I woke today with the cool air of a Delta morning skittering through the open window. I let it nourish me, let it touch my cheek and soothe my brow. I stretched my arms toward the low ceiling of my daybed cupboard, the ceiling on the other side of the floor where my feet now rest. My joints protested eight hours of rigid stillness, the state into which spasticity settles on sleep.
I chuckle as I contemplate my frozen limbs. When I go to the doctor, they often say, Relax, as they prod my muscles or nestle an electrode into the crooks of my legs. Few over the years amend their admonishment to realistic instruction. Relax as well as you can, my current Stanford doc will say. He raises the needle over my calf and grins. He knows that tightness plagues me, that anything less eludes me.
In the mind, too, I remain alert. Through some mad instinct for survival, I reside in a state of cognitive hyper-vigilance which matches the failure to flex of my legs. I cannot tell my heart to stand down, as much as I yearn to do so. After years of grief, the awkward wince comes natural to me. I don’t even notice it any more.
But here in California, maybe something sweeter wafts through open windows. Perhaps I left the poison behind me as I drove west. Certainly the nearness of the ocean eases my heart. After all, that organ also flutters to the wild jerk of my erratic nervous system. I should not be surprised that it needs a special balm.
I can’t do anything about the jolts of electricity which stagger along my nerves or the scars of heart and mind. I can’t change the past, nor can I undo the damage done to me. But I can raise the window to admit the cleansing air. I can invite the wind to dance. I can spread my arms to welcome its embrace. That much I can do. I don’t know whether the lively breezes of the California Delta have strength enough to sweep the debris from my heart. Nonetheless, I shall keep the windows open wide enough to let them try.
It’s the thirteenth day of the fifty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.