Friday, December 25, 2009

Uh, Poof!

Uh, pooof

Your letter:

I don't know if I already answered your letter or not. It seems to be something I would carry around in (the damaged, but still useful part of) my brain for a while, but ... well, maybe I think I answered it, because I did think about it for a while.

Or, maybe I answered one like it, or eight, as a matter of fact, but it was not so haunting as yours about the book proposal. A lot of people have said that, made me think about it, anyway, but I’m no expert, I say. And then…

Now, I don't know any more, which turns out to be as good a thing as it is bad (Would make me a valuable member of a debating team.) but that may help somebody who feels stupid because he doesn’t know. “Look, Gladys, Ed Lowe, here, had a stroke, and it says that he didn’t know what to make of it, either.”

I have thought, too, about adding my paragraphs to the stroke literature, only because I think I was freed, I mean totally liberated, by one paragraph in one of them, which I can see across the room, dammit, and can't remember...oh...stroke...Stroke of Genius. No. Stroke…My Stroke of Insight. That’s it. It’s right over there, it’s just that I’m tired and lazy, and I can say what I want without the book.

The woman, the author, who was on Oprah two years ago (when I could not have seen her, because I was chatting with the angels at the time) and then last year (the paperback tour), where I did see her, because I couldn't do much but watch television and...well, watch television. She was—is—a neuro-something, a brain scientist, who had a rare kind of stroke.
The rare part was that, unlike me, and 99 per cent of the stroke patients, she had the kind of stroke that gives you a front-row seat to your own production, your own show. You watch yourself fall apart. (I passed out, and that was that.).

Once she realized what was going on, she was able to experience the brain’s changes, the losses, as her brain was filling with blood and short circuiting language, color, memory, perception, the very borders that distinguish her from the furniture, from the air. An expert who actually experienced what she studied, she knew what was happening (to the extent that you know you’re losing half your mind), and she knew what was going to happen. She had to dial while she still knew what the phone was, remember a number while her grip on, “number,” was slipping away. Say, “I’m having a stroke…” while the meaning disappeared before her eyes. It’s really…well, incredible.

I'll get her name in a minute—all I have to do is stop thinking about it. Of course, when I learn that trick, I'll...well, yeah, you'll see…I’ll be, “…more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound…”

Anyway, she really tossed away a line in there that made me feel so--I don't know, stupid, on the one hand, and liberated on the other--that I've been thinking, “Maybe I could do that, too. Maybe I could write 50,000 words of, I don't know, funny, entertaining, nonsense, that accidentally (of course, accidentally, I mean, this is imagining something really happening; it would have to be a freak) had some phrase in it, some little joke, or anecdote that made some reader say, ‘Holy...Holy Frisbee... this is IT. This is...’” you know, the secret he or she has been looking for.

So, yeah, I have thought about that. Of course I have. And, wouldn't I want to be to him or to her the person who had the magic potion the stroke-recovered neuroscientist—Taylor, her name was. Taylor—was to me. Yeah, I would. I’m not ashamed of that.

Do I think it's going to happen? Well, come on. No.

Then again, maybe that’s the old me talking. The new me is freer to fantasize. I’ll think about that, maybe here, while I’m trying to make one finger do what, maybe six, used to do. (This, by the way, is new and self-indulgent, thinking with my fingertips. A guy who wrote today, who suddenly got Multiple Sclerosis, said I should write a bunch of columns and sell it as a book; then he says; “How in the hell do you possibly type out your column each week?” I wrote back, “Slowly. Very slowly.”)

I’m also tempted to say that I think that what happened to me was a simple thing that most people get, sooner or later. I'm just one of those thickheads that have to fall into a deep hole and be rescued from certain death, or be brought back from drowning, or spend three months unconscious with pneumonia, a heroically failed liver and a deadly stroke, before they get it.
And that, because I thought I knew. I thought I was ahead of the pack, because I realized early on that this was a fabulous life. And, it is, but it's far more fabulous than I knew, way more than what I thought, and I thought I had the lock on knowing it was. I had no idea.
The one point that got me—and, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of points—oh, Bingo: Jill Bolte Taylor, Phd., My Stroke of Insight—was this: that the brain recovers from a profound disappointment, a crushing loss, a life-changing betrayal, in, like, two minutes; really, in less than two minutes (I just need the two.).

Think of it. Could it be true? It’s true. War, of all things, tells you; not to mention tidal waves, earthquakes, floods, Pompeii. The crushing blow is delivered, the brain reels, the old blood is replaced by new blood, you say, “Wow,” maybe, if you want, and go on.

Do you how many Irishmen’s lives, alone, would be completely different, if that got around?

Of course, you can hang onto the wound, or disappointment, or betrayal, or the loss, if it makes you feel more justified for thinking whatever you thought of it, but, really, no more than two, say, three, minutes—all right, take five, but not in combat—and you can move on. “All right, what’s next. Lay it on me.”

Do you know what that meant to me? I’d been hanging onto some things as long as 40 years.

Uh, poof.

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