Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How old are you now? How old are you now? I am 49 years old. I am 49 years old. I am 49 years old. I am 49 years old.

Sung to the tune of Happy Birthday to You.

Last night Sachi and I went to the Moth story telling at The Bitter End on Bleeker Street. It was kind of surreal. We both got picked to tell stories. I was picked 2nd and Sachi 7th or 8th. I had not memorized my story so I am not sure how it sounded but I tried to think of the parts in categories in a sequence each section with three points to make. It worked out pretty well, I think. The part that got the most laughs was the part I ad-libbed. Weird. I was proud of my memory. And Sachi said it was good. The worst part was that while I was talking, I was so nervous that my mouth got so dry that it was distracting. My lips felt caught on my teeth and it felt like I had to talk with glue all over my tongue.

But I did it. And people liked my story. And they seemed happy for me.

Even better was Sachi's story. I think I was more nervous for her than I was for me. She had told me her story the night before and it was great. I am not sure why I felt nervous for her. She was AMAZING! It was BANANAS! First of all, she is so totally poised, confident, and put together. I am sure this does not come as any surprise to those who know her, but it was like I was seeing her objectively compared to all the other speakers. I am so proud of the young woman she is. She has integrity! She came in second! And, I did not come in last, not even second to last. Yippee!

My birthday was wonderful! My mom came by with two yummy desserts early in the day. Blueberry tart and passion fruit pannecotta. Brian and I ate them for dessert (not really dessert for me since dinner was a handful of almonds on the bus). I got birthday emails from my daughter and her boyfriend and my friend R. Very thoughtful and quite amusing, I must say. Sachi's was hilarious. My friend J. took me out for lunch so nice, salad Nicoise and 2 desserts, chocolate mousse and bread pudding. Brian came home from work and gave me presents. A protection necklace and two drawing books I have wanted. And best present of all, his forgiveness. (I won't go into detail but Friday night I had a bad brain injury moment, BBIM of the millennium!) Then my sis came by with adorable, very thoughtful gifts: a gorgeous wrap bracelet with pretty stones (not sure what kind, but my favorite color gray) and teeny, tiny skulls, a cool t-shirt with these graphic skulls that reminded me of Mexican Day of the Dead maybe, and these super cool tiny antiquey scissors. Not really scissors but I can't remember what she called them. My friend K.P. from college called me from Michigan where she is a doctor just to wish me Happy Birthday. Then one of my former students gave me a giant cupcake. I mean GIANT! I will probably bring it to the women's brain injury support group.

I fell asleep early in a blissful, sugar coma and woke up too early so I decided to finish my post. I definitely have to go to the gym today. It might have been one of the best birthdays I have ever had!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Birthday to me!

Yesterday, when I woke up my husband said, Happy Anniversary. I had forgotten. But, yes, 9 years ago we were married in a church in Harlem next to the Alexander Hamilton House. This morning when I woke up he asked me, What do you want for your birt'day? (Oh, just a husband with an adorable brogue.) No, that's not what I said. I said that I want to be surprised. Well, that did not go over so well. Groan, mumble, argh.

Every year I wind up feeling a little out out that people find it so hard to just buy or even make me something I will love that will surprise me. I have so many varied interests and a wacky but identifiable sense of style. How hard could it be? I take pride in being a good gift giver. When I see something I know someone will love, I buy it. These last couple of years that has not proven to be the best strategy since I forget that I bought them something or where I put it.

My birthday always seems to bring out this little, if I can do it, why can't they? sentiment. So, this morning, when he said, "Fine, I'll just get you jewelry," my internal pout signal went off. Then I brightened and asked if it would be a new engagement ring. (Yes, amongst the many TBI related things I lost this year -my mind, my job, my sense of self, 14 pounds - I also lost my engagement ring.) He is sure it will turn up. He kissed me goodbye and told me he loved me and left for work.

As I sat on the couch reading my blogs, the little loop started to play in my head. Why doesn't anyone put as much effort into... AND THEN... I stopped.

I suddenly realized that the best thing I could give the people I love was understanding and appreciation. They would probably prefer that to any of the "thoughtful" presents I come up with. I may be a good gift giver but there is plenty that I am not so good at and even more that I actually kind of suck at. But, I have people who love me anyway. The best present I can give my family and myself this year is acceptance. They love me, TBI and all. They have given me patience, support, forgiveness, and second chances. I think they just want me to be happy.

So here is my birthday wish list. I want more years together so that I can be here for you as much as you have been here for me. Next Tuesday I start the 50th year of my life. I have the best husband, best daughter, best adorable boyfriend of my daughter, and best mommy in the world. Could there really be anything better than that? No! That is pretty great. Maybe, something tasty from the Cupcake Cafe would nice... but that would just be icing on the cake.

