Friday, September 10, 2010

Second Cranioversary Today

One of the hardest lessons I have learned over the years is how often less is more. This applies, I’ve learned, in writing, in handling disputes, in managing, and even in my slap-dash approach to cooking. As a fan of flavor (lots of it), it’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I’m willing to try Michael’s more restrained approach to some items. That leads me to the question on this second anniversary of my craniotomy: is less me also more?

While two years ago right now I was having an MRI with the facilitators on my head for the final brain map that was used to guide the coming surgery, this morning I’m getting ready to go teach a new class of 600 students, divided into two pots of 300, plus oversee the platoons of people working on this endeavor. It’s a testament to the medical skill, love and support that’s been the mainstay of our lives these past two years. At every single moment, we knew that our community of friends and family had our backs and was there with us. Our relationships have been enriched and strengthened. We’re more for that.

As for me, I am working, can do most of what I want, and have learned, mostly, to cope with the limitations and deficits of the new me. The ability to read fiction fluently and on demand never has come back; it still flashes glimpses now and then, but it’s a view of foreign territory most of the time. There are holes, pretty big ones, in my memory. My energy levels are much lower than they used to be and I miss being able to do whatever I’d set my mind to. At the same time, I have learned a lot by being the slow tortoise and managing my commitments more strategically. Out in the world--except when I’m going down stairs or in a noisy place--you’d never know about the limits. That they don’t show is a godsend along, I suppose, with the perfect hair for brain surgery. Two years ago today, they were getting ready to shave the alley where the incisions were made in preparation for peeling my scalp. That is as odd as it sounds.

I spend vastly more time not out in the world than in it; so long as I circumscribe my outings, I can make them. When I travel, I have to budget my energies differently--but look at the beginning of that sentence: “when I travel.” I can and do travel, and I can and do work. Those are gifts and I don’t take them for granted. Sure, there are things I’d like to do that aren’t possible anymore. At the same time, there are many, many more things that I can do.

Most of all, as from the very beginning, it’s all about the people. The people who helped us with navigating the thickets of the medical problem, the people who sat with Kearney and Michael, physically and virtually, during surgery, the people who brought food, the person who left a single stalk of a gladiola on our front porch the day after we’d learned there was a tumor the size of a baseball in my head, the people who were there through a long journey back to reality. The friend who sent songs, with the message that the best way to express love was to be unafraid of embarrassment. The friend who coined the term cranioversary for these days. Really, all the love that came our way, in so many forms, each of which we recognized, embraced and caused us joy. Coming back atcha today.

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