When Is Now?

Mike Strand
When Is Now?

I walk into the front room of my house to put on my shoes as I look forward to meeting my friends John, Tim, and Howard at the Daily Grind Espresso Bar and Coffee Shop in Stillwater. On Saturday mornings it is my regular haunt, and we do the New York Times Saturday crossword puzzle. Sure, we could each do it alone and probably faster, but then we’d miss the camaraderie that makes the morning bright, and that is why we really do it.

As I reach for my shoes, I notice the folder and textbook for my Thursday writing class sitting on the table by the door. I reorient myself. “That’s right, it’s Thursday morning and I have to go to my creative writing class.” I sustained a severe brain injury when a semi-truck hit me twenty-five years ago. Every day I struggle with numerous residual effects, of which memory deficits play a considerable role. To get through the day, I have a host of compensation strategies. I’ve developed this trick for making sure I make it wherever I need to be, along with whatever I need to bring. I put what I need to bring with me next on the table by the door. I make it a habit to always look at the table to see if anything is there. If something is there, then I know that is what I’m doing next.

This works for me because I don’t have a problem remembering why I put things on the table, but when I am rushing out the door to go someplace, I am frequently thinking about the trip, and then I forget what I need to bring. Its other benefit is to remind me where I am going next. I usually know when I’m supposed to be somewhere, but the ‘now’ is ever changing. I’m trapped in this ‘now’ and the rest of the world hurtles by me. It is like I’m sitting in a train car and can only see to the side, never ahead and never behind. It might seem exhilarating, blithely embracing whatever the ‘now’ hands to you, but it is actually a colossal pain in the ass.

There is no point in wallowing in the missed appointments of other days. I acknowledge and forge ahead. Today is not one of those days. Today, I have coolly and deftly sidestepped a catastrophe. My scheme has worked; my life is smooth. I hop in my truck and head off to class. As I pull onto the freeway, I notice I’m about an hour early for class. Oops, I’m still on coffee shop time. It occurs to me that I have not read the next assignment and I calmly appreciate the serendipitous consequence of air-headedly thinking it was Saturday. I now have time to read the assignment. I appreciate the 11:30 a.m. class time that allows me to avoid rush hour traffic, which more than just an inconvenience, is unsafe for me as my reaction time isn’t that good. Actually, my reaction time isn’t really that bad—it just takes me longer to process the visual information I’m taking in, but the end result is the same. I smile. That is not a problem I need to worry about this time.

I exit off the freeway and head into downtown Minneapolis. Something isn’t right, there is almost no traffic. Is this a holiday? No, that can’t be, not on a Thursday. Maybe there was another 9-11 type event. I can’t handle the distraction of a radio when I drive. Having the radio on is as if someone is sitting beside me tapping on my shoulder saying, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” With no radio, if the Russians attack, I won’t know about it until I see a mushroom cloud. This thought makes me smile as I realize that my Cold War mentality dates me.

I pull into the parking ramp; pay my five bucks, and park. Score! I get rock star parking; today is a good day. And then my slow mental processing puts it all together, and heady realization surges through me like an overpressure wave. Temporal vertigo. This is not Thursday. This is in fact, Saturday. I do not have a writing class on Thursday morning in Minneapolis, I have a Lit class Thursday night in Saint Paul. I had absentmindedly left my homework out last night. The contrast is startling. Instantly I have gone from mastery of my world, to the victim of a harlequin’s mad dream. “No, no…No!” I scream silently, “not again, not still, this is so hard and I am so tired.” The accumulated fatigue of an over twenty-year struggle combines, and I don’t want to be brain injured anymore.

Mike Strand is the author of Meditations on Brain Injury

and

Expanded Consciousness

Posted on BrainLine September 30, 2014

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