The Dyslexic Furniture Maker

by Philip Morley

I am dyslexic. . . . Some people view dyslexia as an inconvenience. They imagine simply switching letters and writing numbers backwards. But for me, dyslexia is my life . . . something that constantly hovers around me affecting everything that I do. When I write a post or text, I panic that I have misspelled something or misused a word because I RELY on auto-correct. At the same time, I frequently misspell words so badly that even auto-correct won’t pick them up. I am constantly anxious that people will pick up on these deficiencies. I explain that I am dyslexic but I can tell that people are surprised by what that actually means for me. I once had a conversation with a man as he related an encounter he had earlier that day. He ridiculed another man saying, “The guy was illiterate. .. . I mean in this day and age how does anyone reach adulthood without being able to read.??” I remember nodding absently thinking, “You have no idea.” My biggest nightmare is being asked to read in front of others. My wife sometimes checks my texts and e-mails for me because sometimes misspelling key words can be unfortunate. Once, I invited a friend over through a text to help work on my deck. My wife burst out laughing when she checked the text because I had mistakenly written, “Can you come work on my dick.”  It is inescapably a part of who I am and something I constantly struggle with.

Being from England carries the additional expectation of some sort of innate erudite intelligence. Fortunately, even my accent gives away a more humble beginning. Once people get to know me, they realize that the excuse of “We say it that way in England” is more of a joke. It is certainly true for words like “vitamin” “aluminum” “maths” and “tomato.” Honestly, sometimes I cannot remember how a word is pronounced where. But for me it is just another tactic to save what face I can. . . .to laugh off my inner humiliation if at all possible.

Now, I have improved considerably since my school days thanks to many people. My wife has always encouraged me. I received considerable help from the public library. In Florida, a learning specialist worked with me once a week for a year and a half (special shout out to Sarah Karlo). 🙂 I have also learned as many coping mechanisms as I can. But I still PANIC whenever I fear that I am about to be made to feel stupid. Reading in front of people is my personal nightmare. Will someone ask me to read something? Will someone ask me to write something? Will someone notice that I mispronounced a word? And as everyone knows, PANIC is a great way to perform at your best.

Dyslexia is a part of my story. If I didn’t have dyslexia. . . . if academics came easily to me. . . . (and if I am being completely honest with myself). . . .I certainly may have chosen a more lucrative career.  But I do love what I do.  My brain definitely seems to be wired differently but I think there is a gift in that. When I started studying carpentry and joinery it came naturally. Furniture making seemed to make sense to my brain. It was something that I was able to excel at for the first time and I was not going to let go of that. I did not become a furniture maker because it seemed  like a romantic career. I became a furniture maker because I was good at it. . . . and for me that was a new feeling. I wanted to excel because I never had before. Working hard actually led to tangible results. So, in many ways for me furniture making is not just a career but a saving grace.