Monday, 16 July 2007



I have decided that – as long as I can commit myself to regular daily posts on my blog – Mondays will be ‘Monday Muse’ day to kick-start the working week in an upbeat fashion. In the light of this, my first muse comes straight from the pages of a Sunday supplement that came with one of yesterday’s papers. I enjoyed reading the feature on Natasha Wood, a thirty six year old writer-performer from Nottingham whose drive and determination has taken her as far as Los Angeles on the road to stardom and success despite her ongoing battle with spinal muscular atrophy, a incurable genetic muscle-wasting disease. Natasha’s story also made me realise just how much we need to hear inspiring stories of people who refuse to give up and turn negatives into positives and disabilities into possibilities.

Natasha has been bound to a wheelchair all her life, undergone painful operations as a teenager to straighten her back and has been called names by some kids at school. Yet her strength of spirit and independence shines through the mere assertion that she ‘gave as good as [she] got’, a school bully got his just deserts when he punched her once and broke his fist on the body brace Natasha used to wear from her groin up to her chest to keep her back straight. ‘From then on no one bothered me,’ she says laughing.

After leaving school with five O-levels, Natasha auditioned Graeae in London, a disabled-led theatre company and got a part in a play called Why. On her return to Nottingham, she studied drama A level. It was around this time she met and fell in love with Duncan Wood, her former husband; they had an amicable divorce in 2004 after fourteen years of what she calls ‘the happiest marriage’. The same year saw Natasha promoted to the position of production manager with the BBC. Her divorce followed months later with her brother’s – also a spinal muscular atrophy sufferer – death, led Natasha to re-assess her life and apply for a nine-month position as a production manager for the BBC in New York. Since her move in 2005 to a luxury apartment in Manhattan, Natasha Wood has not taken a break from her journey to success in her chosen field.

Her 90-minute one-woman show Rolling with Laughter, which is based on her life, is booked out for months ahead in Los Angeles. She is due to appear in London and the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. She has also been offered several acting opportunities including a pilot for a sitcom she will be starring in.

From her teenage years to her journey Stateside, Natasha Wood has demonstrated strength of body and spirit in the face of adversity. As she is quoted in the feature, she seems to be a strong, resilient, independent woman who is at peace with herself and her life. By any standard, she has led a much more colourful and rewarding life in the whole of thirty six years than some can manage in a lifetime. Isn’t she inspiration enough for many us able-bodies folk out there who are crushed in the face of a single blow?

Now, people who know me also know I am no Miss Polyanna. In fact, I am quite at ease with my pessimism. Nine times out of ten, bar the occasional light-hearted, caution-to-the-wind exception, my glass is ‘half empty’ or even when I can see it ‘half- full’ I spend so much time focussing on the half-empty part that I forget to count my blessings.

For people like me, there are so many lessons to learn form Natasha Wood’s story, from the stories of many others like her, who refuse to give up. As they say, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.’ For people like Natasha, the going hasn’t just got tough overnight; it has always been tough. The secret of keeping on keeping on is a positive outlook on life, the strength of character to refuse to admit defeat, the adaptability of mind that sees opportunities, not handicaps – or rather opportunities in handicaps, possibilities in disabling, debilitating circumstances, the will to take negatives and turn them into positives.

This is my tribute to such people, my Monday muses…


Pelmo said...

It's a shame that stories like her's don't make the news more often. We are force fed stories of empty headed twits like Paris and Nichole, which many teens try to emulate.
Thanks for bringing out a story of real courage.

princess said...

She has really turned the rock in her path to a stepping stone to greater heights.
Am happy for her.
Most times we dwell too much on the wrong things that we fail to appreciate the right things.
The mere fact that we are alive is enough to thank God.