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    A Heart That Beats For Us All By Mary Fridley

    By Mary Fridley


    For this month’s blog, I’m going to share some writings that I’m inspired by these days. Since we can all use some uplift and inspiration, I thought I’d share them for your reading (and living) enjoyment.


    I recently had the pleasure of discovering Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal, a New York Times bestseller written by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen that was first published in 1996, with a 10th-anniversary edition issued in 2006. One of the earliest pioneers of holistic and integrative medicine, Dr. Remen is a medical educator and reformer who has trained thousands of physicians to “practice medicine from the heart.” 


    I LOVE this book. It’s as philosophically poetic as it is professionally insightful about what it means to heal (both body and soul), so if you want to be inspired (and perhaps gently challenged) to do health differently, check it out today.  


    One of the physicians Dr. Remen has influenced is Dean Ornish, Director of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, who in his forward for Kitchen Table Wisdom, writes, “Life is full of the unknown, full of mystery. Most books try to lead you out of mystery into mastery. Rachel Ramen’s book leads us to recognize and move toward the mystery that is in everyday life. Moving into the unknown is often where we find the healing, not by running away from it for a quick fix; it needs to be savored and celebrated.” 


    I agree that moving into – and I would add “playing and creating with” – the unknown is how we grow with each other. Because if we’re not able to create our lives, then we’re trying to control (master) our lives – and where’s the fun in that?


    As someone concerned with the state of our hearts, Dr. Ornish goes on to say, “The real epidemic in our culture is…what I call emotional and spiritual heart disease: the sense of loneliness, isolation, and alienation that is so prevalent in our culture because of the breakdown of the social networks that used to give us a sense of connection and community.” 


    And if ordinary people aren’t able to imagine another world or create new ideas and practices, new ways of learning and loving, and healing and helping, we are far more vulnerable to the illusion that we can create havens to protect us from the ugliness of the world. For some, this is family, for others jobs, sports, drugs, the gym, and a multitude of other things. And while I can understand the appeal of wanting to protect ourselves and those we love, I don’t believe there are havens. 


    What we can do is create community, not as a haven, not as a place to hide from sadness and pain, but as a very human, passionate, living environment that has the capacity to nourish everyone – emotionally, creatively, spiritually, and in all ways – trying to engage the “loneliness, isolation and alienation” of a havenless world. 


    In other words, we can create HEARTS that beat on behalf of us all.


    And speaking of hearts, I want to leave you with a poem, Momentum 2023, written by Nancy Nelson – who has one of the biggest hearts in the world – earlier this year. After being diagnosed with dementia about a decade ago, Nancy has emerged as a vibrant poet and dedicated advocate for people living with dementia and others whose voices are rarely heard but whose hearts beat as strongly as ever. The poem closes with these words:


    Kindly hear …

    nothing about us, 

    without us.

    We are worthy to be heard.


    It’s far better than being an anchor

    thrown overboard, 

    sinking deep,

    gulping for air, 

    in need of substantial care,

    feeling alone and lonely,

    just waiting for someone else 

    to pull us up.


    Instead … let’s 

    reframe and reimagine

    our own individual personal spaces 

    by daring to “do” dementia different.

    by becoming a collective body

    to reckon with.


    Create intention.

    Set a declaration

    with a sparkle, a smile

    and open arms

    for there is power in words,

    a willingness to engage change.


    One inquisitive ear 

    begets another




    Gathering momentum is …

    what we want.

    what we need.

    what we believe.

    what we can achieve.


    Together in 2023.


    If you want to enjoy the full poem, click here.


    And I’d love to hear how you’re creating community and connection in your life!


    Mary Fridley is on the faculty at the East Side Institute in NYC, co-creator and leader of The Joy of Dementia (You Gotta Be Kidding!), and coordinator of Reimagining Dementia: A Creative Coalition for Justice. An accomplished teacher and workshop leader, Mary practiced social therapy for 12 years and uses the social therapeutic approach as a teacher and workshop leader. She is the author or co-author of several articles and chapters on the Joy of Dementia, including a chapter that appears in The Applied Improvisation Mindset published in August 2021. Additionally, Mary is a guest blogger for agebuzz and a playwright and theater director. She makes her living as a non-profit fundraising consultant. She can be contacted at [email protected].