"Perfect Disease" Helps Writer Find Life Balance
MS gets called a lot of names. But "the perfect disease"?
That’s what Steven Lundin calls it. Realizing that his body was slowing down due to unforgiving (and at this point in medical history untreatable) progressive MS gave Lundin the push he needed to stop dreaming about writing — and start writing.
“I’m very clear on this point: MS is awesome for me,” said Lundin, of Hillsboro, Ore., near Portland. “I found I could sit in one spot for hours on end and do nothing but writing. Had I tried to sit and do nothing but write before I got the illness, my goodness, my world would have collapsed around me.”
Lundin stopped working as an actuary in 1995, the same year he got his MS diagnosis. He bought into an engineering firm with his father-in-law and the firm prospered. In January 2006, when it was clear he was losing mobility but gaining financial security, he made a decision:
“I’m going to start pursuing the passion in my heart. I’m going to become a writer. Every single day in 2006, every single day in ‘07, every day but two or three in ’08 because I had a cold, I got up at 4 a.m. and wrote ‘til about 8 a.m. — weekdays, holidays, no matter where we were, even on vacation.”
He continued going into the engineering firm and had to institute a new policy: no asking how the writing was going, because he’d get so excited he couldn’t stop talking. His first, self-published novel, Shooting an Albatross (www.shootinganalbatross.com), won an Independent Novel Award in 2009. He hopes it will get enough attention to interest a mainstream publisher in the already-completed sequel, Legacy Management.
Shooting an Albatross is historical fiction based on an Army artillery unit’s occupation of a Los Angeles golf course in World War II. Lundin interviewed a 94-year-old veteran of the unit who told him stories like the one about the officer who screamed at the enlisted men for parking their artillery pieces carelessly on the course. Every day they’d pull out, practice firing into the Pacific in case Japan invaded, and come back to the golf course at night.
Lundin and his wife Lisa have three children, the first of whom started college in 2008 and is, like her dad used to be, a runner. They toured campuses by running together — Jessica on foot and Lundin on his Segway, latte in hand — and together decided University of Southern California had the best feel. Now the other two kids are determined to get into USC too. Thinking back to high school, Lundin says he can hardly believe he fathered high performers.
“I used to call kids like them disgusting because I couldn’t even talk to them. Now that they’re my kids, I go, ‘Wow! I see what I wasn’t.’”
If there’s one life lesson the kids will learn from Lundin, surely it’s balance. Losing his physical balance, he says, allowed him to recalibrate the rest of his life.
“If your day job and your passion aren’t the same, there’s a big challenge there,” he said.
“Once in a while I’ll actually end up on the ground. When I have a suit and tie on, it’s just horrible for other people to see. Falling does raise this question, What’s the right balance? MS has given me the freedom to be something nobody quite understands.”