Book Notes: The Choice

Book Author: Edit Edgar

My thoughts and what I learned:

This book is her memoir and is made of three parts- one part about her trauma, one part about how her body reacts to the trauma. And lastly how she deals with her patients and through them understands her own emotions and heals herself on the path to helping her patients.

I read this book when we were going through the 2020 Pandemic. I could very well relate the time we are living in, to the time the author was living in. The Olympics were canceled in 1944 due to the war, just like the Japan Olympics was canceled due to the pandemic. The Jewish kids taking classes on the radio to avoid bullying and harassment in school, just like our kids were taking their classes on Zoom.

Even when Edith’s family heard the Hungarian nazis were rounding up Nazi men for the labor camps, Edith felt her father will be ok.”

Don’t we all do that? As we go through the second wave of the pandemic and talk about an impending third wave of the delta variant, we think we are safe and others will be affected. We make ourselves invisible to the harm. We plan trips like this is not going to affect us at all. Like it happens to others.

I got chills reading about how the family was awaked in the middle of the night and forced to pack up and leave their home, how terrifying it must be to have soldiers with guns shouting at you and stomping their boots hard and kicking your family to the floor. I also found it horrifying how her mom was gassed, her last minutes before she died, and what her one choice led to that.

Holocaust is a result of hate- one man’s hate for the Jews. After all these years, are we over with this hate? With George Floyd and the capital riots, are we still any further from this? In spite of all the advances that have happened since the Holocaust, are we still living in a sea of new hate?

It caught my attention that even back then, America was the hardest country to get in. I suddenly felt very proud to be here and for all the sacrifices my parents made to send me here.

I learned that sometimes kindness exists even in the midst of all the turmoil, like the kindness shown by a stranger who mails the letter dropped by Edith’s mom on the street, to her sister in Budapest.

Quotes from the book that caught my attention:

  • People don’t come to me. They are sent to me.
  • Sometimes our pain pushes us. Sometimes our hope pulls us.
  • The little upsets in our life are emblematic of the larger losses. The insignificant worries are representative of greater pain.
  • We make the world safe in our minds.
  • Our relationship is like a bridge we can cross from the present worries to future joys.
  • No one can take away from you what you’ve put in your mind.
  • We have a choice – to pay attention to what we have lost or to pay attention to what we have left. The choice to be lost in the darkness, to become the darkness. Or not.
  • We can choose what sorrow teaches us. To be bitter or to hold on to the childlike part of us the lively and curious part the part that is innocent.
  • Home isn’t a place anymore. It’s a feeling.
  • Don’t spoil your spirit. Set the strings vibrating with your needs.
  • When you can’t go in through the door, go in through the window.
  • Move like a person who has a plan.
  • To be passive is to let others decide for you.  To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself. And to trust that there is enough. That you really are enough.
  • Maybe moving forward meant circling back.
  • Would it be about replaying the horrors they are seeing or savoring being alive? Would it be fear and pity and agony or figuring out the mystery of her body’s anatomy and that of a man? Of thinking of GOD and the life of Eric and the future that will be living together.
  • Always use your beautiful things. You never know when they will be gone.
  • Food is love.
  • We can’t choose to vanish the dark. But we can choose to kindle the light.
  • Our beliefs determine our feeling. Which in turn influences our behavior. To change our behavior we must change our feelings and to change our feelings we must change our thoughts.
  • We won’t always get what we want. That’s part of being human. The problem is when we attach the failures to our self-worth.
  • To be free is to live in the present.
  • The only place we can exercise our freedom of choice is in the present.
  • Love comes out as the answer in the end.
  • Only I can do what I can do the way I can do it.
  • You have to face what’s inside of you.
  • If I am really going to improve my life. It is me that has to change.
  • Face daily life with a sense of discovery.
  • Enrich the present.
  • Let the past be a springboard that helps you reach the life you want now.
  • Feelings aren’t fatal.  Suppressing the feelings only makes it harder to let them go. Expression is the opposite of depression.
  • When you have something to prove you are not free.
  • When we grieve we don’t just grieve for what happened.  We grieve for what didn’t happen.
  • Anger is never the most important emotion.  It’s always the very outer edge, the exposed top layer of a much deeper feeling. The real feeling that’s disguised as the mask of anger is usually fear. You can’t feel alive and fearful at the same time.
  • We can’t erase the pain. But we are free to accept who we are and move on.
  • We are a bridge between all that is and all that will be.
  • We can’t hang under someone else’s umbrella and complain that we are getting wet.
  • Being a victim is when you keep the focus outside yourself, when you look outside yourself for someone to blame for your present circumstances.
  • We are always in the process of becoming.
  • Stress is the body’s response to the demand for change. Our automatic response is to fight or flee. A third option is to flow.
  • By the time I get my degrees, I will be fifty. You will be fifty anyway.

On uncertainty:

  • Every moment has a chance to be so much worse.
  • The uncertainty makes the moments stretch.
  • What if the unknown can make us curious instead of gut us with fear.
  • “Magda traded her thick warm winter coat for a flimsy one showing off plenty of her chest. She was choosing a better survival tool because feeling sexy gave her something more valuable than staying warm to live.”  What’s your survival tool during uncertainty?

About surviving:

  • Survivors don’t ask “why me”, or “why did I live”.
  • Survivors ask “what now”.
  • Why now. What is today different from yesterday or tomorrow?
  • What is mine to do with the life I’ve been given?
  • To survive is to transcend your own needs and commit yourself to someone or something outside yourself. To survive we conjure an inner world, a haven even when we are awake. This awareness became a refuge that preserved a will to live.
  • Survival is a matter of interdependence. Survival isn’t possible alone.

The healing process:

  1. Notice the feeling – Sad, mad, glad, scared.
  2. Accept that these feelings are my own.
  3. Check body’s response.
  4. Stay with the feeling until it passed.
  5. Response nor react.
  6. Vent like a teapot not like a pressure cooker.

Some questions to ponder:

  1. What makes a person do one thing and not the other?
  2. What else were we unconsciously teaching our children about safety, values, and love?
  3. What feeling or belief am I holding on to?  Am I willing to let it go?
  4. If I die tomorrow will I die in peace?
  5. Within my own darkness had I found light?
  6. What do I want?
  7. What legacy do I want to pass on to my son? What will I leave in the world when I am gone?
  8. What do you want? Who wants it? What are you going to do about it?
  9. When are you taking action?
  10. Why am I doing now? Is it working?  Is it bringing me closer to my goals?
  11. How can I support you as you navigate this situation?
  12. Are you wearing a mask and pretending to be an American? Who are you at the core?
  13. What did life expect from you?


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