Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Taken By Surprise

Today ended up being one of those days that took me by surprise. Even now, I still feel somewhat overwhelmed.

Just before the end of the fall semester, my boss asked me if I would present at the Division "jamboree" that would kick off the spring semester. I agreed, thinking because I'd been wanting to write a new piece, having a deadline and honoring my agreement would be exactly what I needed to get the piece finished. In addition, since I teach creative nonfiction to my second semester composition students, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write an essay about my mom and her battle with MS, that I could share with my students to show them what my process is when I write. I try to walk the talk I espouse in my writing classrooms, and working on a piece over break would fulfill this.

So I wrote. During the process, I decided to ask my siblings for help in the way of offering their perspective on Mom, the MS, and her decline in health. I also asked my dad for his input. I feared some or all would not feel up to revealing to me what could be considered sensitive information, but in the end, four of my five siblings responded to the questions I emailed them, and my dad wrote out his answers, sending them to me via snail mail. With their responses in hand, as well as Mom's poetry and the letters she had written to her parents through the years, I wrote.

Today I shared what I wrote with my colleagues. As part of my presentation, while I read my work, a picture video I'd created of my BTUSFMS ride, in which pictures of my family were woven throughout, played on the screen. The room was quite dim because the lights were off for better viewing the video, so I couldn't really gauge the reaction of the group while I was reading. It was only afterwards that the effect of my presentation became evident.

My boss came to my side, hugged me, and said, "You had everyone at my table in tears." A colleague hugged me and asked, "Would you send me a copy of your piece? I have a friend who is living with MS and I know she would love this." And a good friend stopped me in the hall to apologize for getting up and leaving. She was in tears as today marked the anniversary of her dad's death, and listening to my piece while watching the video was more than she could bear. She wanted me to know how moving my writing was. Many others came to me throughout the morning to tell me how my piece had affected them. All thought it powerful.

I never thought something I would write would have that kind of impact. Hearing people were moved and that many found a connection to their own lives through what I was offering, put me right back to finishing the BTUSFMS ride. Life is meaningful when one has purpose and that purpose is fulfilled.