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.

Published in: on June 3, 2007 at 9:15 pm  Comments (2)  


Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. The most remarkable thing about a concussion is that you think you can still think.
  2. You believe that what you’re saying and doing make sense to others as well as to yourself.
  3. You tend to ignore te (there’s one of them) the basic re-occuring malfunctions of your living, such as typing errors and thenn tendency to drag one foot and knowing that your brething is fine but ramaining confinced tht suffocation is just a (missing) breath away.  O, becomming a spokes person for Fox News also fits in here, as does arguing with my good friend, George.
  4. I’ve also learned how many of you all have experienced concussions of your own and how, by sharinfg this with me, you’ve helped to normalize the madness.
  5. 100_18182.jpg
  6. “5” is what I look like now.  (Now, I think I’m smiling in this picture.  At least compared to the other two in the series which I rejected because I wasn’t smiling and didn’t want you to think somehow all this wasn’t cause for amsement if not joy.)

7.  I understood “6” and think that everyone else will too.

8. Finally, I’ve learned that we’re all better off ignoring the blogpost immediately before this one, the one called SOMETIMES IT JUST HITS YOU IN THE HEAD! 

9. Really finally, I want t thank all of you who’ve been in touch, sent music!, and put your positive thoughts and entergies into the world for my benefit.

I’ll see you on the road!

Published in: on May 17, 2007 at 2:16 pm  Comments (1)  


Back on Saturday, May 5th, I suffered a concussion (among other things) while riding laps in Central Park. The other things are painful, but not worrisome. Neither is the concussion, but it is interesting, because I’ve lost what I’d come to think of as my secure hold on reality. It’s now been 9 days of concussiveness and all connection to the reality level feels at best tenuous. What’s taken over actually feels not so much good as amusing.  Almost like a Summer Replacement for reality.   First, for instance, I found myself watching Fox News. The lead story tonight was about a truck catching fire on the George Washington Bridge. Nobody hurt, but if commuting is your thing, this kind of stuff can’t be beat.  Certainly more promising than the Fox headlines on the internet: Two Banned Pro-Reform Iranian Papers Publish AgainInformation is temporarily unavailable.javascript:void(0)Carjacker Beats 91-Year-Old Man as Bystanders Look OnInformation is temporarily unavailable.javascript:void(0)7 States Ask MySpace.com For Names of Sex Offendersand compelling for those of us who’ve ridden our bikes across the bridge and like seeing the bike path. On top of that the newscasters were pleasant looking and friendly and seemed like they didn’t want anything to spoil our evenings.Then there was my correspondence with a friend who felt compelled to send me his response to my response to his sending me what I thought was the gentle, respectful brilliance of my response to ” The 7 great lies of religion” woven right into my responses. His are in the swiggly type–the name of which I can’t come up with at this moment–just like yesterday I couldn’t remember how many days are usually in a year


>>>>>Thanks for your communication. I hope you don’t feel I’m suddenly buying >>>>>no one asked you to buy into anything – this is merely sent as an interesting approach to

>>>>>what I consider the fraud ulent practices of organized religion.

>>>>>in to The Seven Great Lies of Organized Religion with the latest blog postings when what I’m

 >>>>>actually focused on are the truths of what are called “pre-religion,” >>>>>those realities of life and the universe which do not depend on any human or cultural

 >>>>>interpretation or implementation  >>>>>in order to be stated they are automatically subject to human or culteural interpretation

>>>>>for their validity. I’d hoped that by showing the similarities among such diverse bodies of thought

>>>>>as Kabbalah, Buddhism and the words of Jesus that I was illustrating that point.

>>>>>As for Lie #1: ‘If you live a moral life, deny yourself pleasure, follow the prescribed rituals and

>>>>>give us enough money, you’ll have a decent shot at being accepted by God,’ I’d hoped that you’d >>>>>recognize that I’ve never bought into this. Yes, it is true that I believe that living a “moral life” is

>>>>>advisable, as it is an ultimately normal life in harmony with the lives of all other living things. My

 >>>>>reference here is to the “morality” of the Tao Te Ching or the “suggestions” of the Buddhist


>>>>>For me the harmony of all they describe represents the one real source of enduring pleasure–hardly

>>>>>a denial of pleasure. And Jesus said it best, using the words,

.>>>>>….”Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

>>>>>appears in the old Testament in several books and writings

>>>>>Following prescribed rules (here I like the 10 Commandments) and giving money to organizations

 >>>>>(e.g., Goddard Riverside Community Center), while they may prove helpful in some cases, aren’t

>>>>>something I’ve advocated for others.

 >>>>>I hope this letter has brought about the clarity which I failed to convey in other writings.

>>>>>No, on the contary it is just as confusing. The idea here is that he finds my writing confusing and I can’t figure out why.   I’m the one with the concussion.  If anyone should be unable to figure it out, it should be me.  Of course I also can’t remember anything about the accident. As far as I’m concerned I was riding laps in Central Park, thinking that I’d have to take it easy at the southern end because it was so crowded. Next thing I knew I was sitting next to Bobbie in the emergency room of NY Presbyterian Hospital not even concerned with how either of us got there. For that matter I still don’t know how we got there, but it seemed then and seems now like the right place.

And it’s not like the rest of my life is busy making sense either. Suddenly I, who have never had children, I am the grandfather of twin boys named Christopher and Benjamin and I’m madly in love with them. This weekend past I rode around Connecticut in search of them in a rented Cadillac which pumped heat into my seat and whose gas tank refused to be entered. Oh, yeah, and when I finally left the hospital they gave me instructions for two medications I didn’t receive as well as detailed instructions for dealing with the surgical wound I never received.And the novel I’m reading, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, centers on a guy with great musical talent and love of life whose own life seems to hinge overwhelmingly on the size of his pina (which is just what you think it is.)So what’s real? What’s not? Does it matter? Who cares? What I care about and want to share with you at this particular moment is that concussions and the thoughts they produce–once you stop worrying about the accuracy of them and about whether you’ll ever have a functional brain again–feel GOOD! It doesn’t matter whether you know how many days there are in an average year or the name of the company that makes the really comfortable women’s bike seats or who you went with to the senior prom or even what you really really like to spread on your toast. It’s just fine to forget these things or to show up at the wrong doctor’s office or to have your home address written down somewhere inside your wallet or that your fingers have a thing about typing L’s and T’s where they don’t belong.Anyhow I’ve now been out of work for more than a week–something else which doesn’t make sense to me–and using the time to sit in hot tubs, read The Mambo Kings… and bitch about not being able to get comfortable enough to sleep. Somewhere in my past there was more to life, but right now this seems sufficient.Write me back something I can try to respond to. It’ll give us both a laugh.

Published in: on May 14, 2007 at 7:29 pm  Comments (3)