December reflections

On December 6, my doctor told me to go home and not use my brain for at least 2 weeks. No reading, no writing, no driving, and–especially–no screens.

“Just rest,” she said.

“But what am I supposed to do all day?” I asked. She suggested walks in nature, meditation, long baths, relaxing music. I felt a little panicky. I remembered my son, age 3, telling me that his imagination was his best toy because he could never lose it or break it. I realized I’d broken my best toy, one I’ve always taken for granted.

That night, I slept for 10 hours. A few hours after waking from that sleep, I took a 3-hour nap. The doctor had told me that my brain needed rest to mend itself, and when I woke from that nap I made a decision to surrender to its need.

A multitude of lessons, realizations, and gifts have come with necessary stillness during what are usually the busiest weeks of this busy season. I hope I will remember them when I am able to really write again. Normally, I would capture them, process them, interrogate them, and share them through words, but words have been mostly off-limits. I began capturing images with my phone camera, hoping they will help me remember as much as words have always done.

I’m sharing them here, without commentary. Make of them what you will, make of them something that is meaningful to you. I have been learning how true it is that, often, less truly is more.

I know it’s a common practice to choose a word for the year at the beginning of it, as a way of setting intentions. Reflection has always more useful to me than resolution, so I have been looking backward rather than forward, thinking about what might be a fitting word for the year 2023. I’ve landed upon breaking. This, of course, includes breaking down or apart or up, but also: breaking in, breaking out, breaking open. So much breaking open in the past 12 months.

Please keep me company in this quiet space by telling me what word you’d choose as your 2023 word of the year. (It may take me a bit to respond. I’m still on limited screen-time rations. But I really would love to hear from you.)

A little PSA on head injuries

When I fell while skating, my most immediate concern was the hit I took to my head. I went to an urgent care clinic to have it checked out, but the people I saw there were more concerned about my wrist. I didn’t have any of the obvious symptoms of a concussion or other head injury (no loss of consciousness, no vomiting, no confusion), but my wrist was a little broken and required a cast.

The large lump on my head that emerged soon after the fall dissipated within a day. Although a very tender spot remained, my head seemed to be mostly a non-issue. I carried on with my life as normal, working as a substitute teacher a few days, traveling to visit my parents over the Thanksgiving holiday, writing posts here, reading, etc.

About 12 days out from the fall, however, I realized I was struggling. I kept having persistent, low-grade headaches that weren’t migraines. I was exhausted, even on days when I didn’t do much. And the sore spot on my skull wasn’t getting any better. I contacted my doctor’s office–just to be sure there wasn’t something I should be doing or having checked out–and was told I likely have post-concussive syndrome. As it turns out, it’s possible to have a concussion but symptoms that don’t appear immediately. I never knew concussion could work this way or that there is such a thing as post-concussive syndrome. Thought this might be useful information to share.

The treatment is rest and no screens and no reading. I spent all of this week following those orders. I’m happy to report that I can see progress. Headaches are gone, and my tolerance for screens is improving.

This whole experience has been an education in several ways. I can’t write about it now, but soon. I hope. One lesson is that plans are really just hopes. You never know when or how they might be upended. Take care of yourselves.