OK, so it’s getting a little spooky

This is still with the concussion and it’s effect on my brain, mind, feelings and body.  If that sort of stuff scares you or puts you off or makes you want to catch up on A-Rod and the war or that really sad young woman who keeps relapsing, this would be a good time to stop  reading what I’m writing–although maybe not. Those of you who get off on possible religious experiences or simply enjoy watching another human work through the daily mysteries of life (soft smiles, quiet “yeah” sort of thing) as he becomes aware of them, this is for you–or also maybe not.


My first month of dealing with Post Concussive Syndrome–described by my neurosurgeon at NY Presbyterian Hospital as consisting of headaches, lethargy, fatigue, depression, nausea, vomiting, dysequilibrium and imbalance (he forgot forgetfulness)– proved to be an absolutely exceptional month, especially when added to the various body aches and side effects of the Dilantin prescribed because I exhibited seizure symptoms as a result of the crash.

You might think that a month of living with all that crap would enhance the depression symptom and make for 30+ days of misery.  Frankly, you’d be right, were it not for the first fateful intervention: a book.  Having finished reading my first novel in a few decades, The Mombo Kings Play Songs of Love, a space opened for the miracle of grace.  I began re-reading Pema Chodron’s Buddhist fix-it book, The Places That Scare You. If I had a reason for choosing it, it escapes me, but I probably figured out that (big surprize here) I was scared. The skinny on Chodron’s text is simple:

Here’s how to delight in whatever life happens to hand you:  You accept reality and your ability to deal with it.  You realize others are just like you and so don’t judge them.  In the words of the Greek god, Nike, just do it, then notice how you feel about just doing it.

Well, I tried it.  It worked!  None of the symptoms disappeared, but they’d largely lost their sting.  Whatever I was feeling, it was okay.  The pain was still there, but I’d stopped creating any suffering to add to it.

(Fortunately I didn’t have to test it against vomiting and decided that anything I couldn’t remember I could Google.)

So for most of that month of May my symptoms became my teachers.  Whenever one appeared, I saw it as pointing out to me where I needed work.  Each time I noticed I was walking like a drunk or was quietly wishing to vanish from the face of the earth, another part of my cerebral apparatus would pull back and say, “Hmm…interesting.  Depression (or imbalance or lethargy…)  Don’t judge it.  Just observe it.  Watch it.  Don’t be it.”  And sure enough, the feelings didn’t go away, but they didn’t rule.  They became simply symptoms: nausea, sadness, thoughts of hopelessness, powerlessness.  I accepted them as being my “condition of the moment,” but did not get lost in stories of how they came about or what they might mean or indicate for my future.  They were no more than a bit of now.  And now is always temporary.

Meanwhile physical therapy and Tylenol began mitigating the pains and the headaches.  A  few days back at work, feeling busy and needed, led into a wonderful Memorial Day weekend in Connecticut with my sister and brother-in-law, my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law, my stepson and his wife and my step-daughter and her husband and his mother and their twin boys and my great buddy, Lew and his wife, April and my wife’s ex-husband and his current wife.  Together they brought me back into the realm of the belonging and up to a new level of joy.  Even though my brain and body didn’t really seem to be truly mine, they and the world had become friends.

This weekend I felt ready to ride.  I make a phone call.  Two friends agreed to escort me on my first bike ride in a month .  It proved ideal:  I pedal!  I steer!  I brake!  I climbed a hill!  My reflexes were good but my body was slow and, despite the hill, weak, so I respect that.  And the conversation!  I told Dmitri all about what I’ve been telling  you: life becoming somehow…easier…sweeter…more musical.  The same pain, yes, but with far less suffering.  The same number of strangers, but somehow not so strange or potentially hostile.  Dmitri, he comments after some gentling disclaimers, “What you’re talking about sounds like a religious experience.”

O Boy!  No!  Yes…?  It sounded good, but, see,  I don’t attribute this newest me to divine intervention or even the forces described in the Pema Chodron book.  It was a hit on the head and my brain got bloody.  True, observing and accepting myself rather than interpreting and embellishing what I experienced released a significantly different me.  But “religious experience”?  Naw.  Too much goody-goody attached to those words.  The truth be told, moving into closer touch with both the real world and the real me, that didn’t necessarily mean just some ideal kinder and gentler me.  Explosions of sadness and anger and pain later that afternoon and night proved that that real me was still a piece of very real work.

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Published in: on June 3, 2007 at 9:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. All life is a little spooky, especially when you realize how much your body and brain are doing without your conscious intervention. But that’s when life gets the most interesting: when your mind can step back and watch ITSELF doing things. I feel sorry for people who can’t do this, because they really don’t know what a depth of experience lies in that seemingly simple act.

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  2. In our wedding vows, I agreed to “continue to love, honor and cherish (you) through sickness and in health, through periods of tranquility and travail, until death”….well, I guess that this here concussion-thing is the travail part. It definitely could be worse…as in, you not being here. That would be bad. For me. Keep up the good work in straightening out the confusion, feelings, healing-path, or whatever you feel that it should be called. You have incredible strength and insight. Thanks for being you.

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