As I mentioned in my last blog, I am going to be sharing some of the writings prompted in the Writing My Grief courses I’ve been taking through Refuge in Grief. Today, I wrote twice to the same prompt, so I figured that was a good piece to start with:
Day Three, Take Two
“The same leg is cut off time after time.”
This made me think of phantom limb syndrome. I learned about this years ago watching a documentary about Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. I’ve kind of used the logic behind this phenomenon to make my own term of “phantom syndrome”: seeing ghosts of things that aren’t really there. I mostly created this term when my childhood cat died after 19 years (we had her for 17) and I would frequently think I saw her wandering the house or sleeping where she had always slept, in my periphery. Misfires of the brain expecting to see what it has always seen.
This phenomenon is different now, with this, with trauma, maybe? Because this isn’t a misfire of the brain expecting to see what it has ALWAYS seen or experience what it has always experienced. Not for me. Not to me; this wasn’t chronic or habitual, right? The brain can’t have any expectation of this happening again because it happened in this isolated incident, right?
So then, why does it? It sees things that aren’t there, especially in “like” circumstances, especially in my peripheral vision. It makes my body feel things that aren’t happening whenever it feels like it. This wasn’t CHRONIC trauma. So why does it have to happen over and over again? Why must the same leg be amputated again and again? Why is there a novelty in the vast emptiness, endlessly?
Chronic: persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.
Habitual: done or doing constantly.
Chronic: long-lasting and difficult to eradicate.
Habitual: regular; usual.
Eradicate: destroy completely; put an end to.
Constantly: continuously over a period of time; always.
Round and round the words we go.
What’s a “long time”? What does “long-lasting” mean? Can something be “difficult to eradicate” if it had a start, a middle and a finish? What’s a “period of time”? Words just don’t work here, and that frustrates me. The definitions aren’t black and white; they don’t define. Words cause constant failure and disappointment.
Continuously: marked by uninterrupted extension in space, time, or sequence : continuing without intermission or recurring regularly after minute interruptions.
Done. Full stop. No more circles.
Instead of trying to make words work for me, when they so clearly can’t… I’m going to make TIME work for me. Using John Green’s brilliance on math: “I am not a mathematician, but I know this. There is an infinite between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
Infinity: a number greater than any assignable quantity or countable number.
I don’t know what “long time”, “long-lasting” or “period of time” means, numerically or definitionally. I do know that the experience lasted for an infinite period of time; it’s infinite because it is impossible to measure or calculate.
Just like its damage.
It was chronic and habitual and continuous and constant in the infinite it went on for. Maybe when my brain decides to misfire, it’s just revisiting its more scarring infinite. Much like I have to remind my heart that my cat is gone and my mind is just playing tricks on me… I have to patiently remind my heart that I am safe, that that infinite isn’t happening anymore… that that infinite isn’t going to happen again.