I just finished reading Lisa Genova's fabulous second novel, Left Neglected. I literally could not put down her debut, Still Alice, which she self-published and sold initially through Alzheimer's groups until the book became a runaway hit and publishers came calling. I'm completely inspired by her career path as a novelist and hope to follow in her footsteps one day when I'm ready. She's an amazing writer with a flow that begins on page one and doesn't end until you turn the final page, and she brings you to tears because you don't want to say goodbye to these intricately drawn and beautiful characters.
Left Neglected is about a woman I could really identify with: a 37 year old type A workaholic with a supportive husband and three young children who fights to be the best at everything and simply never stops. That is, until she is in a brutal car accident and suffers a brain injury which causes her to neglect her left side (hence, the clever title). The story is about how she claws her way back, only to realize that for a long time her priorities needed to be adjusted.
I loved so many things about the book, but particularly the idea that as women we are often left neglected. We don't take care of ourselves as if we matter, and we don't want to wait until it's too late to realize how hard we were driving our lives. There are limits to everything, and re-defining my own boundaries to myself has brought new definition and peace to my life, and released me from many of my own demons which were relentless in pursuing me.
I can't make everyone happy. Sometimes people aren't going to like me, or my decisions, or my opinions. That's no longer such a big deal to me. I cannot neglect myself, or my kids, or my husband, or my closest friends and family. I have a certain number of responsibilities and obligations, and I can't spread myself too thin. The word "no" is not a bad word or a cruel word. It's a protecting word.
Sometimes we have to stop short and look at what we are doing and why we are driving ourselves. I want to be healthy and live a long life, but the way to do that is not to increase stress and decrease personal joy and satisfaction. And certainly not to take on endlessly more tasks to please an outside source and not myself. I want to listen to my own intuition, and to that still, small voice that never steers me wrong, but I also want to value myself and my own peace of mind and physical health higher on the priority list. I can no longer tolerate neglecting myself, and when I don't tolerate it, no one else will do it either, or if they try, I will no longer allow it and therefore it won't affect me.
I highly recommend this book of Lisa Genova's. It's beautiful, and stirring, and will cause you to re-evaluate where you put your energy and time. I'm so glad she wrote it, and it came at a perfect time in my life, when these shifts were already occurring for me personally, but also in many of my significant relationships. It's never easy to change, but always worth it when the rewards of your own personal growth are so sweet and beautiful, and when you've tasted personal freedom, you won't ever consider going back to the way you used to live.