Of Seabiscuit and Hands


A foray into vulnerability.

A journey I would rather reserve for an intimate group of people I already know have my back. But, I forge ahead!


Think back – oh say 18 or 24 months. Did anything significant happen to you? As you’re thinking back, things like a professional change, a fantastic trip, a surge in writing acclaim or book sales, a new connection, maybe a dream house may come to mind!

Significant doesn’t always relate to the glowing and exuberant times in our lives, however. It is simply something that is noteworthy. Yes, I know. Many times we’d rather not pay attention to less desirable blocks of time in our lives, as if not everyone experiences them. We have convinced ourselves that the dark times in our lives would set us apart as inferior. Less-than. Indicating a failure of sorts.

img_1612In spite of that, I will venture a stroll through a significant change in my life. Care to join me? If not, I won’t be offended if you sit here on this park bench and we’ll resume our conversation after the significant portion, simply carrying on as if nothing ever happened.

It began as a harmless nodule. Annoying at first, then the focus of a few jokes and flippantly suggested home remedies. But whatever it was, grew. Turns out it was not dangerous – as anyone who does not depend on his / her hands would classify danger. But you know what I mean: this was not a terminal condition. At least that was reassuring. The follow-up questions, however, most certainly included:
What is the prognosis?
…..What treatments are available?
……….How effective are the treatments?

Here’s what was happening: my fingers (one on each hand, at this point) began curling inward towards the palms. At any point, it could affect other fingers. Initially this genetic condition was neither painful nor was deterioration rapid. In time, however, it was very clear that something had to be done. Without obsessing over timeframes, treatments, the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of each, suffice it to say: multiple treatments were only marginally effective and I’m left with pain and some limitation in both hands. And, possibly because I’m a writer (or just because) there have been many sleepless nights of fear, anger, uncertainty and sadness. Deep, dark sadness.

So, here I am, dutifully exercising both hands 2-3 times daily and wearing rigid splints on both hands every night. I’ve moved from dictating everything I write, through numerous phases of inefficient and painful typing, to where I can now write on a computer for a few hours, using 3 fingers and 2 thumbs – with varying degrees of pain. Not bad! I’m functioning and I am most certainly not delving into this tale to solicit sympathy. This story is merely a foundation.

At one point in my journey of recovery I happened upon a brief article about Laura Hillenbrand, author of the two best-selling books, Seabiscuit and Unbroken. What’s remarkable about this woman (she is 49 years old at time of writing) is that since she was 19, she has been chronically ill, in excruciating pain, sometimes housebound for years at a time. Yet she has not allowed this debilitating challenge to keep her down. (On a side note: I had fallen in love with the story of Seabiscuit and was delighted to learn more about this gifted writer.)


While I hesitate to share Hillenbrand’s searing story as a point of reference to mine, her experience of debilitation, courage and perseverance strikes a chord! I cannot allow anything to stand in my way. Not pain. Not uncertainty. Not disappointment. Not delay.

I have a passion for writing. I get to write; I have to write. My mental, emotional and physical wellbeing depend on it.

How about you? What’s your passion? What is it you live to get up for? Have you lost the drive for this passion – for whatever reason – and landed in a place you think you can’t overcome? Sometimes all it takes is one story! One other person, in essence, coming alongside saying: get up, dust yourself off and move. Move forward.

I hit a solid, massive wall recently. This low had been coming for some time, and I know it’s not the last. I am positive there will be more threatening canyons and other dismal nights.

But there’s something I know for a fact: there are those who have blazed the trail for us, just as there are people in our tribes who lift us from our knees. These are the ones who look us in the eye (or whose words leap from a page) and say: What do you think you’re doing? You’re not giving up! You’re moving on. Moving forward. Now get up and we’ll walk together a stretch. I’m here for you! I’m here with you!

So this story is as much for me as it is for anyone who reads it. It’s one of my accountability tools that says: you summoned the courage to put yourself out there, now you can’t quit!

Same for you, my friend! We can’t quit! The world needs each story, each voice, each painting, piece of music, sculpture, photograph, each marathon run – more now than ever. These masterpieces and achievements breathe life into our taxed and battered souls.

Are you with me?

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo credits: Wikipedia; Unsplash


4 thoughts on “Of Seabiscuit and Hands

  1. I’m with you Julia! Thanks for sharing this personal part of your story – I can only imagine how difficult it must be to keep going when it has such an impact on what you’re passionate about. We all need a reminder to keep going now and again – your words are always powerful and it’s for that reason in itself that you need to keep going 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I’m with you! You display courageous vulnerability! Thank you! …very well written! I feel deeply for you, I hurt with you, I rejoice with you and I admire you! I pray this article (& others) will motivate me and others…now,, at times… often, whatever the case may be, to pick up & keep going. I’m sorry you have to “hit the wall”, but in ways, I guess we all do and when we choose to keep going, be open, like you were today, we gain & others benefit! Blessings. With tonnes of love, Marilyn

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to respond at such a personal level, Marilyn! I truly believe each person’s experiences are not unique, but have similarities to every person wherever we find ourselves. I believe it’s as we become open enough to share as well as to reach out that community grows and love expands. Thank you again! Love back to you! ❤️️


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