Concussion Diary: And Then Socrates Collapsed Upon the Couch, Proclaiming, “I Cannot Smell My Feet.”

Concussion Diary: And Then Socrates Collapsed Upon the Couch, Proclaiming, “I Cannot Smell My Feet.” September 29, 2016

So a week ago yesterday I fainted and concussed myself. It’s all fine, they know now why it happened and it’s a truly minor medical condition for which the only lasting treatment is, “Drink more water,” but I have manfully restrained the urge to whine on social media and my manfulness is at its end. This is what my week has been.

WEDNESDAY I saw a movie called Demon, a Polish joint about a man marrying into a (formerly?) Jewish family, who begins to be stalked by the ghost of a Jewish girl. I do not remember this movie well for reasons which will become clear shortly. I do remember that I didn’t think it was stellar, but it did really interesting stuff with marriage-as-death (our friend “Python” is dying, the mature man Peter will be born from his ashes!) and if you’re specifically interested in Polish horror or Holocaust-legacy ghost tales you should look for it. I’m not sure I’ve seen wedding-as-funeral portrayed before (parallel to baptism as baptism into Christ’s death).

Then I got on the 79 bus to go home and the next thing I know I’m on the porch talking to my best friend about how I think I might have a concussion. Apparently this was probably our second phone conversation; my short-term memory was so frayed that she was really worried about me. The rest of the night is an intense reminder of our need for people who care for us–and, frankly, people who live with or near us. Without the allied forces of friends and family I have no idea whether or how I would’ve gotten the care I needed. I try to keep other people’s lives out of the blog, but this really brought home to me the gap between what I perceive as my own vocations to love and my current living situation (a rooming house with lol youthful strangers).

It’s odd how the brain works. I noticed that my sense of humor seemed to come back in stages. At first I was super earnest. Then I was able to laugh at situations, in a sort of, “What can you do?” way, but I didn’t make actual jokes. By Thursday I was able to do cute references and phrase things in intentionally-funny ways.

When I was hurt and confused I fell back on relationships. But afterward I did notice that I didn’t fall back instinctively on prayer. Not sure what to think about that except that a) I’m glad my prayer life is recovering apace, and b) I am not as embedded in the rhythms and habits of Catholic faith as I should be.

THURSDAY: The main thing that happened Thursday is that I lost my sense of smell and taste. Apparently this just happens sometimes with concussions, when the olfactory nerve is damaged. It may come back in a few weeks. Or not!

Can I just say, you use smell to navigate the world a lot more than you realize? I feel like I’m in a movie or something–everything is blank and alien, textureless. I keep thinking, Maybe I smelled something just now!, but no, that was the feeling of cool air on my face, not the smell of fresh rain. It’s basically like living in black and white.

Also I can’t tell if my sweater smells. Sorry to anybody I’ve smelled near recently.

FRIDAY: It is starting to sink in that I am not going to be able to work normally for a while. I can read a few pages at a time before my head really starts to hurt and it gets hard to concentrate. Everything is bad.

Also, seriously, everything you want to do when you’re sick is bad for you when you have a concussion. You’re not supposed to read, watch tv, or use the computer; I can’t taste food!!!!; and even sleeping makes my head ache, because I guess I press on different parts of my skull or something.

WEEKEND: Lunch w/Mudblood Catholic and another gay celibate dude. Super fun albeit very, very tiring just bc of the whole head injury thing. Confession and Mass Sunday at the Basilica, and I showed a friend around the Lady chapels. Do you guys have favorites there? I really love the little cavelike grotto place with the candles, and the small image of Our Lady of Ephesus, and obviously the chapel commemorating the African slave trade is so powerful.

The new fun symptom on Sunday was waves of pain at the base of my spine when I stood up. That’s mostly over now but I had it for about three or four days. Great fun. OTOH I was able to work on the ongoing novel draft, for the first time since the concussion.

MONDAY: Did you know Jeeves & Wooster is on YouTube? I mean, illegally, so I won’t link, but man, what a pleasant show. Also “I wish the whole world were a newt!!” This is the first time in my life I have ever thought, I feel you, Gussie Fink-Nottle.

TUESDAY: Did an interview about “women who choose rules.” Lol I don’t really think I chose the Church so much as surrendered to Her, and I do find Catholicism as liberating as it is constraining. I mean all you have to care about is God.

At the pregnancy center I found myself talking about the impossible moral situation teenage girls face in so many US communities. You’re taught that it’s wrong to be a teenage mom; it’s wrong to have an abortion; and it’s both embarrassing and even morally wrong to still be a virgin! We have a moral mandate of premarital sex, so you won’t feel like you missed out–people think, wrongly, that “trying things out” protects you against divorce. “Waiting until marriage” is often considered naive, self-righteous, a way to end up alone, unrealistic and risky and fake. So just contracept diligently and hope for the best, I guess.

This was an exhausting day. I had two intense things to do and I think I made it halfway through the second thing before I was just completely wiped out.

Reached the Spode/Blackshorts episodes of Jeeves and Wooster. Enjoyed how precise the satire of fascism is–physical culture, rationalization of production! You can see the shared parentage with Progressivism.

WEDNESDAY: Another gay Catholic interview, lol. This time the thing I emphasized, that I don’t think I say enough, is that virtually no gay kids growing up in the Church ever hear that their longings for same-sex love and intimacy can be good, can be lived out in harmony with God’s will, are not things to be feared and hated but might be signposts guiding them toward their true vocations.

I don’t know that this is true for everybody. There are lots of different kinds of heterosexuality, and so too there are lots of forms or narratives of homosexuality. Think of the monk in Of Gods and Men, who says that he was in love (I’m guessing, with a girl!), but he found at last a much greater love in the monastery. For him, heterosexual (again, I’m assuming) love wasn’t a signpost toward his vocation, although it might have been a preparation, a gentling of his heart which prepared him for life with God and men in the monastery. So too for some gay/same-sex attracted people their homosexual longings are something that may humble them, teach them patience and surrender, but aren’t ultimately the clearest signposts to their vocation. Many of us, though, do find ways to live out same-sex love and intimacy in harmony with God’s will. Letting gay kids imagine that as a possibility would imo do so much to heal their shame and self-hatred.

What are people shamed for in the way they’re shamed for sexuality? The closest analogy I could think of is poverty–poverty as synecdoche for irresponsibility or laziness, the way being gay is treated as a synecdoche for lust. What a colossal indictment of the churches.

On the way to this interview I think I smelled something!!! I may have been making this up, and it hasn’t happened again since then, but man, I have never been so glad to smell a Pizza Hut.

I also ate at Slim’s Diner. I can definitely taste salty, sweet, and spicy now, and I think I even got hints of some nuances of flavor. I was totally pleased by the food. I had a cup of chili and a plate of french toast, and the toast, you guys, was so sugary and crispy that it was almost candied. Delightful. The jukebox was great. The service is still, you know, easygoing.

TODAY: I have learned that if you sleep on your side, you hurt your head less! I hate sleeping on my side but we do what we must.

The third gay Catholic interview of three. This time the thing I said that I haven’t said before was, “This is maybe too clever, but I think a lot of gay kids growing up in the Church find themselves with all the stress and craving for parental/divine approval of the ‘elder brother,’ and all the guilt and social stigma of the prodigal son.” I’ve been struck by how hard it is for “good Christian kids,” virgins or anyway kids who have never disbelieved Christian sexual ethics, to truly accept that God loves and cherishes them, and I think this is part of how that dynamic works. So, so painful.

So, that is concussion diary week one. Pray for me, y’all.

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