Tag Archives: finding strength

Duetting: Memoir 30

Duetting: Memoir 30 Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops her daughter's image under photograph of a handwritten poem superimposed with a typed poem, all about waking up and starting a new life.

Summer 2009 was gone. A second whole summer pirated away by mobs of mutinous white blood cells wreaking havoc with my daughter’s body. Marika had gone under sedation in an altered mental state—as my adoring three-year-old—and at the end of August came out of it, dazed but driven. Fifty-seven days in the hospital. In oblivion, mostly.

“Mom. You’re staring.”
“Sorry. It’s just good to see your eyes open again,” I said, not daring to ask how it felt to wake up near September when she’d lost consciousness in July. Or how it was to discover her friends engrossed in new movies, new music, and new relationships. To have gone to sleep skinny, and then wake up swollen. To find a fresh growth of hair instead of her balding head. To climb to her bedroom after being gone and find things moved, to find a huge pile of mail on the bed that hadn’t been slept in except by her cat that no longer seemed to recognize her. The Rip Van Winkle and Sleeping Beauty stories don’t take into account what it feels like to wake up and find a chunk of your life gone. And I never asked Marika. But much later, I would find her journals and the poem above, Wake Up, and stand in awe of her strength and resolve to pick herself up and build a new life. And when I felt my own losses were too much to bear, I remembered her indestructible hope, and kicked myself to reset my course and carry on.


Marika’s Journal, September, 2009:     

            I sometimes wonder if it was all a dream. I don’t feel as sick as most people think, but the doctors still advise me to “take it easy” and “lay low,” which makes living normally and finding a job or an apartment even harder. It feels like it was all a dream until I look at my pillbox. Twice a day (usually), I extract a dose of chemicals—poisons—to heal my would-be dying body.

            My health has improved, so it’s hard to even believe that I almost died three times, or that a few months ago, my once athletic body required two nurses in order to walk. I’ve had to relearn how to walk many times now. After being sedated for weeks on end, your body forgets, and your muscles shrink. What you’re left with is a bed-ridden, weak, catheter bearing, poor excuse for a human soul, who has a long road of walkers, falls, and chipped teeth ahead of it.

            I’m much better now, but I’m not “out of the woods” yet. I may be moving into an apartment with a puppy and starting over where I left my life. It’ll be different now.




Another New Years Wish

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photographs statue of Queen Victoria in Sydney, Australia.For my trip to Australia, I joined a tour group so I wouldn’t have to do all the thinking and organizing. But they planned everything so well, I lost track of some of the things I meant to do on my own. Like eat dumplings in Melbourne. And find the exact spot in the Yarra River where I’d tossed my daughter’s ashes five years ago. On my last night in Australia, in Sydney, by the time I finished with the scheduled dinner I was tired, so I let my last opportunity to do something from my personal list slip by. And in the middle of the night I woke up miserable about it. So, early in the morning, I crept out of the hotel and walked several city blocks to the Queen Victoria Building Plaza, to drop coins in the dog wishing well.

It was the wishing well my daughter wrote about. The bronze terrier perched above it represented the beloved pet of Queen Victoria. It used to talk. A recorded message thanked people for the coins that would be donated to the deaf and blind children of New South Wales. Now the message was gone and there was more garbage inside than money. But I felt good about accomplishing my mission anyway.

Turning back towards the hotel, I noticed the statue of Queen Victoria just yards away from the wishing well. I didn’t remember it from my last trip. But now the monument of Victoria was grabbing my attention like it had some urgent message for me. For the moment, I delayed the mad dash back to catch breakfast and the van to the airport.

All I knew about Queen Victoria was from the recent movie Victoria and Abdul. After years of cloistering herself away and wallowing in grief over the death of her husband, Victoria befriended a young Indian clerk who changed her way of viewing the world. She suddenly found inspiration to carry on with her life and responsibilities, and strength to reclaim her power to rule.

For this New Year, in a world where so much is out of our control, I’m wishing you, my readers, my friends, the inspiration and strength to take control of what you can in your lives. Life is not simply a series of events that you watch happen. I wish you the power to turn a bad situation around. To find meaning, or make meaning, when everything around you feels senseless. To fill emptiness with hope. To patch your brokenness. To reclaim your opportunities. And be the ruler of your life.


Where will you look for inspiration in the New Year? What gave you strength in 2017?