An activist and writer shares her tools for overcoming adversity and living a meaningful life.
Topf (You Are Not Your Illness, 1995) expands on the practical advice and wisdom that she began outlining in her previous book. The author has been a multiple sclerosis patient since 1981, and is a prominent activist for disability rights, as well as an ordained minister. The interplay of these roles makes for compelling reading, as Topf alternates between memoir, concrete self-help steps (“Unconditional cooperation with whatever is happening is one of the keys to creating happiness and well-being”) and meditative suggestions for coping with adversity. The author is obviously a professional, both as a writer and as a guide through thorny, difficult health issues, and this works to the book’s benefit. It’s very clearly structured into discrete sections on topics such as acceptance, courage and creativity; this makes it easy for readers to navigate without being overwhelmed by a sea of advice. Topf’s voice and personality come through clearly, particularly in her well-told anecdotes about her relationship with her longtime husband, Michael. These stories are effectively balanced by and mixed in with more practical advice, particularly in the self-assessment lists and quizzes at the end. There are times when the exhortations toward positive thinking start to feel a bit repetitive; after all, there are only so many different ways in which the author can say, “Move into that loving place where you can expand past any limitations and live in the freedom that is always within you.” Yet on the whole, the advice remains resonant, and the author has much to teach her readers. Her clear, accessible prose style makes her an important voice in her field, and her life is an inspiration in itself.
A self-help guide that’s full of practical tips and meaningful nuggets of positive wisdom.