Wednesday, December 23, 2009


As my recovery from brain surgery proceeds, and the limitations to my motor and cognitive skills decrease, the clarity and simplicity of my perspective and understanding also, unfortunately, recedes.

I remember that happening after other operations and life threatening situations I've survived. There's always that initial high of enormous gratitude and relief to just be alive. Followed by the kind of focus I've rarely had in my life, which helped me to truly keep things simple, being incapable for that brief period of seeing life in any other way.

The way you see life under those circumstances becomes so clear that most things don't matter much, if at all, except for love and the family and friends you share that love with. I had the feeling, even when I still couldn't read or write after the brain surgery, that the "writing" projects I was working on (always several at a time) should be replaced by a project that came to me and could be done through voice recognition programs or on a CD or DVD recorder. It was crystal clear exactly what that project would be and how I would do it, simplicity itself.

Already I've lost that simplicity of focus. The idea is still in my head, but the clarity is fading and in its place is the usual array of questions, embellishments, other ideas for other projects, more mundane distractions and interruptions and etc.

The simple dailiness of life has taken over. A few weeks ago all I could do pretty much was eat and have a conversation. Yet I felt so happy and grateful, as well as focused and clear, that things that used to mystify me seemed boldly obvious. Now, not so much as I become more aware of more and more.

For instance in the first weeks after the operation I didn't really notice or take into consideration the bookcases full of books scattered throughout my apartment. I couldn't read or not very well and didn't know if I'd ever be able to again so I just didn't think about books, I barely noticed their presence in my apartment let alone life.

The interesting thing was it didn't make me sad or depressed, it actually gave me a certain level of relief and even comfort. Like I said, I had an idea for a book I could dictate into a recorder that seemed like the most important book I could write and also like one that would be "commercial" in ways I've obviously never cared about, or cared to do.

I've always been more into the art than the commerce in anything I've done, even film and TV acting which I thought I was doing almost strictly for the money to take care of my kids and wives and friends etc. but in the end couldn't even do that in a very commercial way but instead would get tripped up by my desire to create something new rather than what the powers-that-be were demanding.

But now I'm reading almost normally again, and just yesterday I noticed my books again in that old way, as art objects and signs of my personal history with deep meaning and resonance just in the printing on their spines, and I felt a deep desire to pick them up, randomly, and look at their covers or open arbitrarily to any page and read a few lines and savor the language and the feel of the book and the design and the memories of what the book is about and what it has meant to me over the years and the connections to other books and friends who gave them to me or wrote them or loved them etc. etc. etc.

A very rich experience indeed, and one I wouldn't want to trade for where I was a few weeks ago for sure, but still, I miss the kind of focus people call "tunnel vision" that I've seen over the years in friends who have achieved their goals often on a higher level (in terms of worldly success and recognition) partly if not mostly because they were able to have that kind of "tunnel vision" focus where I wasn't.

Not complaining just observing, because I was happy and grateful for that simplicity and clarity and focus of a few weeks ago, but I am also happy and grateful for the return of my myriad interests and loves and ideas for future projects. As the popular cliche goes—and one which I normally dismiss in my head as just that, a cliche, but today I see as nonetheless mostly true—it's all good.


Eve said...

You are my brave, brilliant friend.

Elisabeth said...

A friend's son committed suicide a few years ago. He and his wife were devastated. At the funeral I sensed from them the same clarity and simplicity in their shock and grief as you describe here.

Your story has a happy ending, theirs did not, but still this experience comes into my mind reading your post here now.

Trauma can lead to all sorts of powerful experiences and not all of them bad, but coming back to the normal, is probably best of all, however exhilarating the business of sheer survival.

Thanks again for this chronicle of your survival. It is heartening.

Linda's Lookout said...

No one would guess you are in survival/carpe diem mode from my encounter with you at CVS yesterday - interminable waitinline made fun by our conversation. You seem to live several lives at once and since the past is so real to you (going back to 12th C! to 20th C to today!) all concurrent and synchronous.
So... my favorite Auden poem is an early one: "As I walked Out One Evening" - read it aloud.
Thank you for putting me onto the Benjamin Britten!
Be happy,

Lally said...

Thanks for the positivity everyone. But Linda, I'm not remembering things so well these days. I have no recollection of a conversation in CVS yesterday, or even being in CVS. You sure it was me?