DANCING AT THE RIVER’S EDGE began as a simple conversation, or so I thought at the time. All of what I have written — books, articles, essays — has started with a conversation with a friend or friends. Despite the superstition among some writers that if you talk about your ideas you release the creative tension and don’t sit down to write that has never been my experience.
What is different about this conversation is that it turned into a book I was never going to write. – Resolutely never going to write! I have published many things and about intimate and personal issues in life, but always from a distance. I have been an observer — have been called a “social critic.” I had long ago told anyone who asked or had the courage to suggest the topic – that I could not write about living a life that has had chronic disease as an almost constant companion.
My doctor Michael Lockshin and I were having a public policy conversation about medical care – not unusual for us. His wife, Jane, entered the room and listened to us and then stated: “You two should write a book.” Writing a popular book together was not on our agenda. We were both dubious about the idea. Yet, we sat down and wrote a few pages, without discussing the content with each other first.
He wrote that he had not chosen a career in chronic disease medicine, but it chose him. He revealed a moving and upsetting experience from medical school. I wrote in my first rough pages that I would not choose this life, but that it had not been only bad. We both had parts of lives we did not choose. But in dramatically divergent ways – a calling, a career chose him, an unwanted intruder of disease disrupted parts of my life and tried to claim my identity. In the end, we both knew that what we must choose to do — and did choose – which was to write a dual memoir of our journey. We were both stunned even in the beginning of our work together at what we had never told each other – about the parts of our lives – my personal life battle with disease – his as a doctor – that we were willing to write about. Sharing our feelings and experiences changed the book writing experience into an extended dialogue. And without realizing the impact of her initial words, Jane had “mothered” a book!
What we could not know in those first weeks of more conversations and early drafts was that book indeed would become a conversation in written form. What we have learned isDancing at the River’s Edge is a very intimate look into a doctor-patient relationship that has become a story with universal meaning for so many — obviously for those who suffer and for those who love us and care for us —but happily doctors and medical professionals have joined us by reading our thoughts and revelations and in so doing they and the others have become part of our ongoing conversation. I hope you will too.