My Life Between the Stops
By Lynn Eyland
Tenant, 2 Manor
Northwood at the Harbour
This is happenstance. Something I did not expect. I was supposed to get married, have a pile of kids. But the universe had other plans for me.
“The ramp or the stairs, Lynn?” Bruno asks.
“I’ll take the stairs today Bruno”…it’s a good day, one when I feel strong and able.
Up the stairs I go as Bruno hauls my walker up behind me. I work my way down the aisle…happy not to have to sit in one of the ‘roller coaster’ back seats. I plunk myself down and the bus lurches forward.
STOP 1 – Birthmark
“If God has the whole world in his hands, what is he standing on?” I asked my parents at age three. I was philosophical from the beginning. I was a shy and quiet kid – naïve and less mature than my peers.
Born in 1958, I am the fourth child of five kids. My dad was a member of the Canadian Air Force and my mother a nurse.
Having asthma and allergies as a kid, I felt that people considered that I was ‘compromised’ in some way. Being ‘compromised’ had consequences – atten
d a school that was not located at the top of a steep hill and this separates me from the few friends I knew. Being afflicted with asthma also had certain advantages like NOT having or run (or even attend) regular gym classes!
At the same time, I was considered gifted by the educational professionals. The standard procedure in those days was to make me skip a grade of school. So here I was in the SAME class as my older sister (and her older friends). My immaturity and shyness made even more obvious and uncomfortable!
So like a birthmark… I was marked forever. Sick – but as if to make up for the affliction, I was smart.
STOP 2 – Puppet Power
“Amherst was a great place to raise four teenagers,” Mom says to this day. Stately Victorian homes nestled in lush English gardens bordered Amherst’s main Victoria Street. A closer view of the town, its poverty, classism and racism, only became clearer as I and the town grew together over the next five years.
Still shy and quiet, I spent my teen years alone or with close friends, honing my creativity through sewing and crafts. I began sewing puppets… and soon my friend Tammy and I were performing puppet shows to any group wanting children’s entertainment. Puppet Power was thrilled to be asked to perform for children at our local hospital one Christmas. We waived our fee and felt so happy to be giving our talents to charity. And it was a great show, even after discovering that the children attending were not the sick ones we expected by the most privileged children in town… those of the doctors!
I met my first true love in Amherst, a guy with a motorcycle who eventually broke my heart. My friends got me through that heartbreak, and are still my closest and dearest. Amherst was also the place where I first became acquainted with the symptoms of MS and that relationship has unfortunately continued.
STOP 3 – Little Italy
My graduation from high school coincided with my father’s transfer to the air force base on the outskirts on Edmonton, Alberta. I moved there with my parents and immediately enrolled in graphic design at Grant MacEwan College.
“Just sign your name to it… no one will know it came from the New York Times!” My first ‘real’ job as a paste up artist in the newspaper industry was with a small Italian publication El Nuevo Mondo. The job involved setting up type and graphics under the supervision of a somewhat shady Italian businessman. It was quickly apparent that journalistic ethics was not a priority to my boss and apparently neither was paying taxes! My job came to an abrupt end when one day the office was raided by the RCMP. It was time to move on.
Edmonton was bustling with optimism and young people from the have-not provinces back east flocked there to be part of the oil boom. I had no worries about whether I could get another job; my concerns were now with my deteriorating vision and balance.
STOP 4 – Losing Myself
“Your neurological symptoms are typical of Multiple Sclerosis,” I heard those words and thought…what was that? Multiple Scler-o-sis? …Muscular Dystrophy? …Cerebral Palsy? Wheelchair…wheelchair…wheelchair… I was afraid of what I might become, of what I might lose, of an uncertain future. I wanted to be loved and to have a life and I didn’t know what that all meant now.
I moved back east and continued to work… The Citizen, the Daily News, and Frank Magazine… and to develop my skills as a cartoonist. I did that until I was physically unable to.
At 27, I found myself pushed out of my job and confined to a wheelchair.
My lover had left me and I felt I had little choice but to move in with my parents at a time when I should have been dancing and having babies.
My life consisted of doctor and rehab appointments and visits from sympathetic family and friends. The antidepressants, spasticity and migraine drugs sucked away my personality. Was this it? Was this really what my life was to be?
STOP 5 – Finding Myself
I don’t recall exactly when, why or how I managed to think clearly enough and long enough to being to take control of my life. But I knew that I had to start with some basics.
- “Why are you taking that medication?”
- “To take away the tremor in my right hand.”
- “But you still have the tremor in your right hand.”
- “Oh, I guess I will stop taking that medication.”
I repeated 1 – 4 for each medication until I was only taking medications that actually helped me. This took months but as the brain fog dissipated, I was able to begin to ask myself more important questions:
- “What do you want to do now that you can’t draw cartoons?”
- “I want to write.”
- “Then why don’t you write.”
- “Oh, I guess I will write.”
I repeated 1 – 4 for each thing I did in the past that I was unable to do now. I continue to do this and as I do, I discover that every life is full of possibilities. Perhaps I would not to be a writer if I had not lost my ability to draw.
This is happenstance. Something I did not expect. I was supposed to get married, have a pile of kids. But ‘the universe’ had other plans for me and guess what? ‘The universe’ is always right.
Lynn’s story was published in 2012 in ‘My Story, A Collection of Inspirational Voices’.