I've had some health issues again this week that have got me sidetracked, more mentally than anything else.
On Sunday evening, I had the strangest experience. For about fifteen minutes, I lost my ability to speak in full sentences, my ability to see out of one eye, and then the feeling on the same side of my face and arm. It was incredibly scary. The feeling passed and I was ok (I'm still ok) but it scared the crap out of me.
If you know me, you know I hate going to the doctor, so I went home and hoped I'd feel normal in the morning. And I did, only, I was really worried and scared, and I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong with me. I put off going to the doctor until Tuesday morning and went to my family doctor, who scared the bejeezus out of me by telling me I'd had a stroke. A mini-stroke. He didn't want to alarm me, he said, but it is very serious. He said if anything, anything like that ever happens again, it's immediate ER. That's not something you go home and go to sleep with, apparently (who knew?? ok I did...).
I got set up with a neurologist appointment, and MRI, and some blood work. Today, I had my neurologist appointment, and she actually was quite reassuring to me and took my freak-out mode from 9 to about a 2. She thinks it wasn't a mini-stroke and cleared me to return to normal activity. Her best guess is severe migraine headaches (my super power is a tolerance for pain, so this makes sense that I'd have ignored that), but I'm scheduled in for a bunch more tests and scans to check out my brain to rule out the TIA stroke and brain aneurysms, which run in my family. Fun. Guess what I'll be doing this summer?!?!
So, because of this brush with mortality, the idea of being vulnerable comes to my mind again. Today as I was at work, I thought to myself, what if I died? Would I be happy with how my life's played out? Would I have any regrets? What would I be most proud of? Most ashamed of? Time is precious, and this is a reminder to make time for what really matters. To write poetry that matters. To teach like it matters because damn it, it does.
I think Hell for me would be a life without words. I can't imagine that life. Words are how I find meaning, they're my resonant source of power, my strength. What if I didn't have that anymore? What a gift it is to have them, still, today.
I'm thinking about a lot of different things today, trying to make sense of this experience and put it into words. Words.
As a child, I feared him –
The heavy clanking of his walker,
His heavy breathing, his heaving,
The way he carried himself across the living room,
A globe filled with frailty on his back,
The way his eyes narrowed on me,
Hinted that he saw me, really saw me,
his mouth, an open lacuna,
that only silence and spittle stumbled from,
no words, no, never any words.
This was my uncle, a man who once
Ran marathons, delivered babies
Into this great wide world, laughed
A vivacious laugh, played guitar, sang
With my father around a campfire,
Could make the most delicious s’mores
Before he’d had a stroke.
And today I fear him still
Even though he’s miles away,
Tucked safe in some nursing home.
He’s what I fear more than anything
Else in this great wide world.
I sit in the doctor’s office,
Cold and looking for something
To do with my fumbling hands
As the doctor’s worried eyes
Settle on my face, as he delivers
The news – a mini-stroke,
A warning stroke. Does it run
In your family? My body goes limp,
A heavy stone, the weight of mortality
Heavy on my back. I’m not even thirty
Fucking years old. I run marathons.
I’m a vegetarian. I laugh. I sing,
recite poems, create worlds
with words, but now I imagine them,
Piles and piles of words,
every one I’ve ever written or spoken,
One by one, dripping like honey
back into my mouth, an open lacuna
swallowing everything past my lips,
over my limp tongue, down my throat
and into the fire of my belly in silence.