What a Concussion Taught Me
The very last day of our Christmas vacation, we had been playing hard. We’d witnessed a beautiful wedding and danced our fannies off. The little ones ran with their cousins while the big grownup cousins played, too, hanging on each other, laughing, dancing to the jazz band.
We woke that Sunday morning to prepare for a good Southern family brunch, all slow and loosey goosey, just before we had to leave Baton Rouge, and a loud pumpkin thump in the living room stopped everything. My oldest was in a pile of kids on the couch playing video games and had thrown himself back hard and dramatic, thinking he’d land soft on the sofa. Instead, his head hit the corner of a column, and a cartoon-worthy pump knot jumped out right away. He wanted to puke, and he writhed all over for hours with a throbbing headache. I called the doctor and received instructions to watch him closely.
By the next morning, we knew he had a concussion. He got lost going to the bathroom and would just stand in one spot staring at the wall. He mixed his words up and felt weird all over.
Our doctor friend told us he wasn’t allowed to read or watch television. He needed brain rest, and I secretly and immediately wished someone would prescribe me the same thing. Maybe I’ve hit my head and don’t remember it.
My instructions were to only allow Isaac to listen to books. His healing required him to let his mind rest into a story, and so he listened to Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Lord of the Flies, and White Fang. It took a week for his headache to go away. It took him a bit longer to understand my instruction.
In my last newsletter a few months ago, I asked readers where they would like to have new eyes this year. What mystery do they hope unfolds to them? It’s a good question that I haven’t stopped asking myself. In the kitchen, on the porch, with the chickens, I keep thinking it: “There we go. There’s another mystery.” Or I’ll bend to all the leaves piled under my dying house plants, and the light will catch me just so, a flicker of thought, an in-giving to forgiveness or to a gift or a mercy. There’s a glimmer to the here-and-now when we wake up to how precious and fragile it is.
Isn’t everything an icon, a window into the invisible world around us?
Over Christmas break, I didn’t spend a moment alone. I drove through six states and cared for a kid who was terrified he’ll act like head-beaten boxer forever. My shoulders were in knots next to my ears. Every disordered auto-immune red flag I had ever had was waving in my face. In fact, it is still whacking my face, and so it seems I’m backed into a corner. Sometimes I believe God is holding me by the shoulders, telling me to listen to Him. Why do we act like discipline and self-care are stupid until we find ourselves dying without it?
I have done no scientific research, but I believe I’ve learned that the Maker of Science (and so therefore – Science) backs me up here. When it comes to healing, it requires rest and a listening. When we want to heal, we need to find a place to listen – not a place to interject or control, but instead a place to hear. I know when I’m unrested, my wheels begin to spin in some unhealthy places.
What are you listening to these days? What wheels are spinning in your mind?
By the beginning of February, Seth and I decided to see what would happen if we slept 8 hours a night for 30 days. It was as if our time and energy doubled from there. This is a practical thing. We had to give up our evening television-watching. We had to sleep later in the morning, but we came to such healing. Pain left my body. The world wasn’t so dark. I heard the voice of God. We had to consider ourselves and our callings worth the rest. We had to release control.
So I suspect that when our 30 days were up, I needed to see what would happen when I tried to control things again, when I stayed up late thumbing through instagram and when I tried to wake early to knock out my to-do lists. Guess what. The icons of my life, the windows to the holy and my ear to God’s voice, it has all become blurry and muted again. My body hurts again.
My friend Laura always says, “Start where you are.” So here I am, the Queen of Starting Again, asking you to join me.
What would it look like for you to take care of yourself? What if self-care were actually kingdom work? Is it maybe a lie that it’s selfish to take care of yourself?