For the first time in many days, I am alone, sitting in my dining room, which has no table. My stepsons were here for a few days, fulfilling my birthday gift request: that the entire family be together for the first time since Thanksgiving.
The cicadas are singing along to “Dog Days Are Over.” They shed their nymph shells a few weeks ago, leaving brown exoskeletons scattered over my yard – paper-thin and perfectly detailed duplicates of the cicada’s body pre-emergence.
This has been a summer of change for me, and like a cicada nymph, I’ve emerged from an exoskeletal shell and am learning to use the wings I’ve grown in all the summer’s transitions.
I wrote a blog a few months ago about how a friend told me back in March that until I learned to live within the space of my new life with the same strength and determination with which I lost weight, I would be forever grasping for and holding on to bogus and temporary securities. He said I had to let the loneliness maul me, to feel it to my core and to not run away. In time, he said, it wouldn’t hurt as much and I would be stronger.
I took that challenge and allowed the loneliness to wash over me. I was in the middle of the mauling when my brother Marty had his seizure at the end of June. When he was released from the hospital a few weeks later, I went to Minneapolis to help in whatever way I could. I cried when I was dropped off at the Pittsburgh airport July 18. I cried for my brother and I cried for me. I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to go. I was afraid. I had no idea what to expect or if I was up to what waited for me there.
I worked on shedding that fear on the plane while drinking a first-class glass of wine (Literally, it was the wine they serve first-class passengers, since they’d run out of the cheap stuff they serve coach. And for my “inconvenience,” they gave it to me for free. *smile*) So while sipping said wine, I thought about my strengths: A) I am a mother; B) I used to be the secretary for the senior vice-president of a large general contractor (think airports and sports stadiums, many you’ve probably been to); and C) I’m a practicing Buddhist (I always forget that one). I possess super-human organizational skills and a little more patience than I once had, so whatever was waiting for me in Minneapolis was up against a somewhat powerful force. At least, that’s what I told myself. It and the wine helped.
Long story short, I hit the ground running. The mauling continued, but it loaned me (or “borrowed” me, if you’re from Minnesota) some strength and determination. For facing my fear, I was rewarded with a closer relationship with my brothers. Although I’d prefer the three of us hadn’t gained this closeness because of a brain injury, I’m glad for the trust it has created between us and the trust that I developed in myself. I continue to advocate on behalf of my brother and to keep his schedule from 1,000 miles away, and will go back to Minneapolis in a week. Only this time I won’t cry at the airport.
Some of you might remember that last year I was going to go back to school to become a dietary technician. The divorce, the move and the mauling made that impossible. So, too, did a worsening of the osteoarthritis in my knees, wrists and shoulders. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I don’t blog as much as I used to. The main reason is because 1) sitting for and 2) typing longer than an hour is difficult. Dietary tech classes are mostly online and require several hours a day of writing and computer reading, so I gave up on going to school and, while I was at it, blogging, too.
But feeling sorry for myself is not a favorite pastime and it was making my family nuts. It was hard to accept that I needed help, but it was harder to stay locked in self-sympathy. Hmmm…where had I felt that before? Ah, yes, back in 2004, when I understood that losing weight would be a long and life-changing process, but that it would be even harder to stay 300 pounds. I’d shed my skin then, I could shed it again now.
So in May, I called the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and began working with a woman named Sara, who helped me think through what I wanted to be when I grew up. After evaluating my physical “issues,” she hooked me up with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Institute for Rehabilitation and Research and its Center for Assistive Technology. Last week I met John, a rehabilitation engineer, who took on my “issues” as a challenge to find the most adaptive computer equipment possible. Among other things, he recommended I use this:
Have any of you used speech recognition software before? I’m anxious to give it a try, but I have a feeling it will be like learning a new language. Or maybe it will be like a microwave. Just like, “How did we ever heat up leftovers before the microwave?” maybe in a few months I’ll be wondering how I ever typed without talking.
My friend assured me the mauling would eventually become a scratch and then a gentle touch and in time I’d come out on the other side stronger. In this shedding of my nymph shell, I find myself somewhere between a scratch and a gentle touch, definitely stronger and definitely happier. Sort of like the happiness Florence and the Machine sing about.
Happiness hit her like a train on a track
Coming towards her, stuck still no turning back
She hid around corners and she hid under beds
She killed it with kisses and from it she fled
With every bubble she sank with her drink
And washed it away down the kitchen sink
The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are coming
So you better run