Home, milestones, ping

When I return home, it’s all about directives.

The occupational therapist at the hospital told me to use my bed only for sleeping. Although the trip downstairs is hell, I follow orders and head to the dining room for meals.

One day, I reveal to my sister that the fall must have affected the way I sweat. “I have serious B.O. now,” I say.

“When was the last time you had a shower?” Laima asks.

It’s been four days.


Somehow Snapchat filters make the occasional selfie OK.

My sister says: “You have to take a shower Every Single Day.” (Weeks later The Globe & Mail has another take, but we’ll leave it at that.)

I’ve always been a list maker. On Day 25, I write in my notebook:

3 things every day:
1. Physio exercises
2. Go for a walk
3. Shower

The notebook that began as a place to record what doctors told me to do (Page one in an unrecognizable scribble: Wound care. Sinus precautions. Get password for “My Chart” on the Sunnybrook website) becomes a place to record daily to-do’s, detailed information about what time I get up and how I feel. Later it’s also a place to write questions for and quotations from Dizzio.

While I’ve always had notebooks and journals, this one feels special. The summer of 2017: that split in the middle of my life with a clear before and after. That could have been the split between here and not.

I take my lime-green flimsy spiral notebook everywhere, and its value increases with each entry. That gorgeous red Leuchtturm1917 bullet-journal that my youngest daughter gave me on my birthday? I can’t start that one until I’m done with this phase. Or this notebook? Or, this whole thing.

Which will be when? Throughout the notebook, I keep asking myself: When will I be back? I’ve withdrawn into my backyard. I don’t really care much about what’s going on in the outside world. I pretty well drop off social media.

One evening my friend Ilona messages me. “Do you have cabin fever?” she asks. “How do you cope given that you’re such a social butterfly?”

image1Her questions make me think. (That’s how it seems to work. First: directives. Then: directions.)

Ilona’s invited me to a party on Saturday evening. And the Latvian Song and Dance Festival is coming up. I sweated through dance practice every Monday night for a year so I could participate. My group has kept me a spot, just in case. Should I consider attending?

I wake up at 1:00 am and write in my journal: This is the first night I’m anticipating tomorrow.

I realize as I write that the line is a milestone. Maybe the entire journey, at least this stage, is a series of milestones. As I get more and more interested in the brain and my brain specifically, it seems like a process of lights going off. Ping: I start taking showers. Ping: next milestone!

A week after the shower epiphany, I text David: “I haven’t made the bed since you left.” On Day 33, when I start making my bed, there’s a big all-caps entry in my journal: I MADE MY BED FOR THE FIRST TIME TODAY!

“Doing daily tasks is a good sign,” David writes back. In many ways, I’m like a little kid at this point. Positive feedback makes me a little giddy. What else can I do that will make me feel even better?


More happens. One evening, I get my eldest daughter to help me pay the bills. Ping! A few days later I attack the fridge. On Pride Parade Day, I feel like I’m beginning to come out, too. I’m starting to long to get back into the world. Ping!

I talk to my manager at work and she says (long before I have any understanding that I’ll be off for more than a few days): “I’d rather have you recovering in your garden than struggling at work.” Note to self: I have a garden! Ping!

On the first sunny day in June, I make my way out to the garden and get comfortable in our zero-gravity chair. (Zero-gravity chairs, infinity pools: what an attempt to transcend the ordinary through language.)

For the first time since I’ve owned my house, I spend four straight hours in silence. I stare up at the trees. I listen in on whatever sounds happen to waft into my little Toronto backyard. I channel my vecvecmāmiņa, my great-grandmother, who, wrapped in blankets and shawls, would sit for hours on the back porch in her wheelchair.

Also my vecmāmiņa. Breakfast in the garden is her second name. Add tablecloth, teapot and boiled eggs, and I’m 10 years old again.

image4Like my grandmother, the Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis believed the best place for rest and recovery is outside under the trees. Once, when I was visiting his summer home in Latvia, Imants carried a mattress out to the garden and placed it on one of the millstones he had collected from the Latvian countryside. “Nap here,” he instructed.

My garden is my happy place. And for now, my best place.

There are days when it rains non-stop, as it does much of the summer.

One morning, when I’m still having a hard time even turning myself around, David stays in bed with me. He loads YouTube and plays a tune from the movie Youth. The music is beautiful and I love it as much as he does.

As the rain falls we take in the entire soundtrack. And then it occurs to me, as I listen with eyes closed, that this sounds like Arvo Pärt.

We find my favourite, Spiegel im Spiegel, and go down that rabbit hole. Then David moves onto other composers who influenced Pärt and the entire morning becomes a rainy kaleidoscope of contemporary music.


8 thoughts on “Home, milestones, ping

  1. Mila Mara…..something about Toronto and bicycles….keep pinging…sutu tev vislabakos sapnus un stindzinosas domas! Veselojies…xxoo

  2. Ja, koki un mezi remdina. Katru dienu seit Jurmala ieraugu jaunu milako priedi. Un tad berzu, un apsi, un jocigu egli. Tu loti skaisti raksti.

  3. Three years tomorrow Mara, three years ago my head hit the pavement. A dull thud, not a ping. And it was dull, dark, foggy and frightening. I understand your “pings”, moments stand out, time stopped, the fog parted and I would have an accomplishment! I was torn between a “Yay” and “Oh my God, how will I keep my job….” my mind wandered, nothing stuck in my memory and I was stuck in fear….
    A journey they said, a nightmare I whispered.

  4. Normally I do not learn post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look at and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, quite great article.

  5. Wow! This can be one particular of the most beneficial blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Great. I’m also an expert in this topic so I can understand your hard work.

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