Saturday, May 2, 2009

First Things First

It is important to note - right up front, before things wander hither and yon - that being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (hereafter presented as MS) is not a sentence of death.  That is important because reaching this outcome was in doubt for a time.  I was handed a diagnosis of MS by an ear, nose and throat specialist and I have to say there was a palpable sense of relief - on his part - when he gave me the news.

He was relieved.

And I suppose, it was to be expected.  After all, he and I had been on a long strange journey up until that point and where it was going to end was unknown and no one has to teach us to fear the unknown.  Rather, we must be taught to not fear the unknown.  For me - and knowing my mother - that teaching surely began before birth, in some lullaby softly sung to soothe a restless child, impatient even here, in the womb.  Or I suppose I could even date that first lesson to one of the nursery rhymes I was taught as a child - you know, one of those little couplets that you learned at such a young age it is as though it were inscribed into your neural pathways.  But given my druthers - and this is my story, so whose druthers could be better used - I would mark the milepost of when I was first explicitly taught to not fear the unknown to be the summer of my fourteenth year.

And I further suppose, that I should take this point to announce that I am not quite certain of that date, but it feels right so I am loathe to change it.  There was a time, when while I would never say I have a picture perfect memory, I would easily say that if an answer - any answer to any question - felt like the right answer when it floated to the top of my head (and as I learned to trust that first answer) I was rewarded with the reports that it was indeed, the right answer.  This was an enormous comfort to me on my journeys through school; if you could look at a question and look at a set of answers and have the right answer just shout at you, "Pick me!", well, that made for a good day.  Fill in the blank, multiple choice, even essay questions - sometimes it seemed as though merely holding pencil to paper freed the answer to flow from the recesses of my mind on to the page.  And for a long time, that is what made school such a nice, safe place to be, for they never asked you a question but for them having already told you the answer at some point prior.  You didn't have to think of the answer so much as you had to recall it - and how helpful was it for the teacher to phrase the question the same on the test as she had in class?

So, fourteen came to mind when I asked myself, "when was that Sunday School (play? performance? recital? presentation?) event?  You know the one where I was asked to recite the 23 Psalm before the gathered adults, all hopeful and eager to see the young faces of their children on stage, in a quasi-coming out announcement to the world to be ready!  So I repeat my reticence to change - or even research - fourteen, as it is the first answer that appeared in my head.  I am already building this tale around the summer of my fourteenth year and the longer it stays in my mind it takes on the presence of a talisman, connecting up with flotsam from my youth into an over-arching story line, but as the foundational piece it has even greater relevance - seemingly - so (and I might have said this before) I am loathe to change it.

If that was when I first became conscious of the concept of "freedom from fear", it would take another two decades for me to actually have something of which to be afraid.  What a blessing that was.

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