How The King’s Speech Screenwriter David Seidler Emancipated Me

Dawn enjoying her freedom

Moments of liberation don’t happen often. Every now and then, someone says something that emancipates you from destructive thoughts. The CNN report on screenwriter, David Seidler, who won the Oscar for The King’s Speech, does not just inspire me. It sets me free.

Hollywood notoriously places an expiration date on its talent. Screenwriters are no exception. Scribes who do not make a splash in the industry right out of film school climb an uphill battle be a working screenwriter. This deadline loomed in my mind, often ticking louder than my biological clock. When I received a brain tumor diagnosis (and then another), the sunset of my writing career was all I could think of.

Perhaps pain or stubbornness kept me from seeing the inevitable. I ignored the complications of juggling a brain tumor (and then another) and a writing career at first. I swallowed my tears and my pride when my play made it to Hollywood, but I could not go.

As long as I was writing, I was fighting. I was in control.

But the brain tumor (and then another) began to tug on my mind, body and spirit. And the public fight against my health insurance company wore me down further. Letters to my former health insurance company and politicians replaced screenplays, and eventually even paid writing assignments.

Looking at my laptop, I’d curse myself a failure for forgetting words. The electric shock pain from my brain tumors was (and is) so excruciating I not drag myself to bathroom, much less muster up the creativity to be a writer. I’d contemplate the value of a life with brain tumors that my former boss called my “shortcomings.”

I’d helped others deal with their circumstances with my words, but the moment the brain tumors threatened my writing—my words—I could no longer deal.

And then David Seidler gave me freedom.

After wrestling with stuttering for years, he wisely decided not to confront it with paper and pen so soon after conquering it. The 73-year-old screenwriter stated the mind requires time to heal from the battle—to mature, to write about it objectively.

It’s smart advice for any writer hoping to avoid the trap of melodramatic writing. But it’s a powerful rule for health activists who can easily collapse under the weight of their stories.

David Seidler’s patience struck me more. Most writers recognize the potential literary value of their battles, especially those cognizant of the expiration date Hollywood places on talent. The media is dubbing David Seidler a late bloomer. He reminds me not to try to outrun my illness, only to crumple under the weight of false deadlines.

He got his Oscar on time. Whatever destiny awaits me is not going to match the timelines and bucket lists I scribbled out in college. I must begrudgingly trust God’s divine plan just the same.

I will still cry when I have an idea that my brain tumors won’t let me type. But if my writing is a God-given talent, I now know that no illness can hold me back from seeing my words in the fullness of their destiny.

My new freedom comes in knowing that all things come in due time…right on time.

Message to My Mountain, My Brain Tumor

Message to My Mountain, My Brain Tumor

I wanted to kiss you good riddance, Mountain, but I could not find the strength nor words.

I guess that makes you feel powerful.

What you don’t know is every time you knock me down or wear me out, I get back up again…and again, whether I believe in myself (or my health) or not.

So throw your pain at me.
Strip me of my health, career and friends.
I will soar phoenix-like or claw my back before you rejoice in your handiwork.

If you want the truth, Mountain, I feel a dose of helpless serenity knowing that you are neither friend nor foe. You are just “is.”

You are a matter of life and death sitting, shocking and kneading the life out of me for no damn reason. I cling to you, Mountain, to calm my heart from cruel philosophers who say your presence is written in Heavens or the stars. You, Mountain, are in God’s hands.

As long as you are what you are, Mountain, I have to be what I am…strong.

Knock me down, Mountain, my brain tumor, if that makes you feel powerful. Tomorrow, I’ll just get back up again…and again.

Want Good Health Insurance? Run for Congress.

Politician Pushing Healthcare

The freshman congressman balked at the lapse in health care coverage. After all, someone who works hard should reap the rewards of their labors. Any lapse in health care coverage — even if it is just for one month — is a risk no American should take.

This story isn’t the struggle of a politician fighting on behalf of a constituent. It’s the stance of Congressman-elect Andy Harris, who ran on repealing health care reform. The incoming congressman inquired during his freshman orientation about the gap between the start of his Congressional term and the government-subsidized health insurance available to members of Congress.

Democrats are seizing the opportunity. Democrats in the House — Joe Crowley, Donna Edwards, Tim Ryan and Linda Sanchez — are challenging GOP Representatives to align campaign rhetoric with action by dumping their government-subsidized health insurance. In a “Drop It or Stop It” ad (below), Americans United for Change is urging GOP members to drop their health care plans or stop threats to repeal health care reform.

The problem is Republicans and Democrats with the loudest voices often have the greatest access to health insurance.

They cling to their own government-subsidized health insurance, and refuse to give it up to prove the merits of the free market system or the public option. Their constituents must carry the cross. Republicans preach the need to carry the load for the sake of “our children,” and forget that their parents (and many children) are languishing by the wayside in the meantime. Democrats — seeking perfect health care reform — are often willing to allow millions of uninsured and underinsured flounder to prove a point.

On the eve of canceling my enrollment in the federal high-risk insurance pool, I can attest that neither Republican nor Democrat’s rhetoric or deeds meet the needs of everyday Americans. Deeds are bound by theatrical rhetoric. While Congressman-elect Andy Harris benefits from his government-subsidized health insurance, he will justify keeping that same plan from the people he serves. Across the country, Americans will question if politicians should be responsible for such a personal decision.