Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another day becomes another year

I have never been much for anniversaries. My birthday is just another day most years. It was late in the evening on Tuesday before I even realized it was the second anniversary of my accident. I had to check my own blog to make sure it actually was on the 21st. Reflecting a little this on this blog it has thus far been both a success and a failure. It has been successful in that I was able to chronicle much of the initial experience. What has not materialized so far is further writing on what comes after. If anything this absence stands as a testament to the difficulties of living in my condition while also continuing to pursue my goals. After putting time and energy into maintaining basic health and pursuing grad school, there has been little time left for much of anything.

The latest health setback has required the use of the pain medication that is, of all things, an amnesiac. It disrupts long-term memory recall along with short-term memory storage. I have been trying to write about the experience off and on throughout the process and the words slip through my fingers, my attention wanders, and I find myself doing something else. It it has been absolutely maddening. I expect I will find the words before too long. My health has been steadily improving, and I am much closer to the end of this than I am to its beginning.

I have received a tremendous amount of support in these last two years. To all who have been there with me in body or mind, thank you.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday Notes

Time marches on despite any efforts to the contrary. At least this time I can report I have completed my MS in nuclear engineering. With that out of the way I am pushing ever forward on my dissertation. I also have a new blog post or two brewing, as life experience marches to the beat of time.

I would like to encourage any new readers to start reading from the beginning and then reading the other posts in the order they were written.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I have now spent a year out of the hospital. When I first started writing, the story poured out of me. I needed to capture the reality around me. I did not want to look back to a hazy memory, day by day slipping further from me. It took the better part of the year, but I feel as if what I've written so far captures much, but certainly not all, of my experience in the hospital. Looking forward I will continue to write, but the process has changed considerably. Instead of telling the story, I find that I'm trying to relate an experience that continues to evolve each day. To complicate things further, my graduate work occupies the majority of my time and energy. This is all to say that in order to bring more frequent updates to the blog, I will change things up a little bit. To begin with, I have added contact information to the page. I can be reached at Please put "broken cord blog" somewhere in the subject heading so that I can separate your e-mail from spam. I would like to encourage people to send in stories of things that struck them either during the time that I was in the hospital, or later. There are many things about the experience that I do not remember, and I would like to collect as much of the experience as possible. With permission, I may share some of the e-mails on the website. I would also like to encourage the submission of questions. I can only imagine the things that you would like to know about. Thank you for your continuing support.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wish You Were Here Pt. 3

It is early morning, and I am alone. I lay unmoving. The sound of my breath fills the sterile hospital room. It is a brief moment of respite, a rare opportunity when I have both time and energy. I weigh anchor and gently nudge my consciousness into the deep blue unknown.

Ankle deep sand cradles my feet in soft embrace. Shallow water drifts by with no hurry. Pale red rock curves up and over my head, a cavernous overhang a few million years in the making. The canyon twists and turns at the whim of the river. Here, at the apex of one such turn, I gaze out from the shadows. The paths reach out, coming and going, bathed in sunlight, wandering onward until lost beyond an inevitable corner. I know this place, but not this time. When last I was here, the canyon walls echoed with the sounds of life. Laughter was offered up with the passage of those who would take part in the beauty of the moment. In this moment, all is silent. The breeze brings no whispers. Rock and river hold their breath. I am on my hands and knees now. A single salty drop loosens its grip on me, falling through time and space. As it joins in union with the water below, the sound cuts a razor's path through the void. I slowly exhale and give offering to the beauty of the moment; the splashes reverberate to fill this place once more, with life.

In my hospital room, the silence is broken by a nurse opening the door. My eyes color captured pools in shades of blue; a story is told in half heard whispers. How can I convey the reality of my journey? I chose this pain. Peace is on the other side. The words unravel, and I am silent.

