I’ve had several creative outlets over the years that allowed me to envision something that didn’t exist and create it. I painted, sewed, made ceramics pieces and mosaic furniture. Writing was something I never gave a thought to because all the wonderful books I had read convinced me that was a talent I didn’t possess. There was no way I could ever harness what those masters of words and insight drew on to create whole worlds populated by vivid, intriguing characters, possessed of strengths and flaws and humanity, who make us open our eyes and feel what it is to lives outside of our own skin.
One of the truths I’ve learned about life is that good can come out of even the worst situations. When I realized the collection of weird symptoms I had been experiencing were starting to become more than mere annoyances, I knew I needed seek help. I went to an internist to find out what was causing the numbness and tingling in hands and feet. That was the first step in what would become a nine-year odyssey to Name That Ailment. Opening that one door coincided with an avalanche of new symptoms. Every doctor I saw had a new puzzle piece to work with. Every doctor had his own theory of what was wrong with me, but their treatments produced only side effects and no relief.
After two years of chasing answers and a cure, I realized I needed to figure out what I could do if I became bedridden. Coming from that angle, it occurred to me that with a laptop computer, I could write from bed. I conveniently overlooked my conviction that I couldn’t write if my life depended on it.
Once that belief was ignored, I became unencumbered by self-doubt, though I did keep writing a secret until a computer glitch forced me to spill the beans to my husband. Instead of being skeptical, he was very supportive and excited to see what I had come up with. That little spark of encouragement doubled the joy I got from making up characters and throwing them into conflict. It was as if I had stumbled into a writer’s mind and could see what was happening through his or her eyes, just like I always had, except now I was the one creating those scenes.
One year to the day after I started “The Road to Manchac”, I finished it. I have never known such a thrill. I was exhilarated by my accomplishment, absolutely bursting with joy that I had somehow managed to write a book. I had thought up characters and a plot and had taken it all to a satisfying conclusion. I started my second book the same day.
In spite of having that amazing outlet, that cove of respite from the reality of what was going on with my body, my ever-increasing roster of ailments forced me to see over two dozen doctors. Pain and despair led me from one bogus diagnosis to the next. Treatment plans were invariably useless and often added to the pain and aggravation. Writing, being up in my head, remained the place where I could escape my body.
In 2007, I finally got the correct diagnosis: Lyme disease. Actually, what I had now was late-stage Lyme, since it had been allowed to flourish for so long. Crazy new treatments of the “alternative” variety began. They were cumbersome and caused “die-off”, which made me want to die off.
As my condition deteriorated to the point where the pain made me long for extinction, I had to face the fact that writing had become too difficult. That was the lowest point in my life. For months I did only what was required of me, barely making through each painful day. Then just before New Year’s Eve, our friends came to stay with us for the weekend. As my friend regaled me with stories of real estate agents whom we both knew, an entire book flashed through my mind’s eye—along with a title—in a matter of second. “Golden State” became the new lifeline.
I finished that fifth book a year later. I had been reconnected with the pastime that made me feel truly gratified and allowed me to vent all that crazy pent-up jibber-jabber in my head. I found the resolve to wade deeper into the “alternative” approach to finding a cure.
While undergoing treatments more painful than anything I’d gone through before, an idea for another book popped into my head. I got excited about the concept until the reality of what I was courting hit home. It would require delving into all the experiences that had led me to the situation I now found myself in. I would have to write about myself, an idea that was altogether unappealing. I dismissed it and went on to another book.
But the annoying little voice in my head persisted until I finally forced myself to write “Once Upon A Lyme… A Tale of Two Journeys”, the justification being that it might possibly give hope to others suffering from the disease.
The reason for all this is disclosure is to illustrate that good can come from bad and that writing is something everyone is capable of. If you don’t think so, just remember that doubt held me back, and forgetting I couldn’t write has allowed me to complete ten books…and counting! Who knows—maybe someday YOU will be sharing your stories behind the stories!
Until next time,