Linda Ronstadt’s Rendition of Desperado Burst my Grief Dam

Some of you know I that in April recently suffered a concussion and broken nose and am still recovering. The injury impacted my frontal lobe and deeper parts of my brain were also affected. One ongoing issue has been that, except for brief, mostly mild occurrences (often apropos of nothing), I have been unable to experience much beyond irritation or fatigue.

Mostly, I feel upbeat, sunnily similar, day after day. I’m not apathetic or depressed, but the variety of emotions I experience has been vastly curtailed, as have their intensity.

If you knew me before this, you’d be shocked by my lack of affect, particularly by my lack of sadness or other reactions to the series of shocking (to my life, system, and existence) events, Lemony Snicket -style, I have endured because of and directly after this accident, including a forced cross-country move in August.

About a week ago, during a discussion that became more of an argument with my son (a more frequent occurrence, he believes, since my fall), I heard him say how “different” I am, now, and I cried. Hard. That’s the first actual cry I had had in more than eight months.

To his surprise, I thanked him for upsetting me “enough.” I explained how important this was, that he and I had a strong enough connection that his criticism could penetrate my blandness, piercing all the way to the fear and loss beneath the façade. He was gallant and supportive (great young man).

Since then, I’ve been waiting for what I thought would be inevitable crying jags or other bouts of sadness, but nothing. Until yesterday, at the pool.

There I am, swimming laps in the “cold” pool next to the warmer “walking” pool, which was simultaneously having a water aerobics class to music. Usually I ignore the music, meditating and getting into the lap rhythm, glad when I can’t even hear it as my ears go beneath the water at every stroke. I was turning to go back for one last length when the strains of Linda Ronstadt’s cover of the Eagles’ Desperado pierced my meditative trance and got my attention, bringing my momentum to a dead stop, at the wall.

Linda Ronstadt’s Desperado in Atlanta, 1977

I stood up (luckily, this was the shallow end) and realized I was trembling. I listened to the song, transfixed by my reaction. I began to cry, then to sob. I happened to be in a corner of the aqua center that no one was inhabiting at the moment; two other lap swimmers continued, unaware of my sudden catharsis.

I let it happen. I could hardly have stopped it, anyway.

A kaleidoscope of images and concomitant emotions captured my inner eye: a young Linda juxtaposed with her now-Parkinson’s Disease-ridden, no-longer-singing older self; my former California cottages, in locations I sorely missed; my younger self and some of my former loves, particularly the ones this song reminded me of, unrequited (luckily, as it turns out, but heartbreaking, nonetheless); my former spiritual community’s center and its pond, also a place I missed tremendously; my spiritual teacher, whom I missed most of all. People, places, inchoate yearning and losses spun by, each one intensifying my sobs.

The dam had burst.

dam

My shoulders shaking and my face wet, I climbed out and began to make my way to the locker room. I hadn’t realized how much the silencing of Linda Ronstadt’s amazing voice had upset me and I was overcome by the magnitude of my heretofore unexpressed grief for the rest.

I had to stop walking because I couldn’t see through my tears. Leaning on the back of the water slide, hidden by its bulk from the exercisers, sobs took me over again. I felt grateful even amidst this onslaught, knowing this uncontrollable crying was a great sign of healing even as my knees buckled from the pain of my grief and loss. There wasn’t anyone walking by, so I could have my bawl without having to explain or have some well-meaning person try to quell it, erroneously believing that the cessation of my tears would be a better outcome.

I let them flow, heaving and shuddering until they subsided. As my feelings ebbed, I thought of how fortunate I am that mine are the types of injuries I am likely to recover from completely. Many are not so lucky.

I walked on shaky legs into the locker room, hiccuping and smiling. Having a wet face in that part of the locker room is unremarkable; even red eyes can be explained by being in the pool. I smiled murkily at a few fellow showerers and stepped into a stall.

As soon as I turned on the water, more tears came with the spray. “Good,” I thought. “Let ’em come.”

By my suffering and through my relief, may all beings benefit, becoming as healed and happy as possible.