Another day, another moment of solitude, another journey... She is radiant, all in white, and I in black. I pause as if afraid to break the spell. She wonders aloud why I have stopped, and I cannot quite keep the mischief from crawling across my face. It is too late now anyway. She is a sack of potatoes over my shoulder, and I carry her across the threshold... The child squeals in delight with every flight. If she is the plane, then I must be the wind. She is getting bigger, and will have to settle for piggyback rides before too long. I try not to think too far into the future. With her mother's hair and my eyes, it won't be all that long before I am providing subtle threats to potential suitors. For now, she is my little girl, and that's all that matters... She walks through the door, bleary-eyed and dead on her feet. I ask her if she's had a long day, already knowing the answer. She kicks off her shoes and sits down on the couch. My hands find her shoulders and proceed to rub here and there, guided by years of doing just the same. Not that she has ever believed me, but it relaxes me too. She tilts her head back with eyes closed, and I plant a soft kiss on her lips. All too soon I am needed elsewhere and she must settle for resting her head, and listening as my voice drifts through the door. I continue to pluck the guitar strings long after the child next to me has drifted off to sleep... It is only seven, but the living room is already full of pint sized whirling dervishes. I loudly make it known that only those sitting at the table will get breakfast. The pancakes come off the griddle in all shapes and sizes. Just as my grandfather did for me, I make my grandchildren guess what each oddly shaped pancake is. We called it "funny pancakes." Somehow there always ended up being a lot of golf course shaped pancakes...

Many events can change the course of our lives in profound ways. I will not claim to have cornered the market in disaster, but I cannot suppress a shudder when I ask myself, "what could be worse?" I knew a thing or two about the world. Life contains an immense variety of possibility; sickness and health; free air and free thought; brutal oppression and terror; exhaustion, hunger, and cold; young bodies and young love; twilight. It is this last one, twilight, that has the most in common with my situation. In all of the others there is a central image of what we are, and how we might feel in that situation. I have tripped and fallen down the rabbit hole, and much of what I knew no longer applies, but even Alice knew what she was. She faced a new reality, but large or small she was a curious young girl who could reach out and touch the world. As we age we watch as our joints stiffen, our energy flees us, and our faculties fail us. Perhaps then, we are forced to consider who we are instead of what we are.

What we do is not who we are. When asked to describe ourselves we inevitably end up describing the things that we do. I am an engineer, but that is a profession and not who I am. I am a musician, but that is a passion and not who I am. I am a student, but that is what I am doing and not who I am. I love to read, to be outdoors, to be physical, to explore in body, and in mind. The things that we do are not who we are, but rather expressions of who we are. The analytical mind; the creative urge; the inquisitive spirit; even these don't quite strike the heart of who I am. Every time we try to describe ourselves the words fall short of the truth. Who we are is in there somewhere. It can be shaped, refined, and polished. Perhaps it cannot be fully described, but when the light shines on it, like a prism, we can see the results. When we find ourselves out in the world, in a particular place and in a particular moment, who we are expresses itself.

The accident put me in an unenviable position. I experienced in a heartbeat a process that normally takes a lifetime. I lost my strength, my independence, and the course my life was changed unalterably. All of the ways in which I live my life have come into question, and many of them are gone forever. I can say, without irony, that I am no longer what I was. The reality of it strikes me every day: the frailty of my existence; the utter dependence on other people for basic survival; the hours and hours burned every day for the sake of the few that are left over; lost opportunities; lost love and lost passion; lost windows, roads, and channels; lost wind and lost waves; lost touch. It is a lot to think about, and it must be faced, but if I carry the weight of the lost world it will crush me. If I cling to it as it sinks it will drown me. What I was and what I did means something, but I cannot drag what is past into the present. I can only be who I am in this moment, in this light.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wish You Were Here pt.2

Young or old, we are the sum of our experiences, be they personal or vicarious,and the lessons we've gleaned from them. As such, there is much we are unprepared for, and much we could not possibly have prepared for. For the most part we adapt. We get up and dust ourselves off when we fall down. All of our mistakes, our failures, and our inadequacies, provide an opportunity to change what we are doing. In the moment we may bemoan our misfortune, but inevitably the present will become the past, and we can move on as stronger individuals for our troubles.

So too are we confronted by those experiences that we would give back in a heartbeat. For all we may learn, for whatever strength we may gain, some lessons cost more than we would ever willingly pay.

April, 2004
The sun is shining. A cool breeze perfects a warm spring day. Walking from the car to the door, a phone call takes me back 18 years, and once more I am an infant born into the terrible unknown. After stumbling back into my dorm room I curl up into a ball and sob with every muscle in my body. It is all that I can do. It is all that I am. If I stop for one second, if I open my eyes and find myself in the present, I will be in a world where someone I love like a brother has taken his own life.

