July 2020 – “Recovery”

It was three years ago today that my neurosurgeon got inside my head – literally.*  The fact that I am still here is reason enough to mark that date. I do not want to talk about the three difficult years it has been in any detail but, rather, examine the concept of “recovery.” “Are you recovered?” “How has your recovery been?” “How are you handling the recovery?” These are good and well-meaning questions. They demonstrate care and concern. People want to know if you are “all better.” In response to that last point, no one ever wants to respond: “No, and I likely never will be.” There is a more important point here.

We are never static. We are always in motion of some kind, regardless of circumstances. As a result, we can “never go home again.” We never return to where we were. Time is neither a straight line nor a circle. It is a combination of the two – a spiral. We see this everywhere. There are similar cycles as time moves forward. As you travel along, you can reach similar spots in the cycle, but you can never be at the exact same place twice. Things may happen along the way that provide a sharp revelation of perspective, an epiphany even. At one point in my harrowing medical episode I had the tangible sensation of impending death. And I was okay with it. In fact, it was the most peace I have ever felt. Brain chemicals at work? Maybe. Something more profound? Maybe. I can’t say that in these years I’ve figured it out … and that’s okay! What I do know is that we are imperfect and can’t know everything. We always seem to want answers, but that isn’t realistic because we are limited creatures. For example, through modern physics we only understand about 5% of reality.

So what is coming around the bend? I don’t know. But I do know that no matter what life brings us, and it doesn’t have to be near death or brain surgery, we will never recover from it. Why not? Because we are not about Recovery, we are about Transition. We travel on our path through time and the cycles of life never returning to the same place but hopefully learning and changing along the way. All along the way we learn something new (perhaps about ourselves or the world or whatever), we change, we are changed. And this is why I hope each of us never recovers from anything but instead we are transformed by the experience. Rejoice, mourn, be humbled, be awed, as is appropriate, but embrace it as best you can because it will happen whether you want it to or not.

Enjoy the ride!

* My outstanding doctor, then of U.Va. Medical Center, performed a surgical resection of a cavernous malformation in my cerebellum that had bled into the surrounding brain tissue threatening my life and well being.