goes away.
Words go, our bodies go, but the love always stays.