Since my head injury, the entire world has been conspiring to hit my head. I swear it’s true. Regardless of how carefully or conscientiously I move, over the past two years I have bumped my head on doorways, cabinets, walls, tables, door handles and a variety of other objects I never had a cross word with before.
Now, to be fair, I have been lucky. Those bumps and knocks have varied from very light to moderate, and haven’t set me back. Usually I am just like “Ow” and move on. Perhaps I stop what I am doing and sit down for a few minutes to refocus and rest. At worst, I get a headache and feel fuzzy and out of it for a few hours. So, for all that it is embarrassing to hit my head when I try so very hard not to, I have only had a stutter step or two in my path through recovery.
And then there was chicken dinner three weeks ago.
I love roasted chicken. It is one of my favorite meals. My lady only cooks it for us on Sunday, and happily it was one such Sunday. The bird had just come out of the oven and we were letting it rest for a few minutes. The potatoes were drained and ready to mash, the veggies were steaming. Almost time for the best meal of the week. I hovered nearby in excitement, and checked in to see if there was anything left to do. Mary was making gravy, so she asked me to grab some stock from the cupboard above the stove.
Now, to be clear, at 5′ 3″, I am the tall one in the relationship. It’s my job to reach things on the top shelf. Sometimes I bow to necessity and use a step stool. This was not one of those times. Instead, I confidently stretched for the stock, felt my fingers touch it, and then felt it shift out of my grasp. Dang it. Again, I reached for the stock, again my fingers brushed against it, and again it rotated away from me.
Suddenly, I heard a whack, then a thunk. Pain blossomed on the top of my head. My hands covered the now painfully throbbing area and I backed away, terrified, my mind refusing to believe what had just happened. The first things out of my mouth were “Everything if fine. I don’t want to talk about it!”
I backed into the dining room, grasping my head, wincing with pain. A few second later Mary took charge and within a minute I was icing my head and taking Traumeel pills to help with potential swelling. She insisted I sit down and rest while she finish the meal solo.
I sat as directed, pressing the ice firmly against the pounding at the top of my head. It quickly became clear what had happened. The container of stock I was diligently trying to retrieve must have shifted against another can, which pushed against another can and jostled a stacked can loose. A 29 oz can of Hunts tomato sauce promptly fell on the top of my head, then ricocheted off and hit the top of our glass stovetop, breaking it.
As the immediate pain receded, I was ready to continue on with our evening. Nothing had happened, after all. Nothing was wrong. I can set the table. I can do the dishes. It’s fine. It’s fine. No reason I can’t help. Mary disagreed, and multiple times I was directed to rest in the darkened living room. Neither of us knew whether this head impact was significant, but my fear led me to quickly denying any problem.
And so it continued for the next three weeks. Denial, always one of my best lieutenants, stepped to the fore and shut any unpleasant “knowing” off. My fear, the possibility of a change in my abilities, any thoughts about what had happened – flicked off like a switch.
Of course, those feelings and thoughts weren’t gone. They were just pushed down, shoved away, moved somewhere deep inside me where I couldn’t touch them. Left in their place was a renewed frustration and anger at myself when I couldn’t do what I had become use to being able to do, an apologetic mien when I didn’t meet others expectations, and a confusion about why that might be. Why is work so hard this week? Why would I rather nap or sit on the couch than drive in and do pottery this Saturday morning? Why is the computer screen bothering me so damn much?
Obvious answer, of course = dude, the knock on your noggin’ might have set you back a bit. You need to take extra time and space and allow yourself to heal.
I was exhausted all of the time. Foggy. Irritable. Overwhelmed. Irrational. My relationship was suffering. In short, the usual for a brain injured individual who is doing too much. Combine that with persistent insomnia, and I was feeling rather unhinged.
I missed work from fatigue and inability to function. I sat like a lump in the evenings, unable to offer Mary any interesting conversation. I stopped doing pottery. Life wasn’t okay, I wasn’t okay.
And then, things changed rather unexpectedly.
This past Saturday afternoon, I was discontentedly roaming the house when Mary popped her head in after being in her artist’s studio for a few hours and noted “Wow, it feels really heavy and sad in here. We should sage it sometime.” Then she popped back out to work on her current muse.
For those who are not familiar, burning sage and using it to smudge yourself or a living space is a great way to dissipate negative or stagnant energy. I find it helpful to sage whenever someone has been sick for a long time, or Mary and I had been having weeks of fights, or anything similar that might create unhappy energy in a living space.
Sage. Seems like a good idea. I’m not doing anything right now. Why don’t I sage the house? Some fresh air might help, too. I checked the outside thermostat. Hmmm, 33 degrees… pretty warm.
I turn off the heat, open the windows wide in the living room, dining room, kitchen, my office, utility room, bedroom. I feel fresh air start to move through the house, bringing with it the scent of snow and plants. Within a few minutes, the rooms already feel like a different place, full of bright energy and life.
I break out the sage and go outside and smudge myself. A familiar chant helps me focus, and I find myself unexpectedly letting go of layers of fear and rigidity I didn’t know I was carrying.
drive away all negativity from my heart,
take away everything stagnant or hurtful,
remove all energy that is not rightfully mine,
create space for clarity and love.
Next, I go through the house, cleaning out any stuck energy. As I say my usual “cleaning house” words to focus my effort, again I find myself letting go of a sadness, a heaviness I didn’t know I was carrying.
…I hereby consecrate this space to the Goddess, according to free will and the good of all…
…This space is sacred, consecrated and dedicated to positive living…
…I hereby release, in all time and all space, any negative cause, effect, thought, event… and transform and replace it with positive joyous good…
…I claim this space for my family, for the mutual good…
…Love lives here, Health lives here, Abundance lives here…
When I was done, I had burned through most of the sage, the house was 20 degrees colder, and the space felt sooo much better. Suddenly, life wasn’t so heavy anymore. A setback wasn’t the end of the world, and I was again part of the ebb and flow of the Universe.
Through this simply act of cleansing myself and cleaning my living space, I was free again. Free to feel. Free to accept myself where I am right now. Free to move forward. Thank you Goddess.