For more information about Traumatic Brain Injuries, my experiences and research, check many other post on my blog: http://www.sallyember.com/blog

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Linda Ronstadt’s Rendition of Desperado Burst my Grief Dam

Some of you know I that in April recently suffered a concussion and broken nose and am still recovering. The injury impacted my frontal lobe and deeper parts of my brain were also affected. One ongoing issue has been that, except for brief, mostly mild occurrences (often apropos of nothing), I have been unable to experience much beyond irritation or fatigue.

Mostly, I feel upbeat, sunnily similar, day after day. I’m not apathetic or depressed, but the variety of emotions I experience has been vastly curtailed, as have their intensity.

If you knew me before this, you’d be shocked by my lack of affect, particularly by my lack of sadness or other reactions to the series of shocking (to my life, system, and existence) events, Lemony Snicket -style, I have endured because of and directly after this accident, including a forced cross-country move in August.

About a week ago, during a discussion that became more of an argument with my son (a more frequent occurrence, he believes, since my fall), I heard him say how “different” I am, now, and I cried. Hard. That’s the first actual cry I had had in more than eight months.

To his surprise, I thanked him for upsetting me “enough.” I explained how important this was, that he and I had a strong enough connection that his criticism could penetrate my blandness, piercing all the way to the fear and loss beneath the façade. He was gallant and supportive (great young man).

Since then, I’ve been waiting for what I thought would be inevitable crying jags or other bouts of sadness, but nothing. Until yesterday, at the pool.

There I am, swimming laps in the “cold” pool next to the warmer “walking” pool, which was simultaneously having a water aerobics class to music. Usually I ignore the music, meditating and getting into the lap rhythm, glad when I can’t even hear it as my ears go beneath the water at every stroke. I was turning to go back for one last length when the strains of Linda Ronstadt’s cover of the Eagles’ Desperado pierced my meditative trance and got my attention, bringing my momentum to a dead stop, at the wall.

Linda Ronstadt’s Desperado in Atlanta, 1977

I stood up (luckily, this was the shallow end) and realized I was trembling. I listened to the song, transfixed by my reaction. I began to cry, then to sob. I happened to be in a corner of the aqua center that no one was inhabiting at the moment; two other lap swimmers continued, unaware of my sudden catharsis.

I let it happen. I could hardly have stopped it, anyway.

A kaleidoscope of images and concomitant emotions captured my inner eye: a young Linda juxtaposed with her now-Parkinson’s Disease-ridden, no-longer-singing older self; my former California cottages, in locations I sorely missed; my younger self and some of my former loves, particularly the ones this song reminded me of, unrequited (luckily, as it turns out, but heartbreaking, nonetheless); my former spiritual community’s center and its pond, also a place I missed tremendously; my spiritual teacher, whom I missed most of all. People, places, inchoate yearning and losses spun by, each one intensifying my sobs.

The dam had burst.

dam

My shoulders shaking and my face wet, I climbed out and began to make my way to the locker room. I hadn’t realized how much the silencing of Linda Ronstadt’s amazing voice had upset me and I was overcome by the magnitude of my heretofore unexpressed grief for the rest.

I had to stop walking because I couldn’t see through my tears. Leaning on the back of the water slide, hidden by its bulk from the exercisers, sobs took me over again. I felt grateful even amidst this onslaught, knowing this uncontrollable crying was a great sign of healing even as my knees buckled from the pain of my grief and loss. There wasn’t anyone walking by, so I could have my bawl without having to explain or have some well-meaning person try to quell it, erroneously believing that the cessation of my tears would be a better outcome.

I let them flow, heaving and shuddering until they subsided. As my feelings ebbed, I thought of how fortunate I am that mine are the types of injuries I am likely to recover from completely. Many are not so lucky.

I walked on shaky legs into the locker room, hiccuping and smiling. Having a wet face in that part of the locker room is unremarkable; even red eyes can be explained by being in the pool. I smiled murkily at a few fellow showerers and stepped into a stall.

As soon as I turned on the water, more tears came with the spray. “Good,” I thought. “Let ’em come.”

