Dead Ends and Surprise Beginnings
The emails started arriving the morning after I presented at the regional conference—invites and accolades validating my life’s passion. Here I was at a critical juncture, poised to take my work to a new level, and only I knew it would never happen.
My hands hovered over the keyboard, mind searching for a way to express my regrets without conveying the darkness that was settling in. I had gone to the conference knowing it would be my last hurrah. There would be no encore presentation.
Sweat dampened my forehead. Please, God, I begged, give me just enough time to finish things up here.
Within days, I would be incapacitated, barely able to lift myself out of bed, brushing my teeth a monumental effort. Life had chosen a different path for me.
“How do I cope?” I asked the doctor, really wanting to say, “How do I reconcile who I am with what I’ve become?” But words, like movement, had lost their fluidity.
“Set a timer for yourself,” she replied. “Seven minutes for standing, fifteen for sitting. Stay away from television— it’s too much stimulation—and limit phone conversations. You may find it difficult to read, and if you listen to music, try to avoid lyrics. Visits should also be regulated. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is characterized by exhaustion after exertion, and it is systemic.”
My already slumped body felt like collapsing onto the floor.
“Is there anything I can do?”
She took my phone and downloaded a relaxation app. “This will help; try it a couple of times a day.”
Then, as an afterthought, she added: “If you write, you might be able to do that.”
And in that moment, the clouds parted and the glorious irony struck me: I’d finally have time to write.