The day after Christmas found me cleaning. Exciting isn’t it! Well, I found an article I had saved by Barbara Goldsmith. Inspirational! It was the story of a man with psoriatic arthritis. The following is her first paragraph,
“He cannot make a fist. The right wrist’s motion is limited to 40 percent. The little finger on the left hand is numb, partially paralyzed and scarred from a childhood accident. The joints of the other nine fingers are fused. There is mobility in only one distal joint, that of the middle finger of the left hand. These are the hands of Byron Janis, who today is acclaimed as one of the world’s great piano virtuosos.”
I love reading about how someone pushes forward through the hard times, and finds a way to cope. Janis said that his biggest problem was fear, and how terribly crippling that it was to his life. It was more of an enemy than the arthritis. He tried to keep it a secret for a long time due to his worry about the reactions of other people. Andrew Wyeth, the painter, told him that he wanted to paint his hands because they were beautiful. Janis thought with relief how good it was that his disease was not apparent yet. Wyeth could not have known the pain, and the struggle that those hands had been through. It reminded me how we sometimes assume that we know someone’s trials when really we have only shaken hands in the dark, and have no understanding at all.
Picasso let him know that it was ok to ease up on practicing when it became too painful by using an example of his own work, “If you are stuck in a painting, then stop and draw something else. Draw a flower and put your love into that flower Then your powers will come back again.”
Finally, the ultimate facing of the fear was at the White House recital for President Reagan. It was announced that Janis suffered from psoriatic arthritis. He found a way to re-finger his playing so that it was not as painful. Up to that point there had been a long series of medications, acupuncture and many other trials and errors to find a way to cope. But I like what he said about fear the most, “The first thing that I had to conquer was fear. I realized what a debilitating thing fear is. It can render you absolutely helpless. I now know that fear breeds fear.” So true.
As late as November 2011, according to the link provided, Janis was working to help the arthritis cause. At one point the article stated that in the beginning of his ordeal he shut everything out and created a prison for himself out of his life. His own cube drawn by himself. He realized it, stopped it, turned it around, and found a way through by accepting his arthritis, and defeating his fear. What if he were still there shutting the world out? The music would be missing.
I wish Van Gogh had not have given up! What did he miss? What did we not get to see? I wish Hemingway had not given up. What did he miss? What did we not get to read? How many people live in their own cube not realizing just how important they are to their world? What have they missed? What gifts have not been opened yet? The cube is safe, but it isn’t really a home!