First I wanted to extend a sincere thank you to Hanh Brown for inviting me onto this podcast, for your pointed questions and for giving me the opportunity to address your audience. It was an invigorating discussion that I am sure many people will be able to learn from.
However, I did want to point out one aspect of my journey that became apparent to me as I listened: my speech has now been affected by my PD or DBS.
I use “or” because I doubt anyone really knows. Would my speech today be better or worse had I not gone through DBS? To get the answer would take a dedicated team to study me. But, as someone who has made a living talking, it is a bit concerning to hear in my own voice some of the struggles I had formulating certain words and phrases. This is just another thing I will have to deal with going forward. C’est la vie.
(For those curious, I am conscious of these struggles as I am making them, and also am keenly aware that over time they will likely get worse. On that, if anyone knows a good speech pathologist in the Toronto area please do let me know.)
But that brings me to a question Dr. Alfonso Fasano once posed to me, would you rather be able to walk or talk?
Now, obviously that decision is not quite so binary as it seems, everything about my PD/DBS journey has taught me that life is about trade offs, how much walking would I be willing to trade for how much talking? (Though my mom would probably say that I’ve talked enough for one lifetime anyway 😉 )
That said, I think my answer to the question is still, if forced to choose, walking. There are still few things in life I enjoy more than being able to amble about the world on my own. And I now have DBS to thank for extending that ability for me. My heart goes out to those who were never given the choice to make that decision, life can be cruel and can take from us those things we cherish most.
However, I am buoyed by a simple truth that even if one day I am no longer able to be so verbose or to walk where I please, I can and always plan to walk the walk. After all, it is true what they say….
This ordeal has also reminded me of a book I once coveted dearly, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. One that I plan to spend the rest of today with. Here is an excerpt:
“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.
Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really.
You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation, “far removed from the seats of strife,” as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it. All that is required of you is a willingness to trudge.
There is no point in hurrying because you are not actually going anywhere. However far or long you plod, you are always in the same place: in the woods. It’s where you were yesterday, where you will be tomorrow. The woods is one boundless singularity. Every bend in the path presents a prospect indistinguishable from every other, every glimpse into the trees the same tangled mass. For all you know, your route could describe a very large, pointless circle. In a way, it would hardly matter.
At times, you become almost certain that you slabbed this hillside three days ago, crossed this stream yesterday, clambered over this fallen tree at least twice today already. But most of the time you don’t think. No point. Instead, you exist in a kind of mobile Zen mode, your brain like a balloon tethered with string, accompanying but not actually part of the body below. Walking for hours and miles becomes as automatic, as unremarkable, as breathing. At the end of the day you don’t think, “Hey, I did sixteen miles today,” any more than you think, “Hey, I took eight-thousand breaths today.” It’s just what you do.”