Friday, November 16, 2012

Peace Piece

I know my narrative has been predominately about my headache pain, however, the accident had caused many other (albeit lesser) symptoms that I've had to deal with. I want to avoid harsh swearing on this blog, so I'll call these symptoms "highly inconvenient," but if I can step outside myself, they are also fascinating glimpses into how the brain works.

People would marvel at how I could pick up conversations several tables away from me while we were out at a restaurant. This is because I had no filter for background noise. All the foreground and background were at the same level. Clinking silverware, cooks saying orders, that girl with the high pitched laugh... all competing with what's right in front of me. I couldn't block anything out, like in that scene from "What Women Want", and it was all. the. time. 

It was fascinating when I could drop information about another person's conversation with ease. It was terrible because I couldn't follow what the people at my table were telling me. It was interesting that my brain was doing this. It was strange when our date night would end early because a snobby woman two tables over complained the whole meal about wanting a more upscale suite for her honeymoon in Cabo.  Oh poor Neil, just trying to give me a nice meal - he could never foresee when I would interrupt him with alligator tears saying "she just doesn't have any idea how good she has it in life! We could NEVER go to Cabo! Let's get the check." - having no idea whom "she" is because he can block out entitled background socialites like a normal person.

So when people ask me "Are your headaches gone?" that's only part of the story. The answer is "YES! sometimes. maybe forever? I don't know. but sort of YES! which is the most wonderful!"

But there are so many more elements that are coming back into my world that are so very life giving and uplifting. Like when we go for a walk on a Monday and stop into Silkys for an appetizer - just to see how I do with the noise. Then Neil will turn to me part way through and say "how are you doing with this" and I'll say "Oh." like it hadn't occurred to me to be struggling. BECAUSE I"M DOING OKAY! and that is also so very huge. And then once again I have alligator tears in public (poor Neil) and I smile and say "maybe we try staying through dinner." (and we do and I don't ask for the check early)

Piece by piece we are getting our life back. The ways seem so small but to us they are gigantic. When I go to the grocery store (my personal concussion hell), I no longer need to lay down for several hours afterwards. Do you know what that does for my sense of joy and sanity and love of the day?!? Do you have any idea how many colorful words I can remove from my descriptor of the "market district"? Its delightful. Its mundane but its huge.

Years ago I used to love jazz music. After the accident, my brain did a funny thing - it decided to hate Jazz. I could listen to the albums I already knew by heart, but anything new was off limits. This is because of the sporadic nature of jazz - the notes dip and dive, they don't go where you expect. When you listen, your brain has to switch from auto-drive to active mode just to follow along. A healthy brain does this without problems. My brain set off alarms. After even one song, the vice at my temple would tighten and my head would pulse. For years I was rudely alerted anytime I had to think (not just with Jazz, with anything).

Last week my friend Ryan sent me a wonderful email and at the end was a link to a song he thought I'd like called "Peace Piece" by Bill Evans. With hesitation I re-entered the jazz world. 

I used to love Jazz so much because it (generally) has no lyrics, it has no predicted path, and within the breadth of a song it can hold any emotion one wants. I was so sad after the accident when the only thing I could receive from jazz was pain. Now, once again, I can get peace and joy and the dichotomy of having felt heaviness when I am so light.

For years I've talked mostly about my headaches, which oversimplified the fact that my entire life had changed. Now when I tell people that sometimes my headaches are gone, even that miracle is too small an answer - there is a greater abundance. My world has a fullness beyond what I can describe. Maybe like jazz, you can't put it in words.


  1. I love you.

    Cousin Katie

  2. Such beautiful words Em... small things are big ... and miracles to leave us speechless.. love the song.. just arrived home from a beautiful 22 year funeral.. He overdosed.. so sad and fragile this life.. miracles leave us speechless... love you.

    Aunt Stacy..

  3. I missed this one. But not completely! Good stuff Emma, I'm glad you're finding the multiple little things to get excited about in your recovery. Just so you know, I completely hear you on the not being able to shut out side conversations at meals. That was the plague of my high school years and why I developed an uncanny speed in devouring my food. It was the only thing I could concentrate on! Though mine was the opposite of yours, I didn't have the ability to pick out conversations, it just became an aural blur. It still gets me sometimes.

    I hope you keep discovering the small joys within your day. :)