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.
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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