Hello Imaginary Friends,
I’m enjoying some cuddles from Pegasus. You can enjoy this fantastic post by Jamieson Wolf.
Words have the power to heal. I experienced this firsthand.
In 2013, I woke one morning with little motor control and could barely walk. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Labyrinthitis. I wasn’t allowed to read or watch television or write at my computer for two weeks. Thankfully, my mother suggested I listen to audiobooks. I downloaded the first two Harry Potter books and started listening to them, certain I wouldn’t like them. Thankfully, I fell in love.
Listening to Harry Potter brought the story and the world that Harry lives in alive for me in a way that reading the book couldn’t. Hearing Jim Dale read out Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and then Stephen Fry read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was also a balm to my soul. Over the two weeks that I had to take off work, I would sit back and close my eyes and let the words wash over me. I would let the world of Harry Potter fill in the darkness.
Then other problems began. I didn’t get better. I got worse. The left side of my body went numb; I fell almost daily. Eventually, after losing the ability to speak and type on a keyboard (having been able to type since I was in my teens), I knew that something was very wrong. There was something else wrong with my body and, after a day in emergency, the doctors had an idea of what it was that lived within me.
There was a neurologist on staff that night. After looking me over he informed me that it was probably multiple sclerosis, but they would have to run tests to make sure. It would be some time until I knew what was wrong.
I turned to books for comfort. As I didn’t have Labyrinthitis, the doctors said it was okay for me to read again, thank goodness. I picked up a book by a new author that one of my friends recommended to me: Cupcakes at Carrington’s by Alexandra Brown. It was about a woman named Georgie Hart who was desperate to put her life back in order. In a bizarre coincidence, she had lost her mother when she succumbed to her multiple sclerosis. This touched me deeply and I felt deeply connected to the book because of that. I went on to read Cupcakes at Carrington’s three more times and it was magical every single time.
I went through a battery of different tests: vision and hearing, bloodwork, a CAT scan and an MRI and a spinal tap to finish it all off. Now all I could do was wait. While I waited for the diagnosis, I knew that I needed to write something, anything. I would lie in bed at night and watch the stories I wanted to tell float above my head. Before, I could write ten thousand words in a weekend without breaking a sweat. Now, I could only write five or so words at a time, forcing my fingers to hit the right keys.
I decided that I had to write. I had to write something. I had dabbled in poetry in my teens before turning to short stories, novellas and novels. I figured that writing poetry would give me another way to tell stories. My poems would do away with iambic petametre and a rhyming scheme. Instead, they would be raw and real, part memoir and part story. I would take those five words that I wrote a day and stitch the poem together when I thought it was done.
Each poem took me about a week or more to write, but as I continued, I noticed something: I was getting better. Five words a day slowly climbed to ten and then to fifteen. I remember hitting twenty words a day and I felt elated. It was as if I had climbed a flat mountain and could look back at all of the words I had written. It was as if I could fly. Soon, I had a small collection of poems. I even thought that I might one day collect them all together and publish them. I had an idea for a title: Talking to the Sky. It would be a reference to when I was trying to heal and would sit at the computer, staring at the blank screen unable to type and tell the stories that I wanted to. It was like I was talking to the clouds.
Then, after three months, I received my diagnosis, a day before my birthday: I had relapse and remitting multiple sclerosis. I wasn’t afraid. Now, I knew the monster within me had a name.
I retreated into the world of Harry Potter once again. I have read the Harry Potter series more than anything else. I read the series once a year and have stopped counting the fortieth time I read the series the entire way through. That was years ago. I turned to his story when I needed comfort, when I needed joy. When I was sad or depressed, the story held within the books was pure magic. I needed Harry and company at that moment more than anything.
I also needed to write more than poetry. I needed to break out of the constraint of sewing words together like a patchwork quilt. I needed to write a novel. I didn’t know how long it would take, or if it would be any good. It didn’t matter; I was angry, surprisingly so, and I wanted to write something that would help soothe the anger. I wanted to give the anger a focus.
With that in mind, I started writing a novel I called The Other Side of Oz. In the novel, Justin is an Oz fanatic who has started seeing yellow bricks everywhere he goes. Is it his imagination intruding into real life? Then Justin and the boy he likes are in an accident. They travel to Justin’s version of Oz, but again, is it real or is it their imagination? I wanted to find some way to convey the sense of the unreal that I lived with every day. While not about Harry Potter, it was about the other series of books that had formed a large part of my childhood and adulthood. I wanted to write about someplace magical that wasn’t the world I lived in.
By the time I was done the book, a few months had passed. It had been exhausting, trying to force my brain to think of a story and forcing my fingers to type the words out. However, when I typed The End, I was elated once more. I had climbed another flat mountain, this one higher than the others that I had climbed.
I noticed other things, too. I was lighter, as if a weight had been taken from me. Scrolling through the pages of the novel that I had typed out, I knew it was because I had put the weight of that anger and uncertainty into The Other Side of Oz. That novel has never seen the light of day; perhaps, with a hefty edit, it will someday soon.
What I’ve come to realize six years later, is that I would have been a lot worse without the magic of words. The books I love kept me sustained and comforted when I need it and, when that wasn’t enough, my own words had flown out of me to relieve me of the pain and angst I was carrying within me. Words were the magic that I wielded. As much as the multiple sclerosis took a lot of things from me and made me revaluate how I lived my life, the one thing that didn’t leave me was the magic of words. Each one I write is part of the spell that I weave and each one I read heals me still.
I would be lost without them.
Jamieson Wolf is a number one best selling author (he likes to tell people that a lot!). His recent works include the memoir Little Yellow Magnet and the novels Lust and Lemonade and Life and Lemonade. A third novel, Love and Lemonade, comes out later this year. You can learn more about Jamieson at http://www.jamiesonwolf.com