Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What’s sitting at the Head of the Table in You?

This is week seven of recovering from brain surgery.  In the last few weeks I’ve seen the neurologist, the neurosurgeon, the osteopath and the dentist.  I’ve pulled a little dissolving thread from my head that I didn’t even know was there.  I’ve talked to some folks who’ve been down this road. I’ve been coming to terms with some different concepts in the last ten days or so about what denotes “recovered” and what is a work in progress and let go of knowing what's around the corner.
Road of Pearls

I can report that the neurologist and the neurosurgeon are very pleased with my progress. The wound is pretty much healed now and my hair has grown back around it to “tuft” level. I’m taking pain relievers only once or twice a day and just at an over-the-counter dose now. My headaches have lightened up to a weight that is often lighter than they were for years prior to the diagnosis and surgery, spiking only with weather changes and allergy season. I even think I realigned my jaw, with the help of the osteopath, by yawning incessantly for a few days to the point where the throbbing pain, that sent me to the dentist in a panic about potential root canals, has diminished.

What I have been bothered by is much more subtle than the physical symptoms that dominated my concerns for months, and has shifted my ideas about where I might be headed to, to definitely not knowing. These trends emerging within myself are both amazingly cheerful, and dismally fearful, and seem to lead to new revelations of self-definition on a daily basis.

I’ve been focusing on the ends of the spectrum in my thoughts about it: expectancy and curiosity, blind spots and mindfulness; holding on and letting go; order and chaos, and lucidity and imagination. For instance, when my expectations fade away almost thoughtlessly, my curiosity rises and becomes the leader. When simply knowing what to do next is absent from my table, there is my imagination mysteriously sitting near the head with new ideas.

If you read “My Stroke of Insight,” or see the TED video by Harvard Neuroscientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., this can be intellectually understood. In fact, I thought that at some level there would be a rebalancing of brain use from the left side to the right side while I healed from surgery. I just didn't know what it would be like. Since my tumor was caught early, upon a partial aphasia seizure rather than the complete wipe out that Dr. Taylor suffered with an aneurysm, I thought it would be a minor thing, and maybe it is a minor thing. I still recognize words and numbers, faces and signs after all. I know where I am. I know the people around me, unlike her experience where she could not even recognize her own mother. I haven’t had any trouble walking, and I’ve even been given the go ahead to drive again because it has been 6 months (October 2, 2011) since I was diagnosed as having had a partial seizure.

Still, the rebalance act has surprised me in many ways. I promised to write about nerves and tears and it is more than that. Let's just start there though. When I cry, I expect tears to come out of both eyes, but I find now that only the right eye responds to my feelings of joy or sadness. My left eye is completely tearless and neutral and that causes me to stop and notice it, and when I stop and notice that my left eye is neutral, often my entire emotional experience drains out of me. My curiosity is stronger than my emotions or my expectations suddenly.

The important absence of a single tear  has switched the power of my own responses in a way I never guessed it would. I don’t feel I’ve been robbed of my feelings so much as I feel that they are less necessary than they once were, because now instead of dragging on for hours or days, they come and go quite quickly, like the weather I always swore they were because I’m no longer totally invested in them, whether with resistance or permission. As I’ve become used to having no tears in my left eye, I’ve been more aware the intellectual rejection of my cry has gone now too because I know without doubt it will pass. Now I cry until I cannot sustain that feeling. When there is no logical resistance, or guilty thinking, I go deeper into an awareness of what brought me to tears in the first place in that moment, right away.

Here is an example of how it works. I’m feeling frustrated about writing at the moment. It’s taken days and days of thinking to write about how this rebalance is occurring, and even more challenging is dealing with metaphors that appear as pictures in my brain but don’t travel over to the word side of my brain as easily as they have in the past. I find I want to draw a picture instead of stitching together two ideas with words in hopes that someone understands what I’m getting at. I’m even having trouble reading more than a paragraph at a time. I recognize the words, but they're just a jumble and I have to take it slowly to really understand them. Everything about words has slowed down incredibly in a period of my life when I deeply wanted to be making progress.

I was looking forward to purchasing a book of poetry by a wonderful poet in Denmark, Bo Gorzelak Pedersen, (more to be found at Red Door) and there have been delays and I was sad about it (though he promises that the book will happen and to be patient).  I was sad and I could only tie it to my desire to get back into reading and writing by focusing on something new that I know I will enjoy and I selfishly told him so. Then he posted this poem, and I burst into right-sided tears upon reading it…

By Bo Gorzelak Pedersen

Night like an absence of music, 
just a hole for your eyes and the creeping ivy gone black.
Unfamiliar things and things not forgotten, unforgettable things,
it’s the same skin for it all. Echoes of fading and fading echoes.
No reasons why and no why. No multitudes. Nada.
Only what was chewed and spat and left
for the slowest of winds to collect. 
I am trying to read a poem, but it makes no sense.
I can do nothing but shadows.

Immediately, I noticed the lack of left-sided tears and next the right-sided tears disappeared, and I was left with a neutral feeling that I must use it as an example of exactly what’s going on, finally, a way to explain the switch I am experiencing.  Before I would have read it, hailed it as wonderful and felt compelled to go write something. Whether inspired or competitive, his writing has done that to me in the past because I admire its grace and bull's eye. While wishing that I could have written something like it, knowing it is out of range for me right now, I now really wanted to make a picture of this GHOST. I may indeed.

However, I started this blog all over again.  After all, as I said, I am able to see everything that I saw before surgery; it’s just that I can’t express it as I would like to express it. Everything is too formal, too rhyming, too disconnected between imagery and words…but here is this poem by Mr. Pedersen…and it collected the shadows of days when it was connected, when I could enjoy chasing the discombobulated image rising with words that made sense, and I could cry with overwhelmed feelings and no neutrality entering the picture for hours, or days, or months. Like a baby with no tears I recover quickly. This poem captured for me what I cannot seem to capture right now – echoes of fading and fading echoes. It’s all I can absorb when it comes to words, no matter how many times I re-read and re-write. A poem like this engulfs me with a feeling of being recognized, known, and I want to hold it and express it like I'd imagine a ghost wants to hold the material world it drifts through. I find that is more likely with an oil pastel than with my keyboard presently, because I'm lately unclear about what I want to write, even right now.

There’s more to say, or write, but I feel like already I’ve gone on much longer than I would have before.  Suffice it to say that the neurosurgeon said it would take time to reintegrate my right and left brain, to get the nerves in my face out of a state of Novocain, to develop tears in my left eye. How much time? Up to two years. The neurologist told me that in spite of the external signs of healing, the inside of my brain has essentially been hit with a hatchet, and I need to learn some patience. 

Two years is the subtle, or not so subtle, indication that my writing is going to focus on small challenges for a while longer in order to integrate things that used to seem easy to me – words and images, feelings and metaphors, whether to use "at" or "for,"  "when" or "where" and to enjoy the flow of ideas. I’m reading the dictionary and the grammar books. I’m returning to basics to find the difference between “since” and “sense” and “they’re” and “there” as my fingers act like the auto-corrections on my smart phone and drop in “like” when I meant “lost”. The huge projects I’ve worked on in the past simply overwhelm me. A sentence is a good challenge…to write simply without so many words (could I have just written – to write simply?). A poem is even better, though it is more challenging, and so I'll be focusing on other Kosmic Egg and Kosmic Egg Tarot sites, and come here less often because right now it feels like a lot.

Finally, I’ll let Curiosity remain at the head of my table now and let Expectations drop to the side, in between Imagination and Patience. 

No comments: