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Monday, September 19th, 2005 at 20:47 ET

I was listening to NPR on my way home today and I was mostly thinking about what I was going to write for my first post to my new blog. I hope there will be many more interesting posts to come, but I strongly felt that the first post aught to be high-caliber. I was about to stop off at the store to pick up a few things (don’t you just love new socks) when I heard an essay by and about Darcy Wakefield on All Things Considered. As NPR often does, it caught my attention. The essay is entitled “Life with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” It’s the second essay that Ms. Wakefield has written for NPR, but was read by her sister instead of in her own voice. Her ability to speak is only one of the faculties that ALS is slowly taking from her.

Darcy’s essay is mostly about her inability to turn her own body over in bed and how she wasn’t prepared for the possibility that going to bed could a scary proposition. If the covers were to engulf her, it’s not impossible that she would suffocate for the inability to move her body enough to disengage herself. What an unimaginable fear that must be. Yet it was another part of the article that caught my attention. She talks about how one night she reached out her arm to wrap it around her lover — and couldn’t. After the slow but constant progression of her illness, she wasn’t surprised; she just lay there, alone in the dark and alone in her own mind. She was longing to hold him and wanting him to hold her.

Darcy’s feelings aren’t necessarily unique even if her circumstances relatively are. I’ve felt that way before and I know plenty of other people who have too. Yet there is a big difference between Darcy and me: Darcy couldn’t reach out or speak out. I sat in my car and counted the gifts given to someone who can drive himself home from work, call his boyfriend on the way, and spend two hours typing a weblog entry with his own two hands. Maybe it is morbid, but I think almost every day, “it could always be worse….”

The other day I was talking to my friend who is going through some “major trauma” in her personal life. She told me her story and the pain she’s going through. She wasn’t shy to admit that handling the stress is made more difficult by her mental state, which these days she is managing with the aid of some none-too-wimpy medication. I truly felt badly for her and I wouldn’t dare mock the very deep emotions she’s feeling or how her illness must make it a challenge, but I couldn’t help thinking I’ve felt the same way too. I’ve spent whole weeks (or sometimes longer) being sad, disturbing the normal flow of my life, crying until it hurt, and generally feeling like it just couldn’t possibly get better. I think only the most lucky among us can’t relate to those feelings and that experience.

We’re not so different, us homo sapiens, us people. It’s a theme you can use in many contexts. Although the two examples I picked aren’t exactly celebratory of our similarities, I think they offer a fair share of hope. Sometimes when I’m feeling my worst, it’s helpful to know that there are people who’ve been somewhere like where I am, or maybe somewhere worse, and they’ve found a way to move on. Every day I awake and draw breath, I feel thankful because each day is a chance to feel and do and be better. I think to myself, “it could always be worse…you could be dead.”

So when I first conceived adding some weblog features to my site, I had hoped to be different and daring and bold about it. After a whole lot of work (a.k.a. weeks doing just some basic modifications to WordPress’ excellent software), I think I’ve come up with a rather humble beginning. It may be more alike than it is different from other blogs, but maybe it’s not so bad to be similar. Maybe we (or our blogs) should just be human and be thankful. I hope you like my new site.

To listen to Darcy Wakefield’s story from the NPR website, click here.

Filed under: Humanity

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Richard  |  September 20th, 2005 at 14:31 ET

    Really good start! You made me think. I always see the positive and don’t let myself get bogged down with the emotion of the moment. My mom died when I was young and I never let the fact that I didn’t have a mother upset me. When my dad died, I cried then I got over it. When my wife was diagnosed with Huntington’s I thought at least we know what we dealing with now lets go forward. That is not how my wife reacted. She has get to come to grips with it. Her emotions have kept her from moving forward and living. This article helped me understand her “human” condition a little better. I always see that I’m alive and breathing. As I grew up my motto was “I survive”. I do need to roll over and hug my wife at night because maybe she can’t express that she needs it. Thanks for making me think.

  • 2. Andrew Poucher  |  November 7th, 2006 at 00:55 ET

    Jed, Thank you for this post. I’m not sure if you knew what my Dad died from on April 27th this year but it was ALS. I listened to Darcy’s thoughts read by her sister on NPR just now and it sums up exactly what my father must have been thinking and feeling. When my father passed away he did so just an hour before my plane landed. I was going up to celebrate his 57th Birthday with him. I miss him every day and am so thankful I have people like you in my life that stop by my desk every day just to say hello. There are days that I miss him so very much and it is always a comfort to know that other people care. Never underestimate the power of your smile and the effect it has on others. Thank you for writing this blog today.

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