I marvel today at how smoothly the sound of my words roll off my tongue, through my headset microphone into the laptop's operating system, where the audio waves are translated by my DragonNaturally Speaking speech-recognition software and are seamlessly transferred to this Microsoft Word document. Things don't always go this well, but when it does, like today, it really is a miracle.
This may not seem so fantastic to most of you — you live with the miracle of modern technology every day. It's a given that your computer, your smartphone, your iPad, your radio, your television, will work without interruption. And, if there is a problem, a quick reboot often resolves the issue, or perhaps you might enjoy a few hours separated from the ever-present technology while your device is being repaired or upgraded. You may even use the time wisely, taking a walk in the park or a swim at the beach.
You see, you have a functioning body that you can rely on, that you can turn to in times of frustration or crisis. No matter how dependent we become on technology, our natural body provides the ultimate operating system. However, for me, the computer is my connection to the world. My laptop and this software are literally my lifeline, keeping me from depression and allowing me to be productive and feel alive.
How does this miracle happen? It's almost too much for me to fathom, too complicated.
First, and foremost, my creative brain has to have something to say. Then, my lungs, diaphragm, vocal cords and Trilogy Respironics ventilator, all need to cooperate together, pushing air in and out at the appropriate volume and pressure, in order for intelligible sounds to be created. I have to be positioned comfortably, just so. My head must be tilted at the correct angle, the screen set at the perfect distance from my eyes. My arms, legs, neck and back adjusted so that they are pain-free. Finally, I must have the energy to keep this breathing cycle going on long enough, so that I can get my ideas through the computer system onto the page.
The process is hard — it takes patience, stamina, concentration. It doesn't always work smoothly. Sometimes my thoughts spill out faster than my body and my machines can interface, leaving me with gobbledygook on the page, random commands opening a variety of useless programs, or even the dreaded computer crash. When that happens, I yell for my caregiver.
My heart races, my breathing gets labored. I am afraid that I may have lost precious thoughts or files. Perhaps the computer is really gone this time. When was the last time I saved? When was the last time I did a backup? I desperately want to fix it myself, but I have to rely on her eyes and fingers. I can't let go, I continue to give commands.
"Close that window. Click save. Down, to the right. Click cancel. Now, try to restart ... "
"Everything is OK. It's just words on the page," I tell myself.
But thankfully, when it works, like today ... the words fall solidly onto the digital page. They accumulate, magically combining into seed-like phrases which dig deep and grow roots. If they are worthy, and watered, they may develop into complete sentences that reach for the sunlight and sprout feelings. These feelings can become coherent thoughts and begin to intermingle. Each sentence looking for the perfect match, until they form into paragraphs. They spread and multiply further, filling more of the void whitespace with ideas and images. The once blank page begins to take shape. Images transform into description and background setting. Ideas become characters and plot.
If all goes well, the stalk, leaves and stem will be thick and strong. A theme will arise in the form of a cluster of buds. With care, and just the right conditions, flowers will blossom, each with a unique scent and vibrant colors. A story will break free from the computer screen.
It really is a miracle.
The blog originally was posted Nov. 19, 2013.
About the Author
My name is Richard K. Raker, and I am 54 years old. I have lived in Honolulu, Hawaii, with my wife and son for 26 years. I have ALS, a terminal illness diagnosed in 2006. Prior to 2006, I worked as an English as a Second Language teacher, and then as a computer trainer for a major health care organization. Very soon after my diagnosis and a quick disease progression, I was totally bedridden, relying on a ventilator to breathe. I no longer could work, so I spent most of my time reading and watching TV and movies. And then one day, I discovered the joy of writing.
First, I struggled through a memoir about the first 25 years of my life, telling the story of the events leading up to my decision to move to Japan. It felt good to write. Writing takes me away from my everyday troubles and gives me a creative voice that I never knew I had. The memoir, A Remarkable Life, Lived by an Ordinary Person, has been self-published using Createspace.com and is available on Amazon.com. After that, I realized that I had a few more stories that I needed to write. I enjoy writing. The two or three hours a day that I spend working on my stories is very therapeutic. I write selfishly. It is fun and gives me a much-needed purpose in life, but I do hope that you will enjoy reading what I have written. Thank you all for your love and support. Be sure to visit my blog called A View from Rick's Window, Web page, DVD reviews and Facebook page.