Guide to the Good Life
Call up Karl and Angela Robb, and you’re bound to hear laughter. “If that bowl were any bigger, she’d still be drinking,” Karl says about Lily, the couple’s nine-year-old chocolate Lab, feverishly lapping water in the background. “She teaches me about forgiveness,” he adds. “No matter what, I am part of her pack.”
The Robbs, married now for more than 20 years and longtime residents of Northern Virginia, have comedic timing fit for a sitcom. But they’re content to crack each other up while discussing their new book, Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease and Other Health Conditions: A Workbook for Body, Mind & Spirit. In addition to hard won tips for living well with a chronic illness, the book sets forth a number of thoughtful questions and writing exercises designed to get people thinking. For example, one passage asks readers to reflect on their attitudes. Questions include “Are you an optimist?” and “What do you do to remain upbeat and positive?” And it reminds us, “Positive is a choice.”
The Robbs, who coauthored this new workbook, take a holistic approach to wellness. Both practice and teach Reiki, a complementary therapy that focuses on physical and emotional health, in addition to their advocacy work in the Parkinson’s community. Diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s at age 23, Karl later met Angela in an online chatroom in the mid ’90s. “Her name reminded me of sunny days,” he says. “My grammar was a lot worse then,” quips Angela. When she learned that Karl had PD, she wasn’t deterred. “I fell in love with the man,” she says, “not the disease.” As for writing together, the process runs smoothly. “I defer to the English major,” Angela says. “When it’s tense, I say, ‘Time to take Lily for a walk!’”
Karl first took to writing about PD in his blog, asoftvoice.com, with the notion that he might help one person. Encouraged by Angela, he compiled his notes from living with PD for three decades and in 2012 published A Soft Voice in a Noisy World: A Guide to Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease, which went on to become a bestseller. Inspired by an outpouring of support from patients and caregivers, the Robbs created the corresponding workbook as a kind of homework for others. Everyone has a unique journey, says Karl. “We don’t have the answers, but we do know the questions,” and that might help you find your way.
Originally printed in MoreThanMotion, Fall 2017