The first concussion of 2021 gave me five gifts, that I know of.
Possibly more, probably-for-sure more. Truly that concussion is the gift that keeps on giving, especially if you are a German speaker and you want (need) to capitalize Gift and receive this word in another form or meaning, Gift in the sense of poison.
Five gifts, poison or antidote, or possible poison-and-antidote together, here ya go, a full combo plate of the wronging and the righting, not sure yet, who can say.
Five gifts, only two of which I was able to appreciate at all at the time; my appreciation is a late-blooming flower, which is to say that it is a flower blooming in exact right timing, its own.
And LATE is a judgment I will not make about flowers, or appreciation, or most things these days.
All timing is right timing, because it is and because it has to be, all the more so in concussion life which is also recovery life, one breath at a time life, aka regular life, just with heightened awareness of [fragility, beauty, our complete and utter lack of control over anything at all].
Things take their time.
Things take their time. They just do. Use what you have.
Before First Concussion (BC), back then in the Then of it all, I was doing a shocking amount of sundulations each morning.
Sundulations is a name I invented for my undulating sort-of sun salutations, abbreviated and flowy, a trance state that doubles as assassin training, but mainly provides a way to entrain my ADHD brain, a way to get in a groove so I can get anything (something?) done in a day.
I put myself through these paces, giving myself an layered experience that is steady, repetitive, grounding, playful and reassuring, and then I am able to function, somewhat, and focus, somewhat. I take what I can get.
My practice of sundulations is a gift (and also ein bestimmtes und besonderes Gift) from the pandemic, though don’t make me find anything to appreciate about the pandemic, I’m not ready for silver linings.
You know what, fuck silver linings, we’ll get there when we get there.
Anyway, SCOOBY DOO FLASHBACK, I was up to 1,111 morning sundulations and headed to close out June with a count of 22,000 sundulations for the month, except…
Except I got into it with an aggressive and possibly haunted dining room chair, and that little tussle (you should see the other guy, no actually I’m sad to report that the chair was unharmed) put me into bed for twelve days.
Twelve days later, and I was able to haul myself through three sundulations, though I was unable to remember why sundulations mattered, or why most things mattered, in fact I am still not entirely convinced regarding these matters of which practices matter, but I knew there was much to be rebuilt and rededicated, strength training included.
Rebuild and rededicate.
It took until October to feel strong and capable in my body again, obviously the second concussion didn’t help much, though Second Recovery was less fraught.
Anyway I closed out October with the glorious and beloved superpowers of Finishing Strong! Brave & Stalwart!
And I am not making predictions about November because if I have learned anything about anything, it is that nothing can be predicted, nor should it.
But if current trends continue, which they might, and assuming I do not get in any fights (knock on hard objects, but let’s not knock on them with my face this time), then November might look like 21,000.
So let’s say it took me half a year of training hard to regain anything like the strength levels of then.
Except there is no back, there is only here, and maybe a here plus intention plus hope regarding what’s next. And there is no better, if I am going to be impressed by 21k then I also need to be impressed by any non-zero number, as well as by rest mode, hibernation mode, chrysalis mode, all the many forms of waiting it out.
Everything is fake and
It’s like Drew Carey’s everything is fake and the points don’t matter, some of you might be too young for that reference, but the point is the practice, and not the numbers, and yet the numbers are also sometimes like a guide rope.
A guide rope? Is that what it’s called? I am flashing on the cave of the Minotaur, and something about Huck Finn, and oh, maybe a Trixie Belden mystery involving spelunking? Okay, now I am googling “what do you call the rope people hold onto in a cave”, that for sure is the wrong turn of phrase but how else do you say this?
Ahahaha maybe this is an additional gift/Gift of concussion brain, I am completely at peace about not knowing what anything is called anymore, I just ask the computer, and if I don’t have signal, or the internet rabbit-holes are unfulfilling, then I use what I have, and describe.
What you reach for when you are in the dark…
What is the rope for?
Here is what I wanted to convey with that image:
I like keeping track of my sundulation numbers, even though the numbers don’t matter, because the tracking is like the rope that will help me find my way through the cave, something I can grasp.
The rope is not the same thing as the solution, it is not the answer or the way through, it is the reminder that I am in the process of moving through, and that this process is safer than it feels.
The rope is for comfort and steadiness and hope. I am not alone, someone put this rope here for me, past me or future me, someone set things up for me with love and care, and I may have forgotten how this and everything else works but I am finding my way at the pace of right now.
Does that make sense? Maybe.
