Dear Jean-Dominique Bauby,
I am writing this to you knowing you will never read this. You are gone but you will never be forgotten. I am not writing this as a viewer of the movie adaptation. That was a tragedy and I try not to think of it as I read your book. How do you take the thoughts of a paralyzed man and make a movie out of it? No.
The love I have for this book comes not only from its words but from the time it was given me. It was a the right book, at the right time and exactly what I needed. When I was in High School, my family, who always took the family trip to the family beach house in Florida, changed courses and booked a cabin by a lake in Vermont. Let's be real, it wasn't a real rustic cabin, it had Directv. It was small though. I slept in the top bunk in a set of beds built into the wall. The ceiling was six inches from my head. The cabin happened to sit on land with a big lake house as well and the Stone family from Scotland rented it out. This was a vacation of a lifetime. It was filled with finding streams in the woods, chasing local dogs out of the kitchen and floating in a row boat with headphones for hours. Eventually, we became friendly with the neighbors, sitting out by the fire for hours. That night, I mentioned to the mother that I had finished my books I brought with me by the second day. The next day she hands me this shiny blue book. She tells me she bought it at the airport and finished it. She thinks I'll like it. I read it in hours. Then read it again. Then again. Then again. It was like nothing I read before. At that point, I was 15 if not 16, incredibly emo, drama filled teenager. This book and vacation began changing me. There was more than my little world back home and there was and always will be the chance that everything can go away in a second.
The story of a man with locked in syndrome doesn't sound extraordinary. Paralyzed except for an eyelid, it should be sad, but it's incredibly uplifting. This life is a living hell. I can't imagine having my spouse so close to me, hearing their cries, and not being able to reach out. But this is not a poor me. This is a life worth living book. My two favorite parts, I can read over and over. I love the story of a young Jean and his pals opening a magazine and going to the race track. With all their friends money and a sure things, they get too caught up with the track and miss placing their bets. Of course the horse wins, of course everyone thinks they won a ton of money. But it wasn't meant to me. In a way it sums of his life to something of the affect of, the horse was all the women we didn't love, all the chances we didn't take, all the things we never did. That really struck me. What have I missed by not taking a chance? My other favorite part is almost morbid but in the end it's really not. When describing the first time in a wheelchair, all the hospital staff are described. I love the silliness and almost joy there is in describing everyone. No profanity, everyone is judged by their funny attributes or the little things I'm sure they don't realize they are doing. It should be awful, it should be sad. It's not. It's hilarious. The cheerleaders, the grumps, it's inspiring to see what could be ignored is embraced. What could be hostile is livable.
That's what I took away. What should be awful is livable, so why is my wonderful life seemingly awful. It's not. I talk about this story all the time. I wrote about it in my school paper. I put it on my facebook. I've flung my copy on anyone who promises to give it back. It brings my silliness and emoness and dramaness into check. It makes me understand that there is me in this fishbowl that has no idea of the ocean that is out there and I need to remember even though I cannot see the shore, it is still there.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death