Sunday, January 24, 2010


Just wanted to clarify a few things in response to blog comments and e mails and other responses to the brain surgery recovery process.

First of all, as Martha Gelhorn said (one of my favorite writers) and I paraphrase: we can't do much about most of reality, but we can observe and report on it as accurately as we're able. Bear witness to it, as it were. Which is what I try to do and to stick to things I know something about, like my personal experience (including various "careers" and locations and interaction with historic events and movements, and now, obviously, brain surgery recovery).

Secondly, as I hope I've made clear, I don't feel frustrated or disappointed about my health problems (any of them), or almost never, because I accept them as for the most part out of my control. I do my best to do what I've read and been told can help and what the doctors recommend and try not to waste energy on "if only" or "why me" etc. Especially since I feel I have been amazingly lucky when it comes to any of these issues, like the growth in my brain not being cancerous and being entirely removed and my recovery being so fast.

Nor do I feel frustrated or disappointed by friends and other folks who have a different perspective on what I'm going through. In fact I find their comments and responses very useful. For instance, people saying that some of what I'm experiencing they experience too and they haven't had brain surgery has made me look more closely at my experience to see if they're correct from my perspective.

Like the examples I gave in my last post. I was thinking about that last night while falling back asleep after being woken by my 12-year-old around 5AM because his throat was hurting him (we did a spoonful of honey and it seemed to work). And I realized the actual conversation yesterday with a new friend, Richard, at this memorial would demonstrate better what the lapses in my usual brain functioning are like.

Richard has written a screenplay that got some attention at the Austin film festival and I was sharing my experiences in an attempt to, I hope, give him some support and encouragement (sometimes my attempts come off more like self-centeredness I guess, but I've always believed in the theory that we should stick to what we know best and that is ourselves and our own experience). In the process I was telling a story about an agent I had in my Hollywood screenwriting years who dropped me when I asked for an advance on my next project to help me pay some bills as I was broke and raising two teenagers on my own.

The agent was a friend I thought. His son and my older son were in a band together, his wife was a producer I gave a lot of props to and thought of as a friend (and still do though I haven't seen or talked to her in years), etc. But when I asked for the advance, he said he thought it was inappropriate for clients to request money and as a result he had to drop me and did.

But in the course of telling Richard this, I couldn't think of the word for "advance" though I did have the concept in my head. And when I tried to think of it, instead of that sensation most of us have and I still have sometimes as well, where you think the word is really close, "right on the tip of your tongue" as we say, but in this case it wasn't anywhere on my tongue or anywhere else in my brain or body or even in the area, because Richard suggested "You mean an advance" and I said something like "Is that it"" or "Maybe" or some indefinite response because my mind in that area was completely blank, as I described in yesterday's post, as if it had been turned completely off and could not register anything having to do with the concept I was trying to articulate.

See what I mean? What the difference is? It was only today, while writing this, that the word" advance" started to become clear and I could realize, or accept, that yes, that was the word I was looking for almost twenty-four hours ago but not only couldn't find but couldn't even accept when it was given to me, because my brain just could no longer deal with or address or even have any awareness whatsoever of the concept anymore. It just quit in that department until now, a day later.

Interesting, right? At least it is to me. And because I had a pretty big pool of words in my brain already, from using a lot of whatever brain power I had for reading and writing and listening for all these decades, I can generally find another way to say most things. In fact, I notice I've been using a slightly different vocabulary when writing and speaking than I used to, and with a lot less of a filter. For instance, I used to avoid anything too fancy sounding or too complex because of my roots and not wanting to betray them with any kind of intellectual affectation. But now that doesn't seem to enter into my thinking at all, I notice, and whatever word comes to mind, or replaces what doesn't come to mind, I seem to accept without judgement.

One last thing in response to "Harryn's" question about what the neurosurgeon has to say about my current experiences. They don't say much. They test for basic motor and cognitive skills and are happy if they're working and leave the rest to occupational and speech and etc. therapy, which I did for a while but stopped because I was already ahead of where most people get to and didn't want to seem indulgent. And because a lot of the exercises duplicate or are related to what I'm already instinctively doing, like writing these posts every day and reading more each day and pushing the limits of my abilities every day (while recognizing how far I can go, like I am not ready to try driving on a highway yet).

There are so many people I know who are suffering so much more as a result of their health problems, including brain surgeries that didn't turn out as well as mine or with the same results or are suffering from recurrences of Lyme's disease (like my friend Paul) or chronic fatigue or incurable cancers or clinical depressions or etc. These people are actually suffering much more than I am, or have, and my heart and thoughts and prayers go out to them. I'm not suffering, I'm just slightly inconvenienced by my various health issues. I can think pretty well, read and write relatively well, converse pretty much okay (though in a slightly different way than I used to, including, again, even less of a filter on what I say and how I express myself). And physically I'm not in any pain except the usual, or limited in any ways that keep me from spending a lot of great "quality" time, as they say, with my youngest, and when I can with my older two (at least on the phone now) and grandkids and friends and other family members etc. What more could you ask for?


Anonymous said...

Glad you are doing so seeing all the book covers...

Elisabeth said...

I love that quote from Martha Gelhorn. I must check out her writing. I'm not familiar with her.

For me, your comment bears repeating here: 'we can't do much about most of reality, but we can observe and report on it as accurately as we're able. Bear witness to it, as it were.'

I think that's a great way to describe what you are doing and I for one find it fascinating and helpful.

It's important, too, to discriminate between these minor differences in your neurological functioning post surgery and the so-called norm.

I'm one of those who said things like, I do that too... I feel that way too...

The way you describe your loss of memory for the word 'advance' here and the length of time you took to believe it after you'd been offered the word is amazing, and outside of my experience.

Thanks, Michael.

Lally said...

Thanks Suzanne, and Elisabeth.