Mariah Carey is right
During first concussion, my brain was on strike, which, to be clear, I approve of, what a baller move, at any time, and it simply would not agree to do most of its usual things.
Like, where is the supermarket I go to at least twice a week? NO IDEA
How do I stand up without holding onto a wall? WHO KNOWS, WHY ARE YOU STANDING UP
What are things called? I DO NOT KNOW AND DO NOT CARE
Why would I (do a thing, any thing, something someone is asking me to do), and why do people want these things from me anyway? WOW, A MYSTERY
What was I like in the era BC (Before Concussion), what did I care about, what was important to me? WHO CARES, I DON’T KNOW HER. Like, full on Mariah Carey levels of I don’t know her.
Writings in the cave
Strangely, the one thing my brain was really good at in this time was remembering words in Arabic and French. I had been attempting to slowly improve my vocabulary in my fourth and fifth languages-to-be using an app, a slow-going and painful process, but also a bit like another rope in another cave, or possibly it’s the same cave, there might only be one cave.
Ahhhh maybe it is the cave I’ve been lost in since early March 2020, or maybe I was always in a cave, who can remember, but a saving grace of 2021 was discovering that giving ten minutes a day to language learning does something good for me, I needed that particular rope and did not know it.
Anyway, in the time Before Concussion, I would routinely get 92% accuracy on my daily vocabulary tests, mainly because (ADHD!) I am impatient and don’t always pay attention, but after my brain went on strike, boom, 100% every day in a row for months. I couldn’t make a mistake.*
I occasionally mix up a word now and then but it’s rare. I can’t remember how to say pretty much anything I want to say in English, but for whatever reason I don’t forget words in Arabic or French. They are vivid and alive to me, and I feel tender towards them, sweet word-seeds in my mind.
Kitab u’tabkh is a cookbook in Arabic, and what a beautiful and perfect name.
Kitab, like the Hebrew word Ktav (writing), and Tabkh like the Hebrew word Tabakh (chef) or Mitbakh (kitchen), this word now exists in my brain like Cook Writings or Kitchen-Scribbles, more poetic and more meaningful than cookbook, a better word. Cookbook has the rhyming going for it, but otherwise wow, kind of boring.
A bonus concussion gift-Gift was the way I got extremely into cookbooks, I like looking at them even more than reading them, a stack of cookbooks, filled with sorcery and potential. What a wonder to feel excitement again.
Hand on heart sigh of thankfulness and relief, I like things again, not many things, but cookbooks, and their Arabic name.
Another gift: the way words in Arabic and French feel right to me in a way that words in my other three languages do not, there is a clarity to the newness. Does that make sense?
Hand on heart sigh of thankfulness and relief for this clarity, any clarity-port in a storm.
I am not sure what gifts the second concussion of 2021 has given me because I am not ready to consider that question yet; there is a time and a place for the naming of gifts, a slow-release sweetness that comes in the form of thankfulness and re-emergence, but that’s not a process that needs to be rushed. It can’t be actually.
I will name the gifts when the time is right.
It will happen, because I am the namer who names, forever inspired by the naming process (Kitchen Scribblings for cookbook, absolute genius), and so I have to trust that I will know when the time is right for that particular naming, not yet, not now.
This steady clarity I have re Not Rushing, in matters of Thankfulness and in all matters, is one of the gifts of First Concussion, and I will take it. Thank you, deep knowing, thank you, thank you.
I am not rushing, and I am not beating myself up about the not-rushing, and this is important.
Right now I am pretty mad about Second Concussion, and so I’m making space for that, this too is part of compassionate Not-Rushing.
Use what you have
Sometimes morning sundulations give me clues, and sometimes they give me a sudden peacefulness, and other times they give me very clear intel, occasionally in the form of instructions but often more like a guiding phrase. A guiding phrase? Less like a mantra and more like that rope you hold onto in the cave.
The other week, they gave me USE WHAT YOU HAVE.
This phrase reverberated, circling, the way we used to ring a singing bowl in the dome, a great echoing.
I didn’t lose my count. I kept flowing. USE WHAT YOU HAVE incorporated itself into the phrasing and pacing of the movement practice, which is based in word-poetry, like everything else I do.
Like this: I am the fierce spell-caster of fierceness and I USE WHAT I HAVE, I am the wildest wildcat and I USE WHAT I HAVE, I remain grounded in my clarity and I USE WHAT I HAVE.
My favorite gift of First Concussion is that it gave me two new Incomings, two selves or aspects of me I had not known about before and possibly never would have gotten to know without having my mind (as I knew it previously) go offline, only to return altered.
