Today is the five-year anniversary of the night I drank tequila to squelch the flu, blacked out, and woke up in a puddle of blood on my kitchen floor.
I am very grateful to still be here and not, as a doctor said to me I could easily have been, dead or in a wheelchair.
My injury and recovery increased my isolation because many of the social activities I had participated in before were now onerous; especially here in Las Vegas I could no longer handle the crowds, noise, music and hubbub.
Things began to improve when I accepted the reality of my circumstances and began to allow things to be as they are instead of controlling all aspects of my life. I also gave myself permission to rest in the middle of the day without giving in to the usual guilt that I wasn’t DOING ENOUGH.
I tried to focus instead on BEING – present, grateful and as relaxed as situations allowed. Weed has helped in that regard.
I also experienced a lot of anxiety which I later connected to trauma – first and foremost in what had happened to my brain and later – having a lot of time to rest, think, and get deeply in my body – trauma that had been stored by my nervous system since before I was even born.
What follows did not happen this morning – today I feel almost “normal” (which is an illusion) – but rather a description of some of the thoughts and feelings I have regularly experienced and worked through – or been able to process through what I consider to be Grace.
My Direct Experience
This morning as I felt the familiar sensation in my chest or more specifically the reflux area, I once again connected it to the horrors my parents faced during WWII – it is a familiar connection to trauma I now can physically sense and have intellectually recognized as even having been affected in the womb.
My mother had been selected to work at Auschwitz and somehow survived several slave labor camps to meet my father in Prague after the war. I was born in Vienna in 1949.
A therapist pointed out my apparent emotional “wound” in the reflux area and at one point I connected my abdominal sensations to distant memories of my mother and me living in Switzerland – when my father had gone ahead to New York – just prior to our voyage on the Queen Mary.
My parents were still both afraid of the Russian Communist agents and antisemites in Vienna so while my father came to New York, we left Vienna by train for Zurich.
We spent almost six months in Interlaken, a Swiss mountain village, and I dimly remember being in a tiny studio with a fireplace where we burned wooden flags that I somehow recall my mother found in town on our walks.
I remember very little of that time but when I recounted it to the therapist she pointed out – “you were in a tiny space with a very traumatized woman for a long time.” It was nine years after my mother’s liberation and she was around 39 years old – “a traumatized young woman” as my therapist reminded me.
What came out then and what I have since linked to intense feelings of deficiency, which are an apparently strong part of my conditioning, was that at five years old, loving my mother, I wanted to protect her. I wanted to be a grown man but of course I was just a young boy.
My therapist at that time asked me how I might have felt in that situation. Hopelessly inadequate is the obvious answer.
The time I’ve spent alone since my brain injury has also reminded me that my parents – and our love was very powerful up until they died after retirement in La Jolla – were critical of me and wanted to raise me in a way that I could handle the stresses of life. I lived by a set of pretty strong rules the breaking of which meant looks and words of disapproval that hurt deeply and resulted in memories of shame.
So this morning I was connecting to these memories when it went deeper. I’ve been reading a bit about generational trauma and it rings very true in my case; and I can intellectually trace it back to the Inquisition which apparently my ancestors on my father’s side also endured.
Then I thought about all of the intense cruelty that has come to the surface in the past few years while continuing to feel the sensations in my body, and instead of trying to purge them, allowing and even welcoming those feelings as best I could.
I thought about African slavery and the subjugation of indigenous people all through the Americas by forces completely consumed by their religious beliefs.
My mind went to scenes and stories of human slavery and trafficking which are an open secret in the world today and a blot on humanity. It recently came to light that people are still sold in Arab countries and even here there are sordid tales of abduction and the exploitation of young women, and men, against their will.
How to live in the face of this ugliness? Tension gripped the areas in my chest where I had felt contractions.
I wondered whether in a past life I had experienced any of these horrors. I have no strong belief or opinion about the reality of reincarnation but I am open to many things I would have once dismissed as impossible.
This was how I awoke this morning. I stayed with it for an hour or more and then tried to just rest before getting up, showering and having breakfast.
I take a few minutes of down time between each of these activities to rest my eyes and brain.
Retirement can be strenuous.