Learning to Live

July 16, 2019: 3 months after surgery x-ray checkup. Bone graft seems to be doing its thing in the fusion of C1, C2 and C3. Another 3 to 6 months of bone-graft nursing to go. Whee.

I am freed from wearing the neck brace unless I’m at a place with fall risks like stairs, rough ground, or wet floors, or while driving. So I treated myself to myself to a visit to my happy place: Target. Look at sheets, check out the latest in cookware, cruise the greeting cards.

Target was confusing to the extreme. Because I can’t turn my head, I was immersed in an ocean of noises I can not see. I can’t bend my head back to see upper shelves, so I have to stand on the opposite side of the aisle to foggily view them. Seems petty, but shopping is a large part of our lives. And now it’s an ordeal. What else will be this way, I wonder?

That night the permanence of my disability, the restrictions it will always cause, hit me like a ton of bricks. In my mind, I was going to just keep getting better. Denial can be strongly self-preservative. But at 3 months, I’ve run out.

There is one thing I can not deny: I am alive. I literally walked away from a badly shattered C2 vertebra, an injury called a hangman’s fracture for its death-dealing tendencies. It should have killed me, or at the very least paralyzed me, as it does 98% of those who endured a hangman.

Now at the 3-month mark, the ecstasy of this miracle ceases to sustain. The levee of denial has broken. All the pain I suppressed has arrived.

I have the mother of all headaches that one should’ve had after banging your head repeatedly on the driver-side window. My ribcage hurts where the Subaru safety belts snapped into place to keep me from hurtling into the windshield. And other assorted discomforts.

Hello pain. I recognize your persistence, your patience. I will accept you and sit with you for a while. Then you have to go. After you do, I’ll head to physical therapy, to begin healing round #2 — learning to use the new body in a deeper way because this self-taught stuff is not working. I have 62 years of patterns to counter.