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Friday
Dec022011

Half Real

There is an amazing book, A Stroke of Insight, by a woman who descibed her experience of having a stroke. Parts of Jill's brain were starved for blood because of a clot the size of a golf ball.

 

Unfortunately Jill had booked a lecture about neuroanatomy before she lost her abilities, and she wanted to go ahead with the presentation. In the months leading up to the conference, she gradually relearned how to walk, feed herself and speak. She found a way to cover the third of her head that had been shaved, and began to feel brave enough to go out in public. But as for the content of her talk.... it was gone.
 
Fortunately Jill had a video recording of the same speech, given in another state back when she actually knew stuff. She began a training regime of watching herself: her mannerisms, the fluctuation in her voice, and the words themselves which she did not understand. After hundreds of hours, she could recreate the entire performance, and the audience was unaware of the fact that Jill had suffered a stroke and this was an act. She was speaking from her past, hoping that it would again become her future. 
 
Occasionally we forget the feelings that we used to know by heart. I read about a couple that went to counseling. The husband insisted that he never loved his wife. Ever. She dug up the boxes of love letters he had written her decades before, which dripped with affection. She showed these to him in the presence of the counselor, but he flatly refused to believe what they said, even though they were penned in his own handwriting.
 
Sometimes we cannot remember a feeling, or a body of information, and are duped by the illusion that it will never return. Most of us have photographs of ourselves at our own wedding, and other times of abundant love. We can watch those images, as a kind of script. We used to feel that way, and perhaps hold a flickering hope that the feelings can return, or be relearned. We can watch old movies of ourselves, and see how easily we laughed and smiled at each other. Perhaps those scripts can be a bridge from our own history, through the gorge of now, to tomorrow. 
 
A friend of mine says we need to "fake it til you make it". Swedenborg coined the term simulations, to describe the pretense that can keep a marriage afloat until real affection wakes up. 
 
Some days my actions are the genuine article. I make dinner from a love of my family. Other days it is only a shadow of the real thing. The food is still edible, but my heart is not in it. I am operating on auto pilot, remembering the repetition of hundreds of days when I wanted to stir the pasta.
 
Perhaps I am experiencing a kind of love clot. The feelings I used to have in abundance are not flowing easily, and parts of me begin to atrophy. But a story like Jill's tells me that not only can those parts of me return, my gratitude for them expands to fill the vacuum.