Friday, May 24, 2013

The Folklife-n-Death Festival

I made the very difficult decision to back out of my Folklife performance.  For those of you who don't know, Folklife is THE MAJOR folk festival in the region, taking place in Seattle this weekend.

They'd told me the competition had been fierce, but in the end, they were excited to offer me a spot.  And I was excited too. And then, nothing got better as fast as I wanted it to. And a few weeks ago, I finally had to make the call.

Coyote's fortune
The trip was all my worst nightmares in one:  Memory, driving/flying, crowds.  I couldn't even read the stories I was supposed to have memorized.  I don't want to stand up in front of a crowded room of strangers.  I don't want to try to remember 5 stories (I had just attempted to read a novel and had to quit half way through because I still had no idea who any of the characters were nor the plot line.  Every page I turned erased from my mind every thing that had been on the previous page.  It's nice to live in the moment, but that is ridiculous.)  I can't ride in a car for more than 30 minutes without getting sick, 15 minutes if I'm driving.  And I can't do crowds, at all.  So, here it is, a competitive slot and I can't do it.  Even more horrible, I didn't even want to.

Pursue your dreams! Chase after them! DO THE WORK! Whatever it takes! Reach for the stars! Believe in the impossible!

Me? I quit.

Coyote's drop kick
Maybe this is temporary.  I'll be back, right?  How could I not?  I love storytelling.  I'm passionate about it.  I even have a venue/sponsor now for my one-woman-show... that I can't do.  But it will wait.  It will all wait.  And as it all waits, I feel nervous.  But also this odd, unreasonable certainty, that when I am ready again, the opportunities will be there.  The world is full of them, right?  But maybe not.  Maybe there are some opportunities that are once in a lifetime.  But what scares me more is this: maybe I won't want to do any of that ever again.

Tiki god's garden
Head injuries, they say, can change people, personalities, talents, passions.  It's all subject to trade in.  And I feel like I'm dying.  I feel like I've watched myself die.  Of course, gloriously, my children still have their mother (somewhat) and I still get to watch them grow.  But I've lost much of myself, of my passions, my dreams.  One of my four therapists is working with me on, among other things, grief counseling.  I thought I might be being melodramatic, but apparently this is a common therapy prescribed to those of us with brain injuries.  Everything changes, quickly.  And we weren't necessarily ready or eager to say goodbye to our old lives, our old selves.  I am in bits that we are putting back together so slowly, and like the bike I took apart as a teen, eager to understand it's workings, when I put it back together, some pieces no longer seemed to have a place and other parts needed duct tape.  And that's where that metaphor ends, because that bike was never ride-able again.

So the experts say I will never be the same again.  Thanks to the natural flow of life, that was going to happen anyway.  But these changes were fast.  I've complained about my boring life, rotting in the backwaters, but in another way, I am truly in the flow, the rapids.  Life is change and I am here, tumbling through the thick of it.  My head IS chaos and tumult.  My veins carry the change and flow.  And I am more alive and awake to it then ever.

This experience has provided a rich environment for exploring all of the fun philosophical games about what makes up consciousness, soul, body, how intertwined? How separate?  Bodies as cases for souls?  But when the physical brain is damaged, it changes the person "within."  Bodies are souls?  No souls, but only bodies?  I lack both stamina and clarity to do much more than wonder, but it's a curious space in which I fidget with these ancient ideas.

It seems that I could have worked hard, I could have done Folklife, against the advise of my therapists.  But what would it have cost me?  Months of healing work, hard work, disciplined work, $2000 in therapy spent only on attending that event.  And then at least a month to recover.  It's obvious in my life now: people and activities are either contributing to my healing or sucking energy away from it.  My energy is so incredibly limited that I have to make careful and clear choices.  It seems that's the way it is all the time, perhaps.  Each one of us are always making decisions and each time we include things/folks/food/activies in our lives that detract from our healing, we crowd out those things that will make and keep us healthy.

I think of the woman who made "Super Better" (see minute 7 of this TED video) doing her (other)
 TED talk just 5-6 months after her brain injury.  She did it, shouldn't I be able to as well? But each TBI is different and each person progresses at their own rate.  It is true for the TBI and it is true for life as well.  Life unfolds for me at it's own pace.  I may be impatient and frustrated but this is my own particular life and path.  And comparison is futile, both in TBI's and in lives.  It seems to me now that "life, the universe and everything" is very personal and intimate and demands nothing but that I stand in the center as the petals unfurl in their own perfect timing, a blossom just for me and my purpose is to enjoy it's unfolding.  How perfect is it all!

Chasing the Ball
How un-American!  How unambitious!  I am a traitor!

It's difficult to make these decisions knowing you can't think clearly.  So I abandoned thought, and felt, purely felt.  And I felt sick every time I thought of going.  And I felt peace every time I thought of not going.  And there's a time to overcome fear, but this was not it.  And so I let it go.  I let it go.  I guess, if it comes back to me, it was mine... and all that.

I'd be lying if I said there was no fear.  Stories, storytelling, all the narrative arts have been the organizing principle of my life.  They'd provided goals short and long.  They've defined me.  And I don't know if it's leaving me forever or not.

Starry flowers made from star parts
I have broken down in to bits.  I am disintegrated and I am afraid.  But also, curious.  What comes next?  I went supernova and my essential parts are now floating around the star nursery.  What comes next?  It has no name, but we know it.  I am betting, heavily, on the fact that recycling is the Law of the Universe, not just the Saturday morning activities of some OCD goody-two-shoes environmentalists (I include myself there too).  We know that whatever I become next, it will be filled with light.  We know it will not be able to resist pouring that light into the universe.  We know it will be a light that will birth a billion blades of Emerson's grass.  And that's all we know, the rest is in darkness, yet.


  1. I enjoy reading your blog and seeing how you are negotiating your circumstances but I have found that the white on black makes me so dizzy to read and is so hard on my eyes that I usually have to come back to each post a few times to get through them. Do you know how I can read them through a feed?

  2. Thanks for enjoying! Theoretically the white on black is supposed to be easier, but that's theory for you. I'm sorry to hear it's causing dizziness and I definitely know what that's like. If you are reading on a phone, you can click on the Reader function (a green R should appear in the address box and you just click on that.) You could also copy and paste into a Word document. I don't know anything about a feed and now wouldn't be functional time to try to learn, and I'm a techno-phobe anyway, but I'll keep it in mind as I go forward. I have fumbled around with fonts and letter sizes here, but the options are limited to GIANT, small and microscopic. I will take this in to consideration and when I'm up for it, I may play around some more with the layout. Thanks again for your useful feed back! And sorry to hear it's causing troubles.



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