Thursday, August 4, 2011

Contemplating Personal Illness and History

I have always contended that history is about each of us. History helps us understand how we got here and what role we play in the world. History helps us understand that we are influenced by others, that we are part of communities, and that our actions will impact those who follow us. These ideas have gained renewed significance for me this summer as I am confronted with an illness. At a turning point in my life, it becomes remarkably powerful and important that I can embrace the words and stories of others to guide me. Those who have documented their own journeys along a similar path have given me comfort and hope. I am not alone. When everything is stripped away, we all are made the same and the history of humanity runs as a thread that binds our most basic existence.

I recognize that the path I am taking has been taken by thousands of others -- that those who came before me have helped to make my own path easier. Each generation benefits as our knowledge grows and technology evolves. To record our experiences is to leave a map for our descendants that helps them feel part of something bigger. I need only look back two generations in my own family to realize that my grandparent who struggled as I do had a much more difficult time of it. In my heart, I thank her for for the sacrifices she made so that my own path is easier. She and I are bound by genetics, but also by historical events that reach beyond family and into larger communities.

During recovery from surgery, I will blog as often as I can. I hope that my personal experiences can help others embrace the community support they seek and look to history for additional wisdom. It took me a long time to decide to write this because at first I wasn't sure that sharing what I am going through now was relevant to my readers. However, during the past year I have worked on "A Life in Context" with my colleague Sue West and the point of our project and workshops is to invite people to share their stories. We have encouraged people to share the good and the bad. It seemed hypocritical to not share at least part of my current journey with you.

I am documenting my experiences in my diary and am also keeping a new art journal to record the things I can't put into words. The art journal has helped me get negative thoughts out and has helped me better articulate ideas that were bringing me down a hurtful path. Documentation has been a way to release sadness and frustration. I now find that I am on a good path to guide me into surgery and beyond. And I suspect that a record of what I am going through will help me look back to value how far I have come and to help others who may later experience the same emotions.

No matter where I am in my life, history and documentation are there as useful and comforting companions. Thank you for reading the ArchivesInfo blog. I hope to be back blogging very soon!


  1. Melissa, Thank you for your lovely and honest post; warmest wishes for your recovery and wellbeing.

  2. I am so sorry to hear this. Best of luck to you, I hope everything goes well

  3. I just began my internship at an archive, and my assignment for my professor is to journal daily. I suspect it will show me what I didn't realize I was learning. This will prove the same when you read your writings in a year from now. God bless your situation and keep the smile!

  4. You will pull through this with courage, strength & grace...

  5. I wish you a quick and complete recovery.
    Best wishes