I met Mark Woonton at a little breakfast joint in Pelham, New Hampshire.
My aunt works with him, and kept telling me how I needed to meet this guy.
“He’d be good for your column!” she said.
All she told me was that Mark had had brain surgery, and she didn’t know much else, but she was adamant that his story should be told.
After meeting this guy, I realized she was right. We sat there eating breakfast as he told me his story and a few jokes along the way.
Wooton’s condition, Hydroseph, causes spinal fluid to build up in his skull and put pressure on his brain, which could be deadly if too much is built up.
To keep the fluid out, he has a shunt, which runs from his brain down through his body. It does its job.
There is one slight problem with that though – the shunt breaks and, every time it breaks, it has to be replaced.
Woonton has been in and out of hospitals his whole life, each time laid up in bed for weeks.
I can tell you from experience that frequent stays in an uncomfortable bed with tubes sticking out of you and bandages wrapped around your body is demoralizing, depressing and downright cruel.
I have to admit though, Woonton was incredibly honest with me as we sat across from each other.
He said he’d often start his morning crying, and once the tears dried he’d ask himself this question: “What’s one thing I can do today to get me one step closer to getting out of here?”
Woonton’s struggles aren’t just found and conquered within the walls of inpatient bedrooms though. From the start, doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to do much of anything on his own.
Woonton was born blind, but as time went on he regained his sight. It was believed that he might not be able to walk, and he now walks under his own power.
He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to drive, live on his own and live a life without the fear of his shunt breaking and what the consequences of that might be.
Instead of worrying about the next surgery, he focuses on the next day. He’s doing what he has to do and loving it.
Woonton knows he didn’t get there alone, and gave a shout out to those teachers and nurses that helped him when he missed weeks of school during his stints in the hospital and helped him get healthy again.
He wants to be a writer and make people laugh however he can, even if it means at his own expense.
He writes a regularly updated comedy blog called “Funny Business” in which he makes fun of the more cynical parts of reality and issues caused by his condition. That sounds so familiar
This guy and I are a lot alike. We’re both overly-talkative twenty-somethings who enjoy writing and have a strange sense of humor.
More importantly though, we’re two people who have been through some very serious, debilitating stuff we could do nothing to prevent, but we’re doing what we have to live the way we want to.
Talking to Woonton was an eye opener for me.
I often speak about taking things one day at a time, but I can’t honestly say that I’m constantly on a gunghoe mission to build on the progress I’ve made. It’s exhausting and intimidating.
There’s a million things I need to do before I’ll be able to walk on my own. It’s not just me either.
Everybody has things they need or want to accomplish, but often we find ourselves daunted by the task.
It’s like the feeling you get when you have to write a 20-page paper, that holy crap moment looms over your head until you are forced to either do it all at once or do nothing at all.
Either way it’s unlikely you’ll end up with a desirable result. If you work on it little by little until you get it done, it doesn’t seem so bad.
So, what’s your metaphorical 20-page paper?
Is it recovery from medical problems? Relationship issues? Financial strain? Maybe it really is a 20-page paper.
No matter what your answer to that question is. Answer one more.
What’s one thing you can do today to get closer to where you want to be?
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org