Over the weekend I caught the movie 'The Sessions'. It offers up some insights into living with disability, but the scope of the movie is small - mostly covering one year of a 49 yr life through the lens of sexuality. Still, it's a lens worth looking through to humanize the face of the disabled.
The movie was only the first breadcrumb on my trail to discover Mark
O'Brien - the man behind the story - poet, journalist and disability
activist. Disabled by polio at age 6, he lived under his parents care
until he was 27, next moving to a nursing home for two years. He escaped
that horror to bravely venture into the big, grand world of adult
independence and enrolled at Berkley, graduating in journalism. He was
also a poet, stating: "Poetry and journalism have more in common than
either would like to admit. They both have to tell the truth."
He wrote by poking painstakingly slow at a keyboard with a stick in his
mouth as he lay inside an iron lung machine - the contraption that gave
him breath and sustained his life.
Mark O'Brien on writing: "I'm living and I imagine it's for some
reason. I have my work. I write. I don't have writer's block ever. I
have all this stuff I want to write. And I can only write an hour or two
a day. There's never enough time to write."
In digging up information on him, I came upon this link to the '96
documentary on him that won an Oscar for best short documentary -
'Breathing Lessons'. It's short - 36 minutes -- and waaaay better than
The Sessions. The latter is the "watered down for the mainstream," mass
appeal, feel-good, semi-romantic comedy. Breathing Lessons is the real
deal - multi-layered, complex, complicated -- like a human being is.
The sexual surrogacy story of 'The Sessions' being just one small chapter of a remarkable
life of a writer confined and limited - in body only.
If you take the time to watch this you'll only be enriched. Consider it leavening for the writer in you.
"Everybody becomes disabled.... unless you die first." - Mark O'Brien