The Asphodel Meadows

It’s been a month since Beth and I moved to Scotland. Almost ten months have passed since my stroke.

Note use of red font and huge, fahrenheit-y number

And it’s over four months since I dissolved into “heaving, smiling” sobs while watching Warm Bodies. From March 11’s post:

Towards the end, as the Dead have begun the journey back to full life, Rob Corddry’s character, “M”, is walking through the park as it starts to rain. He can’t open his umbrella, so he asks a pretty girl for assistance; “Zombie fingers…” he explains.  Bollocks, says I.  Those are clearly stroke fingers. In any event, Pretty Girl opens his brolly, and he beams in thanks.  <Cue my heaving, smiling sobs.>

Having thoroughly enjoyed it in the theatre, Beth and I watched Warm Bodies again on DVD this week. With so much going on in our lives, I’ve not been much focused on strokiness these past days, as evidenced by posts on Britishness v. Americanity and personally significant pop songs. But the film reminded me that I’ll always be a stroke survivor. Beth and my dad were commenting on how the most far gone zombies, or “bonies”, were able to run, while the corpses, or regular zombies, shuffled along like… well, zombies. I filled them in:

“The regular zombies are in a great deal of pain when they move, but the bonies are so far gone that they don’t feel the pain. So they can run.”

All the while, remembering the “got-a-beating-from-angry-scribbles-with-tyre-irons” feeling from my recovery at the Rusk Institute.

A “Bony”: “Yeah, I lost 35lbs. What of it?”

As regular readers may have noticed, I now see a lot of art through the prism of my stroke and recovery and Beth’s help in making that recovery. It’s hard not to, when one considers the default subjects of so much art. Why are there so many songs about love, sex and death?

Easy there, Kermit

Obvious reasons, I suppose.

I had a twittersation with Friend Of The Blog Jen a few days ago.

FOTBJ: When you realize you can’t do everything, what do you do first?

@ricky_ballboy: Simplify. Love. Oh, that’s two things.

FOTBJ: unless you “simplify love,” which is a nice thought. Blog it, #strokebloke

Maybe. For now, I’ll note that love is kind of simple. I sometimes tell Beth that such and such a thing about her is, say, reason number 1,734 that I love her. And she’s smart and beautiful and funny. But most of the time, I don’t really think about all those reasons why I love her. They’re just her. And I just do. I can’t help myself. It’s that simple….

One of the nice things about being back in the UK has been access to the BBC’s iPlayer, at last. This past week, we’ve been using it to listen to BBC Radio 4’s Book At Bedtime. Michael Sheen has been reading Neil Gaiman’s new book, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. Ocean considers another of the obsessions of memory, and how it’s entwined with personal narrative. Having successfully gone spoiler free on Ocean in anticipation of Sheen’s euphonious tones sending me off to the sandman with my head full of poetic thoughts, I’ll spare you the details of why the story has such personal resonance.

Oh, hello again!
Maybe I’ll just go straight to sleep.

But it does feature a woman who can snip and stitch away the past like it’s a piece of fabric and create a more preferable outcome. And our narrator’s memory of events comes to be a particularly interesting part of the story. Wiki would tell you that “the themes of The Ocean at the End of the Lane include the search for self-identity….”

Memory, the use of memories to build a narrative, and how that narrative helps forms self-identity. For me, the most fascinating aspects of recovery from a traumatic brain injury.

I do feel that I see a lot of stories more… not deeply, but… personally after what Beth and I have been through together. I’m not saying we’re special. Well, just a bit. Everyone who can do what we did is special. And people do, all the time. My functional in-laws, Kathy and Ray, did something similar. Bill, my last roomie at Rusk, and his wife, Paula, did too. It’s something most of us do at some point. Because love, at its best, is universal. Love is the cure. That’s not to say that those who have lost loved ones have failed. Of course not. The cure isn’t returning across the Styx unscathed. The cure is the trying. The effort, the shared journey, the tenderness.

I let recently let slip to Beth that I didn’t solely come back from death because I had to see her one more time. I wanted to see her one more time, and tell her that everything was going to be OK. She wasn’t too happy about that, because it was a lie, solely to the extent I didn’t particularly think I was going to survive. (Sorry, Lover.) But I could have drifted off towards, probably not the Elysium Fields, but the Asphodel Meadows, satisfied enough. Though I’m really glad it turns out I have a lot still to do.

If I was in a progressive trance band, Meadows Of Asphodel would be an album title

Dr. G_______, my erstwhile neuro-psycho-therapist, would probably tell remind me to be careful of cutting and stitching too much, and of the importance of seeing things as they are. At this point, my heroic narrative has given me enough strength to look at the world with a clear eye. The narrative of the girl who loved her Theseus enough to put him on her back and carry him back to the land of the living. The narrative of the boy in the bubble universe who decided he would crawl over his own corpse to see her again. And the new world they found when they completed their herculean tasks.

The Scottish Hercules. He was a bear.

I still cry when Rob Corddry’s umbrella is opened, even if the unexplained tears and emotional lability have passed. Multitasking remains nigh on impossible, which is tough when you’re trying to keep up with a lover who’s natural state is juggling five thoughts. I’m still skinny from losing those 35lbs, even if I’m wearing it well. But when I tried to push my glasses up to bridge of my nose with my left thumb the other day, and missed, I wasn’t bothered. It might have been more difficult on a harder day. But on Saturday, it was OK. Through the power of story. The story I tell myself to make sense of who I am and where I came from.

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6 thoughts on “The Asphodel Meadows

  1. Teary eyed or sarcastic comment? Can’t decide which? Well luckily here they are both appropriate. Keep blogging bloke.

    1. Here at apoplectic towers this week, the art blender’s turned down to a gentle 1.5, and the authenticity’s dialed up to 10. Like some kind of American. Thanks for the “simplify love” nudge.

        1. Glad to hear it! People seem to be mad for “Ocean”, in particular. Love to all the Morrises. Looking forward to seeing you on the right side….

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