Concussion Me, who also goes by their nickname Zero Fucks / Zero Quarter Given, is so much more fun than I ever could have guessed. Concussion Self uses they/them pronouns. What can I say, they are smart, hilarious, extremely refreshing and truly give zero fucks.
Concussion Me excels at saying no.
Concussion Me does not see the point of politeness, niceties, placating, all the “Please Like Me!” things that I do almost unthinkingly as survival strategies; instead they get straight to the point and don’t care if anyone else has opinions about that.
Then my Villanelle Self emerged while binging all of Killing Eve in the first week of bed rest mode. Did I know I have a hot, fun, manic-depressive murderous sociopath side to me? Not sure how I didn’t know that, she is so fun, I don’t know how we ever did Monday Meetings without her.
I convene a Monday Meeting nearly every day, not just on Mondays. The Monday-ness is more of an idea. It’s the meeting that matters.
And this is not a meeting like the boring meaning of meeting that happens in a board room. This is a meeting like an encounter, and who I am meeting is myself. I meet my selves, my Incoming selves, we get to know each other, we talk shit out.
Sometimes the meeting is two minutes, sometimes an hour or more. Often I just ask my various selves for counsel on literally anything. What are we making for lunch, yes/no to a post office run, which cookbook to read next. We meet up and meet again.
Lately when I ask them for advice, they don’t want to give any. They want me to use what I have, which turns out to be, and this is hilarious, that exact phrase: USE WHAT YOU HAVE.
The Selves weigh in on Use What You Have
Villanelle self: “Use the safe house, for starters. You’re a devastating dangerous bad bitch with a GETAWAY safe house, you are basically Angelina Jolie as Mrs Smith, your cover is amazing, your hair is perfect and the trailer is space to recuperate, so use what you have.”
The Labneh maker: “You have everything you need to make labneh, and what you don’t have is a refrigerator so it’s now or never, let’s get into a groove, food is ritual, and We Do Grounding Things. Use what you have. Use the hook where your bottle-opener lives to hang the cheesecloth with the sheep milk yogurt. You don’t even drink wine, you don’t need to see the bottle-opener, you just like the Arabic and French words for bottle-opener.”
Highest High Regard self: “It may appear that now is a repeat of then (living in a tiny trailer without adequate heat) and yet, every aspect of this now-version involves Enhanced High Regard, from the physical to the mental-emotional. This is new. Use what you have = use your vision. And get creative. Sure, you don’t have a chair, but you have an inversion trainer, throw some cushions on it and it’s a chair. Is it the most High Regard version of a chair? No, but we are where we are, a symbolic chair is the first step.”
The Desert Assassin: “Your powerful training is working, early to bed is working, ritual is working, you have a Steadiness you couldn’t imagine a year ago. Use what you have does not mean “make do”, it means use what works: grounding ritual, supportive habits, tinctures, anything that makes you stronger.”
The Sorceress: “You have your place to do your particular magic, now we consecrate it and work with it, good job getting us here. Use what you have means use the symbolic meaning of what is here, each object is here for a reason, channel the qualities, stay attuned to intention.”
Villanelle Self: “First of all, when I said I would kill Hélène with the tiny chair, I was being silly and lightening the mood, it was a playful moment, like a panther yawning, a way to casually demonstrate my prowess and my boredom, but if I’m gonna use what I have, I’m gonna use the most interesting thing I have. Anyway, USE WHAT YOU FUCKING HAVE, what is not clear about that?”
Concussion Me: “Why are you still asking us for clarity when you already have your extremely clear Clarity, you were given the answer, and now you’re requesting the next answers when you haven’t done anything with the first answer. The instruction is right there, kiddo. Use what you have. You don’t need to keep asking for examples. LIVE IT AND FIND OUT.”
Use what you have
Do you get it, babe? They really want me to get it.
They’re like, okay, you were given a really sturdy rope to lead you through the cave, and now you’re asking for a new rope. YOU HAVE THE ROPE. OMG JUST PLEASE USE THE ROPE.
Use what you have, and what you have is the phrase Use What You Have.
What you have is the UKC
The UKC is the Usual Known Clarity, aka when my movement-meditation practice gives me the same information as before. Ah, here we are, the Usual Suspects!
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
STAY FIERCE AND DEVOTED TO YOURSELF
LET EVERYTHING SOLVE ITSELF
PAY ATTENTION TO HOW IT ALREADY IS SOLVING ITSELF
DO LESS TO GET MORE
WE DO GROUNDING THINGS
PRACTICE IS FRACTAL, SO TAKE A STEP, ANY STEP
WE TRY THINGS
RECOVERY HAS ITS OWN PACE
Okay but what if I don’t like what I have?
