We all have our moments...times when we just don't like the way life is going, when we feel that nothing is working, when everything seems so overwhelming. We feel like we're swimming upstream and we wonder why we are even bothering. What's the use? Why does life have to be so hard?
Sometimes life is hard. But it's also true that no matter how difficult it gets, there is always a way to go on. Always. No matter what. Whatever your circumstances, you can find something to live for. But when we are in the midst of a bad time, we can easily lose sight of that fact, can't we? Times like these call for drastic measures. Times like these call for a story. Let me tell you one
If there is any story that can serve as a reminder that even our own pathetic little lives are worth living, it is that of Jean-Dominique Bauby. His ability to find joy and purpose against all odds has been an inspiration to me and to millions of others. Maybe it will be so for you too.
Jean-Dominique Bauby was a vibrant, out-going and fun loving man in the prime of his life. In his early forties, he had two beautiful children and a very successful career as an editor for a well-known magazine. He was known for his energy, his bubbly personality and his wit. One day, as he was driving his young son out of town for a long-awaited day of father-son bonding, Jean-Dominique began to feel weak. His vision blurred, he lost control of his body and life as he knew it suddenly and drastically changed.
After awakening from an eight-week coma, Jean-Dominique found out that he was completely paralyzed. A victim of “Locked-In” syndrome, he could feel everything but move almost nothing. He could no longer walk, talk or eat and had little hope of ever improving. Besides his mind, which was still functioning beautifully, the only thing that Jean-Dominique had control over was his right eye-lid. He had suffered a massive stroke in his brain stem and the prognosis was bleak.
Strokes of this nature usually kill people instantly, but Jean-Dominique survived. Despite his entrapment in a useless body, Jean-Dominique refused to simply exist. For the better part of the next two years, he managed to live. He lived through his memories, through flights of his imagination, and through his interactions with his caretakers. He not only got through each day, he infused each with meaning and purpose. Part of this purpose became finding a way to share his experience with others so that they too might live each of their days to their fullest.
With the help of his compassionate and patient speech therapist, Jean-Dominique wrote his story. Writing, editing and rewriting in his head, Jean-Dominique then dictated his story to his therapist...one letter at a time. If you've ever done any writing, you can appreciate the difficulty of such a task. As the therapist pointed to the letters of the alphabet, one after the other, Jean-Dominique would blink his right eye when she hit the letter he wanted her to write. Day after day, the pain-staking process continued until Jean-Dominique's story was complete, his purpose accomplished. Two days after his book “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” was published in France, Jean-Dominque died but his indomitable spirit lives on.
Jean-Dominique's story is not one of the valiant struggle for survival or the battle for recovery. His story is one of human resilience, personal strength and the magnificence of the human spirit. While my summary of his story cannot do him justice, nor my writing compare with the beauty of his, I hope that his message will still shine through. Whenever we think that all is lost, that our lives are too difficult or even no longer worth living we need to remember Jean-Dominique. In every life, there can be joy, meaning and purpose. It is simply up to us to find it.