“What’s the Egyptian word for Hare?” Not the usual opener to a telephone conversation, I grant you, but less of a surprise than you might think. Nick is finally writing his book. We had been talking about it earlier over coffee before he got up. I had congratulated him on the thirty thousand words he has written over the past few weeks. “Thirty seven thousand,” he corrected. My son never has been one to do things by halves and he book is progressing at an astonishing rate.
I haven’t read it yet… I’m not allowed. I have, however, read other things he has written and know it will be an interesting, and probably inspirational, read. It can’t be otherwise really, given the odds against him being able to write it at all.
The screwdriver that left him brain injured passed through those centres occupied with personality, language processing, memory and the executive functions that permit all kinds of organisation. The secondary injuries from the bleeding inside the skull and the swelling damaged his body, leaving him with severely impaired co-ordination and eyesight, even after the remarkable recovery he has made. His speech, too, was affected.
So for Nick to be organising his thoughts and memories, expressing them in an articulate and interesting manner and drawing conclusions from them, is astonishing. That he has found a way to write when all the physical abilities involved in doing so have been damaged is also remarkable. Yet he has… and the past few weeks have seen him create a large proportion of his book and get it down in words at a faster rate than most writers I know.
At a time when many of us are still taking stock of our lives as we face a burgeoning year, Nick is forging ahead at an enviable rate with a very clear vision of where he wants to go. At the same time, he is looking back; neither clinging to the past nor to the emotions it raised at the time, but looking back and taking stock from a position of interested distance… and that distance is allowing him to clear up the foggy mixture of emotion and reaction that the past usually leaves with us.
The problem we have is that our memories are based on the perception we had at the time of an event. Memory takes no account of anything we may have learned since, though it may be overshadowed by subsequent events. You have only to think back to one of those teenage moments that made you cringe at yourself, to feel the hot flush of shame… even though your older, wiser self knows very well that it was just one of those things, unimportant in the grander scheme… and certainly not worth agonising over decades later! One part of your consciousness is still stuck in remembered emotion, while the other might, if you are lucky, smile indulgently at the folly of youth.
To consciously revisit and examine such moments allows them to be put away in the proper ‘file’ of past experience from which, perhaps, we have learned. To revisit them objectively from a place of greater awareness and armed with a wider knowledge of events than the tight focus that was ‘you’, allows a clearer view, not only of the events themselves, but of the journey between that led from there to here, then to now.
And Nick’s journey has been a hell of a ride 🙂