I spent at least two hours on Facebook this morning before my husband coaxed me out for a ten-mile bike ride. He followed so we could proceed at my pace, something less than 10 miles per hour. He told me when a car was coming and reminded me to go when the coast was clear. I breathed in peace and breathed out love. I waved at the few other bikers we encountered on the Capitol Trail bike path. I felt the enriched air feeding my brain. Mindfulness meditation, bike-riding style. My bad knee gave a few times, but when I made it home again I was refreshed, even though my left side was herky-jerky, the result of muscle spasticity and intention tremor overload, I suppose.
Afterward, I stepped in the house and grabbed the water bottle I had forgotten, still sweating on the counter from the ice-cold water. Cici greeted me, wagging all over, running back and forth to the sunroom door where she saw squirrels feasting under the bird feeder. I followed her back outside to our heavily-treed backyard and flopped in the hammock slung between a mature white oak and another maple tree. What a gift it is to enjoy the soft summer breeze on a mid-August day with its welcoming temperatures in the mid-80s and lower than usual Tidewater Virginia humidity. I was mesmerized by a hummingbird flitting from branch to branch, high in the holly tree, taking breaks every once in a while to swoop down to the feeder or puzzle over the red wind chime, then up again. Cici rolled in the grass nearby. She chewed on her Kong ball I filled with broken bits of Milkbone.
If you’ve read my brain-injury memoir, you know it’s taken me a long time to get here. And I am not yet completely steady on my “finding peace” feet yet. Rumination is an evil sequela of brain injury and I’ve been a fitful ruminator for more than three decades. I would have never been able to “let it go” like I did this morning in the past.
Even in my 50s, while working on my master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders, I thought my career would get started at last when I went to work as a speech-language pathologist (SLP). But in my ruminating dreams, I was stuck. In my dreams I was 22 and could still launch into the life I expected. I’d be damned if anyone was going to tell me I couldn’t. I quit, I got angry, I ruined friendships, I moved on, all the while darkened and depressed by the “I’m a failure” rumination in my brain and in my gut.
It wasn’t until two years ago when an SLP put me down really hard that the heartbreaking truth clicked. She told me that I couldn’t do what I thought I could do. Yes, even though my GPA was 3.8, I still couldn’t come up with cues or write notes fast enough. I was late. I was forgetful. I thought I knew more than I did, she said. These truths hurt really bad.
It’s been long enough now since that SLP put me down. Turning 60 helped too. No, I am not 22 anymore. Yes, I had a brain injury. Yes, you live with the sequelae of a brain injury for the rest of your life. I am what I am. It is something I was not on April 27, 1977.
But that’s okay. I have had an unexpectedly good life nevertheless. Go ruminate on that.
Cici has finished the treats and now she’s pawing at me to throw the ball. After I post this I’ll go back inside to write a speech treatment plan. What a blessing it is to have a part-time job in a small private clinic as a brain-injured SLP. No matter that it takes me twice or three times as long to do the write-up. Six students, 1 hour each, two days a week is just the right size caseload for me. It gives me time to enjoy a bike ride with my unexpected second husband and for some some nearly peaceful rumination at last.