The Universe in my Cupboard
They're not all slam-dunks but sometimes a vision comes in the form of a concussion.
You could be just stepping in the door, earbuds still in, boppin’ to Ariana Grande’s new album (fine, “Break Free” on repeat), and suddenly smash your head into the corner of your laundry room cupboard for the 80th time. (In my defence, the fucker jars out ominously from a blindspot upon entrance.)
This morning, I woke to find dried blood in my hair — fun! It still hurts to touch and the goose egg is sized proportionately to the self-soothe-chocolate-dinner I ate before doing exactly what no doctors recommend after concussions: sleep. As an expert on (getting) concussions, I'd rate last night's: Top Three.
The pain's not the only thing sticking. I keep re-seeing what flashed before me seconds after the head-butt: through dizzying stars, I saw the cold, hard floor — the tiled ceramic upon which my uncle had found my unconscious grandfather a few years earlier — a man whose every joke came from a 1950s comic strip and whose heart you could win over by indulging a conversation about Apple stocks.
Grandad left this condo to my family after he passed, and in the midst of the world pointing its finger at us all and laughing, I ran from mine in the virus-rampant Toronto to city-skirt-hideaway here — tearing up carpets to replace them with hardwood, taking down dark, heavy curtains to brighten the space for my sundry flora, and distracting myself into routines that reflected significantly more yoga, meditation and outdoor photography than what I’d conditioned into my high-paced, vary-ventured cosmopolitan life. I split off to deal with life's sucker-punch but I was still eager to strategize my come-back from the knock-down.
This hit left me livid; swearing; tired of getting repeatedly hurt by the same action; sick of not learning better laundry room entering habits; afraid I’d just exponentially added to my brain damage; worried I'd become that actor who, "can't learn her lines;" perturbed I’d die on that ceramic, so useless so as to have not even reared a cat that would go on to eat my eyeballs; sad my grandad was gone.
He'd been out cold on the floor for a couple of days and remembered nothing of his incident. He'd just gone grocery shopping — peaches, frozen foods: I noted from the receipt my father kept, the one they’d found along with him, marking the day he fell, offering a pocket of evidence to shape the start of his clouded coda.
‘This is how it happened,’ I thought, ‘this fucking cupboard took him out.’ I, too, had just returned from late night grocery shopping (blueberries, nothing frozen). I hadn't even put them in the fridge, which sparked more rage, surfacing my every impulse to get things done — to sledgehammer my condo's cupboards; to meditate in its rubble until the year's end; to safe-proof its remaining corners, along with the virus-squelched world's; to finish my baby of a script that’s been on the back-burner for the past eight years, to have Darren Aronofsky direct me in it; to crawl under covers with the man who often co-opts my mind from opposite ends of this isolating world; to be back in the city, kissin’ deals, makin’ hands, and shakin’ babies, baby. I want what I want and I want it now; I want dreams, I want to be free.
I love living. Yes, it can be exquisitely painful; I can also be so fun at it. Case in point: I’ve got this real sexy ability to cross one eye at a time. Naturally, I used to repeatedly tell a super high-brow joke wherein I'd introduce myself to new people by claiming to have fallen down a well whilst staring straight at them with only my left eye, then smacking myself in the face to switch to my right, as I explained that my unique retina detachment capabilities had been further enhanced by having been later kicked by a donkey. Those who stayed... were friends.
Mind you, this super fun-for-everyone knee-slapper played out to be the universe’s joke on me, as I’d go on to incur enough real concussions (mostly sports related but, hey, sometimes, alcohol) that one of my head specialists would compare my brain damage to Sidney Crosby’s.
My most significant concussion ended in a night of doctors and nurses unable to quell my head throbs, resorting to morphine, only to first miss my “ribboned” veins with their needles, bypass saline into all the wrong arm tissues, and ultimately get that fun drug to send me into an “adverse reaction” (apnea, shock, and that general joyride feeling that my heart was seizing), forcing them to strap me to cardiac monitors, parts of which I'd forget to unstick from my body before the next day's work meeting, after, of course, having spent the dawn-cracking hours convincing the guy I'd been dating to let me leave the hospital since “this is stupid and I’m busy.”
I remember, afterwards, not being able to focus long enough to read gourmet pizza ingredients on a menu at the restaurant my dad took me to out of pity; and how I’d start to slur my words after half a glass of wine for at least eight months to follow. I’d go on to spend years, through tears, trying to convince therapists I used to be smart.
I’m at the point where I make fun of my brain damage — my most cherished coping mechanism wouldn't have it any other way. Likely why this morning I texted my mother to follow up on our (ironically prophetical) day-prior discussion about my concussion history: “Good news,” I thumbed, “I’ve jolted my brain back into its genius.” I sent her a picture of the blood (comforting, right?) as a cry to justify further renovations, but also to cast a spell right back out at the universe in hopes of actual manifestation. (I'm sure we both keep score, the universe and I.)
Thoughts and words and spells, oh my! Positive talk has become a big part of it (life/manifestation/coping/clinging to sanity) for me. It’s not to say that my high vibration language has been turbocharge-pixie-dusting all of my dreams into reality, but I am better able to look back on times through a more constructive lens. (I mean, I obviously haven't yet aced that hard left into the laundry room but what a fun reminder I've still got room to grow.)
Like scads of Type A personalities, I’m sure, I’ve been lambasting myself for not "getting enough done" in 2020, for feeling unmotivated more often than… ‘usual.’ (Let's not right now get into what constitutes 'normal,' yeah?) These pandemic times have stripped away vices and offered me a magnification of the shame that exists within me (wine helps), and I’m not surprised it took a bloody head for me to lose my loss of face (pun intended, in case the stretch wasn't sufficiently yawning).
What, are ya tryin' to slow me down, Universe? Ha. Nice try. What I will likely do is continue to catalytically use that cupboard corner as my scorecard with you and we shall continue to carve our zingers in blood.
But I am also going to stop kicking myself so hard. I'm going to stop playing prisoner to the thought, 'I'm not enough.' I'll reflect on the past through rose-tinted glasses — think Almost Famous cover art, but it's my biopic and Kate Hudson's reverse-aging serum works, so she's 21 when she plays me.
So far, life's been an adventure. I've travelled the world; I've been moved by words that have lasted for centuries; I've had others read my words; I've had others speak my words; I've had others hear my words spoken by others and I've spoken others' words and had others hear me speak their words and my words; and, my word! I've done some of these things with people I still consider myths, and I've been paid to do them (still have been even from within our lockdown months). I'm privileged to get to call this life mine.
I also still have something of a working memory — I've remembered (mostly) my point throughout all of these paragraphs; and I cherish the fuck outta those I’ve lost and hold love in my heart for many more who are still here and astonishingly... still here, even when the joke's real stupid.
So, sure, life is absurd. It's also beautiful, and sometimes the universe and I don't always understand one another, but we've still got a lot of jokes to get through. Here's to getting the last one in — my plan to, as our lord and saviour Ariana Grande puts it, die alive.