I’m not sure I’ll post this. If you’re reading it, obviously a) I didn't chicken out, and b) wow, someone’s actually reading it. Thing is, I’m not sure what I want to say, only that I want to say something.
I, the ultimate plotter, am going to pants a blog post.
Saying something is no longer anything I take for granted, you see.
About ten years ago, while driving down Broadway Street in New Orleans on my way home from the day job, I was singing with my radio. Although it wasn’t the “day job” at the time because writing novels had never even entered my mind and wouldn’t for several more years.
Nothing was unusual about that day. I still didn’t know the city was going to go to hell around me in three or four months at the whims of a hurricane named Katrina. I was just driving along and singing with a James Blunt song called “Tears and Rain.”
And I couldn’t hold a note without my voice breaking.
Now, I should say here that I can’t sing worth a crap. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket—or a car. I sing only in places where I can’t inflict my caterwauling on anyone else. But I love music. And on that day, I couldn’t hold a note in the middle range of my voice.
Fast-forward to last year, when I realized that I was holding a coffee cup with two hands because one hand was shaking so badly. Then to last month, when I found myself sitting in a neurologist’s office in Montgomery, beginning a frustrating six weeks of indifferent medical care and scary reactions to medications with less than a 30 percent chance of working.
The good news? It wasn’t Parkinson’s Disease, which was the fear. The bad news? It’s PD’s benign cousin, Essential Tremors with Dystonia. It’s progressive but not fatal. It’s annoying as hell. It can’t be cured. It often can’t be treated. The voice that has gotten so bad that I avoid talking? It might—maybe—be helped by getting Botox injections into my larynx every 3-6 months for the rest of my life. Which can only be done a three-hour drive from where I live. I haven’t made a decision about that yet.
I’ve gotten past the whining, honestly, and if this sounds whiny, my apologies. I’ve also gotten past the anger. Well, most of the time.
I think all I’m trying to say is that I need to speak more than I ever would’ve thought. I'm a writer, after all, not a speaker. But I worry what people will think of my shaky voice and shaky hands. I dread meeting new people, ones who don’t know that I’m not nervous, shy, frightened, or upset. I just sound and look that way. I worry about meeting people and doing panels at a writing convention next month. I worry about a four-hour meeting I have to lead at the day job in September.
But we can’t let crap like this define us, can we? A whole lot of people have things a whole lot worse. I will eventually learn to adapt. And by God, I can still type like a demon to write books and I’m still learning to improve my French using my broken voice. I still try to sing, but it’s worse than ever. Don’t worry; I won’t subject you to it.
I guess here is where this post is leading: We all have dreams and we all have hurdles, whether it’s the dream of writing a best-seller or the hurdle of facing an unexpected medical condition with no cure.
We all have hurdles. It’s how we confront them that matters. We might reach our dreams and we might not. But if we lie down in front of the hurdles that look too daunting or frustrating or embarrassing to go over, we will surely get nowhere.
Next time I see you, if I sound shaky or upset? Just ignore me and shake my hand…if you can catch the damned shaky thing J. And that, I think, is what I wanted to say.