In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Connecticut on Friday, I think it appropriate to end my month-long series devoted to feelings of gratitude with author, Arlene O'Neil's story, a story that began when she was a child. As we mourn the losses of those twenty precious children in Newtown, let us not forget the traumatic effect the event will have on the children who survived physically, but whose souls were wounded by the tragedy. Let us also keep in our prayers the children of the adults who lost their lives that awful day. And now I turn the page over to Arlene:
I believe I became a writer at birth, or at least shortly afterwards. An accident as a child landed me in a “crippled children’s home” for almost two years and on crutches for a year. Being different, set apart, treated with kid gloves, left me with many negative messages, but also left the door wide open to my imagination. Reading, writing, and creating became my best friends. I would compose short stories or plays in order to try to fit in with others. As I aged, my sense of humor expanded and so did my writing skills. I write the truth; I write from the heart.
While recovering from numerous hip replacements over the years, I always had legal pads and pens near me. Two briefcases are filled with notes just waiting to grow up and become stories or books. Being different, being physically handicapped for so many years, I have developed an empathy for others in the same situation and always encourage them to write or speak of their experiences. Physical or mental challenges are lessened when shared, just as pain and heartbreak can be divided by two if you have an understanding friend and a shoulder to lean on for support.
Most of my writing comes from actual experiences in my own life, and when I write, I try to “touch” a reader, whether through laughter or tears. My handicap has made me stronger than most, and although I do not possess a great confidence in myself or an even level of self esteem, readers have helped immensely by telling me that what I convey makes a difference in their lives. My physical limitations helped expand my empathetic attitude. So much was taken from me in that childhood accident, yet what I missed was replaced with something far greater. I may not have been able to run, jump or play like others, but I could write volumes describing those activities!
When I wrote “Broken Spokes,” the story of my life, it was with the intent to discard the negative messages of my youth, and hopefully to let others know they were not alone in their pain. From emails, letters and reviews, I know I succeeded. I have grown so much in the past years, not only as a writer but as a person as well. I realize now that had the accident not happened, I might have become someone else altogether—someone who thinks more of herself than others—someone who is blind to those who need help.
As traumatic as life has been at times, I consider myself to be so very blessed—blessed with an amazing son, who is a Sargeant in the Army, a host of wonderful friends, my supportive family, and many extremely loveable animals. My work in progress is another true story written from the heart, which details my son’s past 11 years as a Soldier. It is my dream that other parents will benefit by my experience as an Army Mom, and know they are never alone in their feelings.
I continue to write in the hope of reaching others. At times the writing is very painful for me, yet I strive to pull the total emotion out of myself and display it on paper. I have been given an amazing gift, the ability to write, to touch others through my words. It is a gift I shall never waste.