By my suffering and through my relief, may all beings benefit, becoming as healed and happy as possible.

For more information about Traumatic Brain Injuries, my experiences and research, check many other post on my blog: http://www.sallyember.com/blog

Non-Reciprocity Leads to Less Selfishness

Lost the “love of my life” because he didn’t love me reciprocally. Memory, hearing, home, community, intimacy, mobility, health, financial independence, friends, family, jobs: gone in the last several years; some won’t return. Maintaining meditation practice and being less self-centered are key.

broken heart

Another Friend’s Death: Mortality in Daily Life

We #Buddhists contemplate, study, meditate on and live with #impermanence more than non-Buddhists, for the most part. We do not, therefore, feel as much surprise, shock, dismay, or indignation when relationships end, jobs evaporate, housing changes, animals and people die: that is the nature of impermanence, which we all live with every day. Mortality in daily life is commonplace.

However, that doesn’t mean we do not mourn. We feel sad, we grieve, we suffer personal or professional losses, same as anyone. We’re just not surprised. We don’t ask “why me?” or “why her?”

I lost another long-time friend, Cynthia Toth, a former housemate who is a Buddhist vajra sister this week. I say “another” because she is not the first and she will not be the last. But, she is my age. Somehow, when someone dies who is a peer, it feels “closer to home” in every way. Also, we had lived together in a Buddhist community household for almost a year, which literally brings this loss closer to my own home.

Cyn had been suffering from the aftereffects of ovarian cancer for several years and it actually surprised me that she lived as long as she did. Most with that diagnosis do not survive that long nor live as well as she did for the years they do have left. I admire Cynthia’s courage, applaud her support network and health care providers, and am glad she had that “extra” time because I know she used it well, in service and kindness to others.

This post is not an obituary for her (I am not qualified nor moved to write one), nor even an homage. More, I want to recognize our commonality: everyone dies. One way or another, “early” or after a long life, we all leave our physical bodies.

I have come close to death many times, due to accidents, illness and surgeries. At some point, that closeness will veer over the line into actuality and I, too, will die. Since I am almost 60, no one can say that I would have died “young,” regardless of when I die from now on. But, the older one gets, the “younger” every decade seems or sounds.

When we’re teenagers, being in one’s twenties seems “old” and anyone over forty seems “elderly.” Once in our twenties, we revise that to include people in their forties seeming “middle-aged” and those over sixty seeming “elderly.”

Now, sometimes people in their eighties don’t seem so old to me; dying in one’s nineties can seem “too soon” in some cases. When is anyone “ready” to die if they’re not in pain, not suffering, not alone? Even those who do suffer hang on, as if death were a consequence to be avoided.

The language we use to talk about one’s journey to death is so inappropriate, from my perspective: people talk about the dead person having “lost the battle” when death comes from cancer or other illness; many say a person has been “robbed” or had a life that has been “cut short” when the person was murdered or died from an accident. Even when someone dies of “old age” many talk about how we “lost them too soon,” as if remaining alive well into one’s 90s means we’re “found.” People talk about “cheating death,” “escaping death,” and mortality rates.

My favorite is the epidemiologist who tells us that the incidence of death has increased or decreased due to lifestyle or medicinal interventions or changes, ignoring the fact that everyone dies, which makes the incidence of death 100%, for everyone.

I am not hard-hearted: I cried when I learned of Cynthia’s death….and Russell’s and Jaye’s and Joan’s and Mary’s and Bob’s and Susan’s and Martha’s and Rinpoche’s and my father’s and my grandparents’ and Marcia’s and and and and so many others. I miss them. I wish some of them hadn’t died “so soon,” but I know some of them were suffering, which made their deaths a relief.

I cry, but I am not shocked or surprised. I celebrate their lives and am glad to have known them.

Thank you, Cynthia, for being in my life for a few years and all the ways you were of benefit to so many. I wish you well in your journey to your next incarnation. Maybe we’ll get together again some time.

Thanks, Candace Palmo, for posting this photo of Cynthia from your travels last year. Cynthia is on the left.

Cynthia and Candy 2012