Reading Suleika Jaouad’s “Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted” is a reminder to all of us, that at some point in our lives, we will travel between the Kingdom of the Well and the Kingdom of the Sick.
After her leukemia diagnosis and during her long hospital stays, Jaouad discovered the power of her written words. During her journaling, she underwent a bone marrow transplant, a break-up with her boyfriend/caretaker, and follow-up chemo treatments; all of which left her asking “what now?” She writes:
I wanted to understand what had happened to me, to excavate its meaning on my own terms. I wanted the last word to be mine.
And her words are POWERFUL.
Her perspective on what it means to be “Moving On”—
It seemed so easy at first, too easy, and it’s starting to dawn on me that moving on is a myth—a lie you sell yourself on when your life has become unendurable. It’s the delusion that you can build a barricade between yourself and your past—that you can ignore your pain, that you can bury your great love with a new relationship, that you are among the lucky few who get to skip over the hard work of grieving and healing and rebuilding—and that all this, when it catches up to you, won’t come from blood.
Her friends from the Kingdom of the Sick have given her so much knowledge:
They shared their own stories about what it’s like to have life interrupted, whether by the ripcord of a diagnosis or some kind of trauma or heartbreak. They taught me that, when life brings you to the floor, there is a choice: You can allow the worst things that have ever happened to you to hijack your remaining days, or you can claw your way back into motion.
Her book has made me realize my interest in memoirs—in her words:
I understand now why so many writers and artists, while in the thick of illness, become memoirists. It provided a sense of control, a way to reshape your circumstances on your own terms in your own words.
I’m so glad I read her story and wish her well in her continued battle with leukemia.
"Cheaper than water," the clerk says, eyeing my oversized hoodie and salt-encrusted headband. I chuckle. And then he asks what he always asks, "Is there anything else I can get for you, Boss?"
That's right. I am the boss. He works for me. Everyone needs that kind of reassurance now and then. Cool. Really Really Cool. I'll take it. Makes me feel special. I rock the headband.
I'm like Gary Reindel, John Jeffire's fictional character from the '80s.
Gary Reindel needs a little reassurance now and then. He has a trophy wife, Corry, and they live in a condo overlooking Lake St. Clair. Gary works for his dad's Detroit car dealership, Reindel Motors, and Corry at a t.v. station alongside her main workmate Phil Toms.
Gary's got insecurities. He's damaged. His wife defined their relationship, her pre-marital powers of suggestion confused Gary. Jeffire writes:
"'Love the one you're with,'" Corry said. "Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Yeah, that's it, Gair. Exactly, exactly what I was saying. You get it then. Great band, too."
During his childhood, Gary's dad taught him how to Man-Up:
...Chuck Reindel, The Duke of The Deal, told his son to finish the fight with the boy without crying or he'd give him something to really cry about ... so they fought again. Again, Gary lost miserably, blood flowing eagerly from his nose and his mouth, but as much as he wanted to cry, he didn't. Lesson learned.
And when adult Gary gets called away from Marina Painter, a customer service rep for Reindel Motors, his dad emasculates his son by questioning his whereabouts and slapping him.
"If you want to chase middle-aged pussy on your time, be my guest. On my time, though, you work. I pay you to work, not fuck off. You understand?"
A third time the hand came hard.
In order to not feel so woefully inadequate, and to fill the void, Gary wants to be called "Boss." And like myself, he truly wants to believe he is the boss. During Gary's descent into the unknown (his hook up with a young woman named Char) Jeffire writes the following internal dialogue:
He's the goddamned vice president of acquisitions for Reindel Motors. His wife was hot. She worked with Phil Toms. His side woman was even hotter. Char was looking at him. He needed to regroup.
Heck, I need to regroup.
John, cool story bro. You fit the criteria for "Cool." I'm looking at you, "Boss."
Reference: "Boss" by John Jeffire, Coolest American Stories 2022.