Lucy Wilson

Monster Mash Those who have made the transition,from good health to illnesshave heard the doctor’s voicelike distant thunderas the roaring in their earsspilled into the roommocking plans, fomenting fear:cancer, diabetes, heart, kidneyprognosis, pills, Parkinson’s. Does pain keep us grounded?Are loves lost an opportunity for letting go?Disappointments mulch for new growth?Perhaps illness is an honor,brevity of life preferable to longevity.Perhaps the point isto move on. My sister noticed first:“You walk like an old lady.”I was forty-six, but she was right.I could not, would not, see. One day on the beach in Hermosa,walking along the shore,I stopped and looked back.The sea tried to hide the evidencebut I was too quick:step slide, step slide, step slide.It can’t be me, I thought,walking like a B-movie zombiedragging my right foot.But there was no one else around,just sand and sea and me,my foot prints fading.Then I knew. No surprise, really,the human capacity for deception.We are our own first victims.The lies we tell ourselvesestablish a pattern for life.But truth is tenacious:persistent coughshortness of breathtumortremormemory loss—these tell different storiesthan the quick “I’m fine, thanks”of polite small talk. Parkinson’s disease:at forty-eight my world collapsedwhen the handsome doctor cheerfully confirmedmy deepest fears. Like a deer in headlightsI could not move or breathewith the realization that my lifeas I had known it was over.A thousand times I asked, “Why me? “A thousand times my question went unanswereduntil one day I heard: “Why not you?”and a line from Rumi came to mind:“The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given,the door will open.” Reanimated, the deer blinks, shivers, and leapsto safety in the nick of time.I remembered what I learned in yoga class:breathe deeply, clear your mind, sit comfortably and relax.Look around for hand-holds in the sheer cliffsof gall and granite. Breathe as deeply as your pain will permit.Bend backwards across the bed, relaxing one vertebraat a time. No fast moves! We are tip-toeing pastthe sleeping monster, Pain, in our quest for reanimation,resurrection, return to the soothing darknessthat is the Great Spirit’s cooling breath:alpine windslake breezesceiling fans on hot dayssoothing sounds of nightfallbirds’ callslake water lapping at the shorea window open to the spring rain. Once I was so limber that yoga came easily.I amazed my friends by standing on my headwith legs in full lotus position.Once maintaining balance on two legs, two feetwas effortless, mindless, but Parkinson’s changed all that.Join me close to the ground.Lower your center of gravity.From crouching poses springs mental energy,courage to confront our monsters.Knees protesting? Use a chair.There is no wrong way to praybut there are degrees.When we listen to our bodies,the spirit responds. Lucy Wilson challenges readers to use adversity as a means of motivating themselves and as a source of inspiration. She recently retired from her position as a professor of English at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. For more than half of her 34-year career, Dr. Wilson has struggled with early-onset Parkinson's. In spite of her illness, she continues to write poetry on a variety of topics, including living with illness, environment, goddesses and healing arts. She is the author of two books of poetry, a critical study of Caribbean women writers, and approximately 20 articles in academic journals.