Use what you have.
What I have is fury, grief, two concussions and a bewildering lost year. And the aftermath of these tumultuous experiences, which is also a form of cave, rope not included.
On the other hand, I also have the gifts from concussion.
Gift as poison, but sometimes it’s the poison and sometimes it’s the antidote, and I feel a fondness towards German for both ruining and re-rescuing this word with a rewriting, and isn’t that how we always rescue things around here? The righting that comes from using writing to bring about a rewriting.
We write things and right things. Write the spells. Right the ship. Wind in our sails again.
In the hard vs in the soft
Hard and soft are my terms for differentiating between those things and practices that are tangible, in the physical plane, versus everything invisible, from feelings to concepts to spiritual qualities.
Use what you have. What do I have?
In the hard: I have sheep milk yogurt in the process of becoming labneh, I have a glorious array of spices in which to roll the labneh, I have olive oil to preserve the labneh (who even needs a refrigerator), I have a not-a-chair that can act as a chair, an incredible view, friends who check in on me.
In the soft: I have my resilience, I have my rituals, I have my practice of We Do Grounding Things And This Is Enough For Now, and the knowledge that these grounding things have fractal effects, I have the companionship of my incoming selves, I have a theme for this coming year (Emergence & Recalibration), I have a hopefulness I was not able to channel a year ago, the blessing of perspective…
Some presents I am trying to be present with…
Here are five gifts from First Concussion that I am sure of, and that I have come to treasure:
- Villanelle Self, she just wants to have dinner with you, she’ll kill you later, but she won’t, but she could
- Concussion Self and their full commitment to I Don’t Know Her, no point in missing the Havi that was, whoever she was, now is now, we’re here now, let’s do this
- The way my physical practice was just demolished, and how that meant needing to rebuild from zero, and all the frustration in that but also all the learning in that, finding the rope and holding on for dear life
- Discovering that new brain delights in Arabic and French
- Not being able to do anything included not being able to attempt to please and placate any of the narcissists in my life, which resulted in an abrupt and powerful break of a whole tangle of old unhealthy patterns
Concussion Self weighs in
Concussion Me: “I mean, if you’re not going to exit a situation on your own, then a concussion is a great form of forced evacuation actually. Each day is a gift, maybe with a new form of poison but also a new antidote. Use what you have. And what you have, my love, more than anything else, is a clear knowing about what you don’t want. All the decisions you have been trying to make do not need to be made, they have already been received. Clear your view. Discover what remains.”
Here now, with you
As you know, we don’t do forced thankfulness around here, not on American Thanksgiving and not ever, as far as I’m concerned it’s an act of violence to force ourselves to find treasure in pain when we aren’t ready for that exploration.
And at the same time, we know from experience that sometimes naming the good helps us feel tender towards ourselves.
So we don’t push, we just notice and make room. Sometimes naming what is hard makes it easier to remember what is good.
I am feeling fullness in my thank-you heart about being here, and about reaching some perspective on what I’ve been through and what is important to me.
Concussion me says to just keep writing, as a practice, and so I will.
Thank you notes & dedication (double meaning)
This post is for Lorinda who sent me money every single month this year, and each time I was brought to tears by the notion that people want to support my work even when I am not sharing it, even when I am mysteriously lost or missing or on far-off adventures. This faith in me, and this continued loving unconditional giving kept me going, so much gratitude for this, thank you for wind in my sails.
A huge thank you as well to Agents Lavery & Sloan for helping me out in a tight spot and reminding me of the Trade Winds aka the superpower of receiving support to set yourself up for ease of passage.
Thank you to Amanda who managed all the way from Utah to get me painkillers in Arizona during First Concussion. Thank you to Darcy who set me up with all the episodes of Killing Eve.
Thank you also to everyone who bought things from the gift shop or gave any sum of Appreciation money to Barrington’s Discretionary this year, it was received with love, you are all wind in my sails, and I needed that reminder, so thank you for the love and the reminding.
Play with me in the comments! I LOVE COMPANY!
You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you, notice what you’re noticing, skip a stone, or brainstorm ways to Use What You Have!
You can always use a made-up name in the comments whether in service of safety or playfulness, however this will drop your comment into moderation, which I do not check every day, so we will apply patience to that process and really to every process. What if nothing is wrong?
We are all going through what we are going through. We make this a sanctuary by not care-taking or problem—solving for other people, we can offer each other warmth and witnessing and trust that this is enough. Thank you for being here, it means so much to me to be able to process in companionship. ❤️