And the form asks if I’m having headaches.
I think about my taffy brain, how it’s been pulled and twisted and stretched beyond reckoning. It’s a wonder that it even fits in its original packaging, but it doesn’t fit tidily. It bulges behind my eye. There’s a snake of taffy that winds through my ear. I think its knotted at that spot where my head becomes a neck. Sometimes, when I breathe, I stretch it more. Sometimes I feel like it might snap. But the pain is not a sometimes-thing anymore. I rarely have aches that cut through me out of the blue, sharp stings and taffy snaps. The pain is an always-thing, and that makes it easier. I rename it discomfort. Does it count as a headache if it never starts or stops?
I check yes.
And the form asks to rate my focus, on a scale of 1 to 5.
I took the form home because I could not complete it there. I open my computer and start a blog post. There’s fuzzies in my vision and I have to turn my head left and right and left and right, to try to look around them, to shift them into better placement. I can’t remember what I was going to write or why I needed to do it now. I check the letters on the keyboard. I can read them now and it’s exciting, but I only get to J before I’m too antsy to continue. I return to the form, look up at the clock. It’s only been 12 minutes.
My focus is a 3.
I write it down at a 5, because I’ve decided to grade it on a curve relative to my pre-stroke levels of focus.
And the form says “Any surprises?”
I smile. This is something my doctor says. He tells me it’s the best way to start a conversation about little things that someone might not mention otherwise. He says it in person, too, to his clipboard, and then after a 1-misssippi-2 sort of beat, he moves his head up and looks directly into your eyes.
I want to tell him that the pills taste funny if they set too long in your mouth. That the last few days have been the worst in months. That I’m mixing up words. (In this post here: snatch instead of snap, ficus instead of focus, snack instead of snake.) I want to say how surprised I am by how it easy it is to fake normalcy. How it isn’t even a deliberate thing, just some sort of biological overlay. A desperate need to not be the slowest human in the pack. I’m surprised by how much of life you can get through while confused and in pain, or both. I’m surprised that the largest living organism is a mushroom in Oregon, and that no one has named it something like “Chuck” and put it on a t-shirt yet.
I’m surprised that I still want to be here for things like that.
Everything is so hard, but I want to be here anyway.
For the tiny joys, for all forms of journeys, and — occasionally— even for the surprises.