This writing life

I’ve barely touched this space for three months.

I’ve been busy quieting my mind to give my brain more space to heal. I rest a lot: fatigue still takes a lot out of me.

I practise all that I learned at rehab: Breathing. Mindfulness. Self-compassion. Making sure I exercise and get to yoga.

Mostly, I try to put into effect the four p’s and one e of recovery: Planning. Pacing. Prioritizing. Efficiency. And the big one: Patience.

It’s Saturday morning.

I’m sitting in the dining room, spring tulips on the table in front of me.

Darija has taken our puppy, Simta, out for a walk. It’s quiet and the house is mine. But that’s only part of the reason I’m finally here.

Table on Saturday

I’ve resisted writing.

I’ve been trying hard to get out of my head. And how can I be present if my mind is busy composing? There’s a fine line between chatter and poetry.

I’ve found writing confusing, even though it’s sustained me my entire life. What happens with my writing? Do I write from my feet, my eyebrows or, most importantly, my heart? If my writing takes me down a dark stairwell, will that set me free?

Sometimes I file my writing and forget about it. Sometimes writing is the only way to remember.

What I do know is that when I don’t write, the words get trapped inside.

It’s been almost a year since my bicycle accident.

I tend to mention less frequently that I’m still not back at work. And when someone asks what I do, I pause. Who am I if I’m not working? Who am I when I’m not busy doing all the things I used to be busy doing?

Mural with roseThese are all bits of an unexpected identity crisis. Not that I expected to have a brain injury. But I never would have guessed that when you injure your brain, everything else comes into question, too.

Coincidentally, part of my recovery is about learning to stop comparing my life now to my life before.

And about coming to terms with the fact that being does not mean doing.

Last Monday the new version of me started a pottery class.

It was the first time since my accident that I was committing to a regular three-hours-a-week activity.

I was looking forward to meeting new people. To sinking my hands into wet clay. To getting mindful and creative, and putting my brain aside.

My brain said, “You can’t just put me aside.”

A half-hour into class, like clockwork, the familiar cloud of fatigue descended upon me.

“You know the drill,” said my brain. “Take a break.”

Frequent breaks are my key to getting through Friday night choir rehearsals, museum visits with my mom, coffees with friends.

Charlie small

I’m so thankful that little Charlie’s taking pottery! He also needs breaks – though maybe fewer than me.

I washed the clay off my hands. I found an empty room and stepped inside. Breathe …

Sometimes it’s really hard to take a break. There’s FOMO. Or I forget to set my timer. Or it’s just too challenging to sneak out.

Most of the time I just need to listen to myself and do it.

Like right now. I’ve been sitting at this computer working on this blog post for 30 minutes. It’s time for a nap.

It’s kind of like knowing when to put puppy back in the crate.

On Thursday my occupational therapist (OT) called.

I recounted all of the above, plus how hard it had been to remember the pottery instructor’s instructions. And how the potter beside me has a spouse who bikes the same route to work as I used to. (Not to compare now and then …)

And how trying to create something from a lump of clay seemed harder than Pilates and took more focus than driving. And how I had flashbacks of taking a pottery class at summer camp when I was 10 years old. And how that childish, I-want-to-cry, I-can’t-do-this feeling was a signal that … I needed a break.

Luc painting

Life in reverse. I can somehow relate to this clay figure coming to life. [This painting hangs on the wall of the pottery studio.]

“What do I do?” I asked in frustration. “What about work? What about our trip to Latvia?”

My OT repeated what she’s said before. But this time I’m putting it in writing so I don’t forget.

“Try to be kind to yourself,” she said. “Listen to what your body, mind and spirit needs. This is your time for rehabilitation. This is your healing time. This is your job.”


I just added these two books to my Related reading list:

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story by Dan Harris
“Learn how to be happy before anything happens.”

True Refuge by Tara Brach
“Wherever we feel most endangered, most separate, most deficient – that is where we need to shine the light of investigation.”


Other postcards you might like:

10 thoughts on “This writing life

  1. Reading this particular post reminded me that it took about 2 years for the hip replacement surgeries to be “overcome” – and of course that was “just physical”… I am impressed with your tenacity. Best wishes & hang in there.

  2. I continue to enjoy your blogs Mara….as always. I look forward to next on your time. Best always, Yvonne ps puppy is adorable

  3. Hang in there Mara. If you want a private pottery lesson in a quiet place, I know a great lady who could help you out 😁! And there’s no shame in asking for written instructions!

    • The great lady is part of the reason why I’m interested in pottery 🙂 Written instructions – that hadn’t even occurred to me (pottery – paper – so far from one another!). Great idea!

  4. I can so relate to this. I tried twice to return to work and relapsed both times. I am trying to reconcile maybe I will never work again so who am I now? I also struggle with fatigue and pain in my head so have to limit my screen time but I will read your blog when I can! Thanks for sharing

  5. Pingback: I travelled 900 kilometres with my eyes closed | Postcards from my brain

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