Thursday, November 3, 2011

Relentless Drone

Things have been unusually quiet around here. And by here, I mean my head. Since my decision of a few weeks back to put down the world and stop improving, I’ve enjoyed a rare stretch of peace. I didn’t even realize how much my brain chatters at me until it got quiet. The noise, the pressure, the imperatives…gone. The trials, the legal teams, the judgments, the convictions…all gone. It was quiet at last, and I could hear myself living my life, instead of deconstructing it in the relentless monologue.

Ahhh… The good old days. I had a couple of hard falls last week (is that voice the physical therapist who lives in my head, chiding me for no brace, cane, or wheels to keep me safe?) My graduation objective when I last did time in PT was one month without falls. Being younger than 100, I inwardly mocked their low-bar goal. Then it took me a good 8 months to achieve success by staying upright for 30 straight-days.  Initially I eschewed balance exercises (Really? Standing without the wall’s assistance for 30 consecutive seconds was beyond my current scope? Really.)

So I did my time and became wildly successful at not falling down, at least not all the way, at least not without a reason. But the last weeks have been a challenge to my Olympiad identity. As a result of being lazy, or headstrong, or in denial that I was no longer a soccer super-star, I got a little banged up. I am actually a little proud of the bruises and scabs- I feel athletic. But the less fortunate side of any bang-up with MS is nerves that over-react and muscles that forget how to bend. 

I slept badly last night, and woke up aware that I had just spent 7 hours worrying. The content wasn’t retrievable, and wasn’t important. Except that I do remember a dream where I was in what should have been a small car accident only my wheelchair was knocked off the back and killed the woman in the car behind me.  The woman was late 30-ish, driving a mini-van, a busy professional mom type. It was a few hours later that it came to me: A new essay, “The wheelchair that killed me.”  Then idea that what should have been a bump in the road, a small accident, had killed me.  Very obtuse. Sometimes my subconscious thinks she has to spell it out for me.

I woke up with the noisy brain back in charge: Do this, don’t do that, did you follow up on x, have you written the notes for y? Hey Fatty- don’t forget to pay the bills, study Spanish, and exercise. In the next 60 minutes.  I meditated, twice, but my head wouldn’t shut up. I medicated, and the rant was slower but still urgent: Don’t forget to worry about all those things you can’t even remember right now!

Just like that, in the span of 5 to 6 AM, my quiet evaporated. Noisy brain was back, and making up for lost time. So I managed to complete 50% of my morning drill and got to work early, grumpy and exhausted.

Tonight I went out with friends to celebrate Sandra and friendship, and made quite a scene. We had pulled up beside an outdoor seating area at a restaurant, trying to assess how Me-on-Wheels could enter when the friendly staff noticed us and demanded that we come in and join the patio diners. I was willing a sink hole to open up and swallow me into the earth. No, the friendly people said, come in! They started moving tables and chairs, actually unplugged the singer, mid-song, moved the speakers and audio equipment and a heavy potted plant, made a big fuss to be “accessible.” We filed in, performing amazing feats of spatial relations, re-arranged the furniture and settled in. It was a great conversation, yummy food, and when I had to use Sandra as a human cane when I needed to use the restroom, I didn’t really care. It seemed even a little funny,

At one point I was trying to leave the patio and Me-on-Wheels got stuck between a couple falling in love and an exposed pole on the wall.  It was so ludicrous I forgot to be embarrassed. “Hi,” I said, “what are we talking about?” The couple smiled nervously.

“Just kidding. I’m just a little stuck, but I’ve made it through here before. Please don’t let me interrupt your intimate conversation.” We all laughed. It was funny. I was stuck, right on top of, a stranger on a date. We laughed and I eventually made it through. I sat in the parking lot contemplating, its miraculous really, that when you roll through your worst fear, people having to notice me, accommodate me, it’s really just kind of funny.

The others eventually made it out, albeit probably with less dramatic flair, and I thought about the friend we had dinner with. A woman who thinks much like me but has a totally different drone. Her internal monologue is around housekeeping and being at home with her kids. When I was talking about the brief precious time that my inner nag got quiet, my friend looked at me with tentative eyes, and asked “Doesn’t every one have that relentless drone, the conditions that have to be met for worthiness? Doesn’t everyone have it?!”  I completely related, so it was a relief to me too when our three companions each offered that no, they don’t have the relentless drone. It was a revelation verified. Then she told us she might be chucking all of her carefully crafted entrepreneurial plans to become a bikram yoga instructor. She would be gone for 9 weeks and it would empty their savings. By the end of the evening we had gotten to she “would be going away for this training” because she had found her thing, and it wasn’t at all what she expected. She had found her passion, or it has found her, and she’s braving a new path. The way opened. The woo made a path. This was her now.

This is me now. Rolling out to great connections with good friends. Breaking and entering into an intimate moment between strangers, having half a restaurant staff dissemble their patio so that I could join them. Laughing with strangers I’d have been mortified in front of a few short weeks ago. I learned tonight that samsara, our journey, might be a little less suffocating if we stop gagging ourselves with the droning. And mine had some time off tonight. The drone was on a smoke break while the situations that would horrify me kept creeping up and materializing. Me- Now really truly finds the humor.

The drone is quiet tonight. She is surrendering, for now. I know she’s devising ways to infiltrate, and she will. But Me-Now is having a good time, enjoying the silence.


  1. I am often bewildered and in awe of people - like our partners - who do not have the relentless drone as part of their inner dialogue. How did they get so lucky and would the world fall apart if I didn't maintain the vigil for us both?

    But the overwhelm of health issues forced me to cry uncle and left me no choice but to let it all go. Oh that voice starts up now and then and gets me riled but more and more I am hopeful that I'm becoming reformed.

    I fell on a walk last week. As I laid there on the sidewalk, with the dog looming over me in disbelief and me face up to the sky with the oxygen tank between my spine and the cement... images of turtles stuck on their backs was the first thing that came to mind. Thank god for humor because cement is always so much harder than I remember.

  2. I love how you've found ways to be out in front of the drone. You know that you can silence it. Sometimes I think we don't because there is an element of comfort, of knowing, in it. I hope you choose over and over again to keep it quiet, even when you miss it a little.