Friday, March 3, 2017

Friend, Colleague, & Nervous System. Grateful for @SonyaHuber

University of Nebraska Press
I'm two-for-two in 7 days having the fortunate opportunity to hear colleagues read from their recent work. Last night, I attended Sonya Huber's Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays From a Nervous System and her chapters on living through, with, from, on, and under a life with rheumatoid arthritis (wishing the multiple selves she has: thinker, writer, mom, academic, wife, daughter, and human being who more than likely cringes every time I come by with my bear-hugging self.

Disclosure: I have not read the book yet.
Discosure: I will read the book.
Disclosure:  A Kirkus Review (they read the book)
Disclosure: I am about Judy Blume's The Pain and the Great One (from Free To Be You and Me) - a childhood favorite for my little sister and me. I'll get to that.
Fact: I had the privilege of hearing Sonya Huber read from her collection last night at a Fairfield University Book Store event. This means I have her voice in my head so when I read the rest of the book she'll be with me (and I won't need to invite her over for dinner, demanding a new reading before I serve the kielbasa - a joke for Ivan).

Last semester, Sonya was on sabbatical and my colleague Beth, in her introduction, said it best, "She was missed, especially her laugh" Sonya's the type of person who radiates warmth, happiness, joy, and funk (with emphasis on the funk part), but who questions vehicles with "Life Is Good" bumper stickers. Her mind is alive, energetic, driven, and focused. The first time I saw her office, however, and all the zest I said, "She will be my friend. She has nice toys, too."

Sonya Huber (in tights matching the
cover of her new book)
What's interesting about the reading last night is that I didn't hear Sonya Huber's voice as she share the rhythm of her language and how she learned to contemplate the "alien from outer space" who lives with her (it's not Cliff). Rather, I heard my little sister's history in the pieces she shared and her days during high school when her nerve endings used to flair with fibromyalgia and a life was uprooted for several years. It made me recall my mom always saying she knew something was up when Casey hit her last home run in high school swinging the bat. After that it was constant appointments, hospital visits, and therapists. No one knew what it was, but her pain was off the charts and she had to see many around the nation to get control of it. The episodes were outrageous and it's hard to imagine how much control it had at the time.

It simply disappeared. Well, it didn't disappear, it stopped being so severe. But the pain from high school...that pain was real.

Casey and I always read The Pain and the Great One, and that was one of our running jokes. She was the "pain" and I was the "great one." After hearing Sonya read from the essays last night, though, I realized I have it  wrong. Those who live lives with such pain are the great ones: the pain is intolerable, the bitchiness is real, and the suffering makes one want to "origami"  while contemplating Judeo-Christianity, Buddhism, and french fries. As a brother, I really was the pain. I didn't understand because I didn't feel it. It wasn't until last night when I heard it, that the pain my sister experienced became more real.

I'm a talkative guy, but seldom do I speak up at readings. I prefer  to absorb what I jam hearing. Yet, listening to the essays  brought back the memories of my sister's high school years (and our curiosity about the nervous system that had all of upside down). Last night I spoke, though, "Thank you, Sonya. You voiced and penned,what I'm sure others have wanted to say their entire lives. You gave pain a language: the frustration, anger, contemplation, humor, and sincerity it has always been. You have expressed what others have been trying to say."

Ah, Sonya Huber is one of my muses and simply being with her for ten seconds makes me want to stop everything and begin writing something. She has that Tinkerbell, Punky Brewster, Hermione, Katniss thing going on, so I never quite know if she is real or a figment of my imagination.

Last night, Sonya was real. So was her collection. So is the Pain.

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