Friday, September 16, 2011

There is stuff I have to do. I am coming to terms with that. Being on disability so far has been about getting used to uncertainty. I can't say I am there yet but I am working on it. Leaving my job felt like I was losing my identity. Who am I if not a teacher? My TBI doc and super specialist on the subject, like well-known in the field and all, gave me some great words of wisdom this summer. I am working so hard to let go of the anger. I still have nightmares about the Witches of Westwick. I was telling Dr. S. how one person really could have made a difference and really helped me and she didn't.

He said, "The way you had to leave sucked. It was not nice and could have been handled differently. Leaving that place, on the other hand was the best thing for you. It was not good for you to be there. Anyone who tried to help you stay was not doing you any favors."

It is time to move on. What am I going to do? Well, for now I am remaining open to possibility. B. and I may move out of the country in a couple of years. We are definitely working on selling our apartment. I am exercising and have lost 14 pounds. I am doing my artwork. I am working very hard at my cognitive therapy so I can do more outside my apartment. I am taking an online class towards my degree. This is the hardest part. It is also the part about which I am the least certain. What if I can never teach again? Dr. S. does not think I can. Why am I working on my Master's degree then? It seems kind of pointless, but I do not want to close the door or give up. I am so stubborn. I guess I need an outsider to ask me what I am doing. Am I kidding myself? I sure did about teaching for four years.

I really wish people understood how incredibly deep inside my brain my surgery was. It was not on the surface. It was way down in my brain stem and pons and cerebellum. They cut off my ear and sawed a big piece if my skull off. They went in there past the temporal lobe and looked around. They could not even find it at first. Imagine if a peach was my brain. They cut off the skin, went past the flesh, and then started probing the pit. I know a lot of other people have brain surgery. Certainly at work there were three other people in the community that I knew of. Did they have cognitive changes? Not that anyone noticed. Did they need six months to recover? No way, one of them went to a public event a week after surgery. Did they lose their jobs and most of their friends? I don't know because I am not friends with anyone from there anymore but they hadn't last I knew.

This is what I need to let go of! Nobody, nobody, nobody, I worked with will ever understand! And I have to stop caring. It does not matter anymore. I am free and I am resting and I am feeling more at peace than I have in a very long time. The only people that matter to me DO understand or at least they are trying. I do not have anything to prove to anyone.

So I am working on using my time more wisely these days. I scheduled a big clean up yesterday and then I stopped and made art. Willfully and deliberately. I hate schedules! I need some discipline though or nothing will get done. Mental rigidity! That is what I am working on right now.

"Oh, you TBI!" (shakes fist in air)

Monday, September 5, 2011

It's Two O'Clock In the Morning

and every sane person is asleep. Not, this guy. Something is keeping me up. I have not been exercising or sticking to my diet so I feel bad. I was doing so well.

Still, good stuff has been happening... until I posted my biography on the online discussion board for my Creativity class. Everyone else did a power point presentation. With like seven pages. Just exactly the way the professor modeled it for us. I thought that was just for the professor. So, I did a one page cartoon with mini captions about myself. Everyone commented on everyone else's bio except for mine. Only the prof commented and he said, "I admire your courage."

What courage? This is just my life. Does it take courage to live? I guess so but what is the alternative? I mean, I guess if I had done my own brain surgery like Tom Hanks did his own tooth extraction in Castaway, that might have taken courage. I just succumbed to the anesthesia and was operated on. Was sticking to a job I could not do in a place where I was not wanted a sign of courage? No, it was an act based on denial and fear. I believed I could still do it and I was afraid of life without it. Is taking the class a sign of courage? No, I just am not sure what I am doing anymore and since I am still officially enrolled in the Master's program, I am taking a class. Was posting a weird bio even after noticing everyone else was doing PowerPoint presentations a sign of courage? No, I thought it was creative and I thought that was the point of the class. Even in an online class where I do not have to see people face-to-face, I have managed to alienate myself. Almost everyone else is working toward a PhD. It may be very different from what I was expecting. It makes me sad I did not take this course with my classmates this summer. Two people said they missed me, but nobody called or wrote.

Welcome to my Pity Party. I think I need to examine my thinking for cognitive distortions. This type of self-deprecation isn't no good for me. I do not want to be like the guy on the subway today. I asked him if he could move over a little so I could sit down. He looked at the space to his side and said, "You can sit if you want to but I ain't moving nowhere for nobody." No, that's not me. I am moving forward for all the people who love me and for myself. That does not take courage. It takes hard work and appreciation for all that I have. And anyone who thinks otherwise can go suck it.