All In

I ask myself the questions, “Why write about your life, Gail? Who cares anyway?” If I knew who really cared, I’d invite them over for a cup of tea and a long conversation. The truth is, we don’t know who will benefit from our words.

I write because I believe we are seed sowers. With enough water and light ( read that: ink and exposure) the words will blossom into something that will be exactly what another person needs to read, see and hear. Our personal writings are medicinal.

As humans, we all stumble, bumble and fall. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. It’s at those times when medicinals help. I am living proof of that.

Sidelined by a life-altering illness, I sought out any story that showed me a real person overcoming incredible odds. I found, Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. It relates his and Simon Yates disastrous climb of Sula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. It was supposed to be an up and back in one day super climb. Simpson fell during the descent breaking his leg. While attempting to save him, his partner, Simon, started lowering him by rope…until Simon starting slipping down the mountain with Joe hanging over a cliff face on the end of that rope. Simon had to cut the rope holding Joe, sending him crashing into a crevasse down below. Simon assumed Joe was dead and finished the climb alone. The story of Joe’s survival is a gripping, edge of the seat tale. Joe battles the environment, his body and wandering mind in order to survive. Bam. Medicinal! The seed Joe planted with his writing grew into exactly what I, a total stranger, needed.

Whether the medicinal writing is a penicillin shot that saves many or a daily vitamin that helps a few is not the point. Our writings incorporate purpose…to enhance and shore up a human in some stage of collapse. To encourage and inspire someone needing a nudge in the right direction, or to bring a smile and laughter into a sad, lonely life. What if our writing engenders a sense of “I’m not the only one on this misshapen, leaky, floundering boat?’ Our words have value and healing in them. For ourselves. For our families, and don’t forget the strangers, who like me, find them at exactly the perfect time- when a fictional story just doesn’t have the clout.

There’s something else too. In a recent editorial ( Hartford Courant, 4/20/2020), George Will addressed the departure from deep reading that digital formats have fostered in our society. He quotes Adam Garfinkle, proposing that we now suffer from “acquired social autism” and “self-inflicted attention deficits.” We need to read lengthy articles and books to save us from quick fixes like Facebook snatches of one and two liners. Those quickies short circuit our brains. And don’t get me started on tweets!

I will be the first to admit, I like essays and short chapters in books. I do read blogs. Maybe their brevity is part of the allure of blogs. But I also read full length books. On any given day, you’ll find one in my car. Just in case I’ve arrived early for an appointment. There is a place for deep reading. A place for things that make us think in complex ways and use that grey matter we have stored up in the skull.

I believe I’m not the only one. So I keep reading and writing. I hope to inspire others, partly because I recognize deep seated changes happening in our society. Those changes, quite frankly, have me worried. Too much attacking. Too much hatred and division. Words are powerful, both for good and for evil.

If my writing and support of other’s inspiring stories can be any part of a remedy, a medicine of words,  then I’m all in.

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