Stretching out into the past, a million events like threads make their way into the present. In all colors, shapes, and sizes they lead unerringly to this moment. Stretching out into the future are a billion possibilities. In only one place it all comes together. In only one moment, this moment, all of the threads meet. Often I find myself tracing back along my cord. I alight on a moment and wonder how I would've done things differently. I wonder where things would've gone, but the future only extends so far from an individual choice before breaking into a billion possibilities. It is a way of reliving missed opportunities. Now, more than ever, they truly are missed. Before this, there was always tomorrow. There was always another night out with friends that I missed to study. There was always another woman to replace the one that I was too shy to ask out. There was always love, life, and a bright future. Who we are is a construct of the present moment. When I go back and wonder "if," I do so with the knowledge that I have now. The man in those crystal moments of my past is not quite me. There is a cord between us, but wisdom and knowledge can only flow in one direction.

After a tragedy, time stands still. In our shock we hold onto the world as it was just before that moment. If only... If only. The further time marches on from that day, the more we are stretched. Something has to give. That moment is gone, and so are the billion possibilities that sprung out of it. In truth, the love, life, and a bright future that existed in that moment are gone with that moment. The task, then, is to find that which may come in this moment. It is a lesson that I learned from a death. It is a lesson that I would give back in a heartbeat, but now I find myself profoundly grateful for it. In a tragedy, the pain of the loss is a reflection of past meaning, and future hopes. There was a time when I could hardly think of the good times shared with my friend, because of what it meant going forward. A beautiful soul, a wellspring of life, a piece of the world, and a piece of me were suddenly gone in a flash. There was a gaping hole in me, because of all of the good things that this person represented in my life. When I made peace with his death, when I could take the memories we made for what they were; I could see all of those good things again; I could see how the past lived on in me. It is not the same. It is never the same. What impotent vision, what tragic delusion; that we should endeavor to make it so.

Continued in part 3...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wish You Were Here Pt. 1

The world is a simple place, dark and warm. All sounds are muted, and ever present is the constant rhythm, invoking life where there is none. There is little else but this single presence, until a moment that changes everything. The world squeezes in over and over in brutal assault. Blinding light floods reluctant eyes, and violent blows bring violent breaths.

The birth of a new life is by its nature a savage experience, ever visited upon a being that did not ask for it, a being that is not prepared for it, a being that will suffer for it. When we come into this world as infants, the experience follows us for years, even decades, as we stumble through wondering where we came from, what we are, and where we are going. In the beginning, all we can do is wail. Our entire bodies are wracked with sobs, because we hurt without ever knowing why it is that we hurt. We suffer without ever knowing that there can be anything beyond our suffering.

As we grow older we are initiated into one of the most deceptively complex ideas we will ever face. It is the trinity of past, present, and future. Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? Throughout our lives, our answers to these three questions will be in constant flux. Through them we will visit both joy and pain upon others, and upon ourselves.

The only constant is change. Some things simply change faster than others. There are things that we watch change, and others that watch us change. In every moment of our lives things will be different, and we will call it gain or loss. Perhaps it is in our nature that we should always seek to gain. Survival is our deepest instinct, and so it brings us great pleasure to ever be clawing our way upwards. Conversely, should we find ourselves slipping, we shake within our perception of loss. Perception, perception, perception.

grief, grief, Grief. How odd it is that we find ourselves so unprepared to deal with the major losses in our lives. Grief is not a concept that we are taught growing up. We see that someone is sad when they lose someone they love. When the dog dies we feel much the same, and then we get over it. We see grief, we feel grief, and then it fades away. Before we have a chance to understand it, it loosens its grip upon our throats, and we bid it good riddance. Despite our experience, we will miss the meaning. If our losses repeat themselves, we can catch on to the pattern. The first time a relationship fails it is difficult, but it becomes easier each time. We learn that the ocean is large and teeming with fish. The first time we lose a grandparent it is a hammer, but we are a little numb when the next blow falls. It is the new and different losses that we are most unprepared for. If we never understand grief, if we can only deal with the things that have already hurt us, then we will always bear the full force of the storm. If we can reflect on where we came from and we can see clearly what we are, perhaps then the path going forward will not seem so dark after all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Have no fear, I have much more to say. Now that things have settled down a little bit, I have started back to work on my graduate degree. Time is tight, but I hope to have a new post out soon.