[SWP: Behind the Book] Amor Fati -- Love your fate

I never dreamed of writing a memoir. I just always had words in me. When I was seven years old I started to write poems, and the words somehow seemed stronger scribbled in my small notebook. In middle school my teacher constantly reminded me: “Speak up, Lene! We can’t hear what you’re saying when you whisper.” Spoken words seemed to come with a struggle, while written words danced lightly as feathers on the page. Growing up in Sweden, I read everything I could find and I dreamed of holding a book in my hands with words in it that came from me, something that would perhaps last after I was gone.

For even at a young age, I felt a strange sense of urgency. Like I wouldn’t live long and I needed to hurry. But I couldn’t find my story, my voice, or, for that matter, my strength. My weakness made me feel ashamed. I was called lazy. I tried to pretend I didn’t feel the constant weight pressing down on my chest. Every year the pen, and then the keys of the computer keyboard, seemed heavier, every movement a strangely difficult effort. Slowly I had to let go of things I used to be able to do: dance, sing, take the bus, go to places that required climbing stairs. I came to realize that I was dying, but no doctors believed me. In the end, when I made pancakes for my small daughters I was breathlessly lifting the frying pan with both hands, using all my strength, thinking perhaps this feeling was normal after all.

Turned out it wasn’t.

I am now imprinted with half a meter of scars on my body, and on the inside I carry a scarred heart. For a long time I had difficulty making peace with my fate. I was grateful to be alive, but at the same time I viewed my years of illness as a loss. I felt robbed. It took years after the surgeries to regain my strength and also to make sense of who I was after the weight on my chest lifted. And then, one day, an image came to me--a photograph from my childhood that only existed in my memory but was as clear as if I had held it in my hands. I closed my eyes and met the gaze of that small six-year-old girl and I took pity. I didn’t care about voice or storyline. My heart said I had found the beginning of the story I needed to tell.

And I also found the girl in the story, who loved so much and was confused and scared and built her life around one question: Will I die young? Writing down her story made me see her more clearly. And she told me something. “Love your fate,” she said. Not only accept it, as in not be ashamed by it, not conceal it, but love it. Gradually, as I continued putting my words to the page, the girl became me.

I never dreamed of writing a memoir. But this is my story and I need to love it. Need to love the scars and the whispers and the laughter and the pain and the shame and the silence and the words in all their different shapes. Because trembling, silent, shouted, plain, confused, clear, angry, ugly--they are all beautiful.


Lene Fogelberg is an award-winning poet and a double open-heart surgery survivor. She Writes Press will release her memoir, Beautiful Affliction, on September 15, 2015. Learn more at www.lenefogelberg.com

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  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Yes! Not fear the memories, but draw strength from them… This is beautiful Veronica Marie, thank you so much, you're bringing tears to my eyes!

  • We have to love our scars... accept and love them.  Because in doing so, we can make some sense of everything before the scars took over our lives... we can bring some calm to the turmoil... we can bring peace to a heart once tormented and troubled... we can learn to not fear the memories... but to draw strength from them.

    I am very much looking forward to reading Beautiful Affliction, Lene.

  • Valerie J. Brooks

    And you, too, Lene.

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thanks so much Valerie, I appreciate it! Wishing you a great weekend!

  • Valerie J. Brooks

    "Need to love the scars and the whispers and the laughter and the pain and the shame and the silence and the words in all their different shapes. Because trembling, silent, shouted, plain, confused, clear, angry, ugly--they are all beautiful."

    Love this! Looking forward to the memoir, Lene. Congrats!

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thanks so much Shelah, that's so kind of you!

  • Sally Ketham

    Wow Lene, so happy you're here to write your story, that you found your voice! Your words are beautifully written. You so clearly have a talent! Looking forward to learning more about you and your journey! :)

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thank you Chantal, yes, you are correct, and something that still makes me marvel is that after I moved to the US, one American practitioner solved the riddle in thirty minutes, that countless doctors in Sweden couldn't solve in thirty years. I am grateful to be able to share my story and I hope it can help someone else struggling like I did. (There is also a love story going on :) in my book…, so the heart on the cover is fitting in many ways…)

  • Chantal Walvoord

    Your story resonates with a lot of people. Its interesting that you knew something was medically wrong even as a child but you didn't have a diagnosis. Am I correct? For all of those who know someone who can't find the right diagnosis, this strikes a chord.

    Looking forward to reading this. Best of luck to you Lene with this and your other books.


  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thanks Michelle! I am happy to hear that :) and all the best to you too!

  • Michelle Cox

    Hi, Lene!  At the risk of being hated, I am not a huge memoir fan, but after reading your post, you've won me over.  I would love to read your book; your prose is beautiful!  All the best to you!

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thank you Ellen! I am looking forward to learning more about your upcoming book, exciting times ahead of us!

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thank you so much Cheryl for your kind words and support. Your book title "Where have I been all my life?" really resonates with me, it is amazing how writing can help you find yourself. Thanks again.

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thank you Sherry! These days I find that I need more courage than I thought, realizing my story is actually going into print! It is not an easy thing, putting yourself out there, and my respect and admiration for memoirists and all authors is growing every step of this journey. Again, thank you Sherry for your kind words.

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thank you Diana, and wounds can come in so many shapes and affect us in different ways -- looking forward to learning more about your upcoming book. Thanks for your support.

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thank you so much Philippa and I am very happy you like the cover!

  • Ellen Sherman

    Lene, I, too, find your story so moving and so well told. I am looking forward to reading your memoir. Lots of luck with it.

  • Cheryl Rice

    Very beautiful, Lene. Congratulations on embracing your voice, your body and your courage. We are all better for it.

  • Sherry Joyce

    Lene, I was so touched by your post this morning, I will definitely buy and read your memoir.  Finding peace in what life deals us takes great courage.  Your writing shows the depth of your courage.  Congratulations on publishing your novel!

  • Diana Y. Paul Writing

    Lene, you write with great emotion about healed and unhealed wounds.  I can hardly wait to read your memoir!

  • Philippa Anne Rees

    Very engaging post Lene. I wish you every success with the book that was born from so much fear and pain. I agree with other comments on a very arresting cover. Really great.

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thank you so much Cate for your kind words! So happy to meet you here on She Writes, this was a big motivator for me when I decided I needed to share my story: to meet others with similar experiences. For a long time I felt very alone, but I figured there must be others out there struggling with the same on-going loss and sorrow. I too "lost" my twenties and half of my thirties to illness and I had a very difficult time coping with this. It is not easy, but it helped me to write about it, and in doing that I found a lot of beauty in unexpected places. Life really is a crazy thing, but I am grateful I am still here. I wish you all the best and thanks again for your encouragement.  

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thanks Rita! I also used to paint before I had to give that up as well. I could pick it up now that I am well again but I am focusing on writing, which is my true love :) Wonderful to hear how writing and painting made you come alive: yes, that is how it is!

  • Rita Gardner

    Lene - what a lovely post. Thank you for writing it and baring yourself as you've written your story. I can really identify (for different reasons) with your comment: "Spoken words seemed to come with a struggle, while written words danced lightly as feathers on the page."  Writing and painting made me come alive, but speaking - that was not ever easy!

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Thanks Jeannine, I'm so happy you liked it! Yay, looking forward to fall 15 when our books will be out! (Love your book already -- did I tell you Louisa May Alcott is mentioned in my memoir as an early inspiration?)