Author Floyd Skloot found new perspective in the life that his illness has foisted upon him.
Personal Stories: A “Defining Moments Essay”
By Floyd Skloot
In 1998, a full decade after getting sick, I stood in the living room of my small round house looking out at the oak and maple now nearly stripped of their leaves, hearing the call of cattle from the valley floor mingle with the sound of a southbound freight, and came to a defining realization. Having moved from the city to dwell in a quieter, more remote setting, I was living a life that seemed in keeping with my health situation. I was not getting any better. Memory, abstract reasoning, word finding and other vital cognitive functions remained gravely problematic. But I was also not getting any worse. At 51, I understood where that left me.
Since I could not presume that I would remember anything, I must live fully in the present. Since I could not presume that I would understand anything, I must feel and experience my life in the moment and not always press to formulate ideas about it. Since I could not escape my body and the limits it had imposed on me, I must learn to be at home in it. Since I could do so little, it was good to live in a place where there is so little to do. And since I could not presume that I would master anything I did, I must relinquish mastery as a goal and seek harmony instead.
I used to move through my world like a halfback, cutting sharply, zigging and zagging, always trying for that extra yard, very difficult to bring down. Now, I realized, I conserved, I loitered, I moved as in a dream. Because if I didn’t, I would either fall or smack into something. But of this necessity had come a whole new way of being in my life. Something rich with possibility, if I only looked at it clearly enough. Something different and vital had emerged. My secret was that I had found the places within me that illness could not touch. I had learned to honor them.
Floyd Skloot’s 15 books include the forthcoming Selected Poems (Tupelo Press, spring 2008), a collection of new poems, The Snow’s Music (LSU Press, fall 2008), and a memoir about the shaping of a writer’s life, The Wink of the Zenith (University of Nebraska Press, fall 2008). His novel, Patient 002, appeared in 2007, and his memoir of living with severe cognitive dysfunction, In the Shadow of Memory, won the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Award.
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