“Hard Bricks” by artist Maude McDonald is her sole property, and may not be copied, reproduced, etc without permission of the artist.
In the 60’s, I was a teen and then a twenty-something college student, trying to find my way in the confusion of imperatives that were my life. I was like a horse with blinders on, dutifully moving forward, and looking neither left nor right. No wonder I was completely surprised when I hit The Wall; I never saw it coming.
All around me, the world was changing. Kennedy was gone, the Viet Nam war came front and center, and students were demonstrating and sitting-in with the advent of the Free Speech Movement at Berkley. I had friends who mounted buses in New York City and rode with Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner to help register Black voters in the South. Sexual liberation, women’s liberation, The Beatles: all of this was my backdrop as I pressed forward in an effort to finish school, succeed in finding work, and settle down. I was kind of a participant observer, hanging out in Village coffee houses, listening and playing folk guitar, joining an occasional protest. I never made the leap to asking infinite questions about myself or my life, or “dropping out,” as Timothy Leary urged. I never identified my bliss, let alone followed it. The Wall came much later, when events conspired to force me to stop everything and look my life straight in the eye.
It is in this sense, I think, that I understand something of what it is like to confront the wall that is aphasia. Suddenly, all that one has known to be true about self, others, the world is thrown open to questions that are frightening. Emotions, released from wherever they rested or hid previously, are out of control. The Wall seems insurmountable, and we are stopped dead in our tracks. These are the times we need a bit of help.
There is that wonderful scene in Harry Potter, when he and his friends take their first train to Hogwarts, leaving from track nine and three quarters. Ron’s mom gives him a pat on the back, and encourages Harry to run head first through the wall. This he does, though a bit frightened, not knowing what is on the other side. Harry has heeded Joseph Campbell, and found the door. Aphasia Therapists and People with Aphasia: Follow your bliss.
Photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com