Another piece of the puzzle understood, and a Nia rehab plan falling into place

Yesterday, I went to see a specialist called a neuro-opthamologist.  We only have one in the Pacific Northwest, and it turns out that practices in Spokane, Wa (about 80 miles from where I live).  She grew up in a little tiny town in eastern WA, Famington, and went to the University of Idaho as an undergrad, so I guess she decided to stay closer to home, and I am very grateful for that!

Since I had surgery, I have had a piece of my brain puzzle that was not clear, which has had to do with my vision.  I’ve known that I could not see in a specific area (low and to the right), but I also have known that there was something about seeing certain things that was challenging . . . I have described it by saying that I have to “think to see” sometimes.

The testing that I had done yesterday explained what is going on.  I have, as my doctor describes it, a “double-whammy” to deal with.  I have damage to the part of my brain that sees the lower right side of the visual field in both eyes.  But I also have damage to a part of the brain that tracks fast movements, like a baseball, or a cat flying by (not that my cats fly by quickly these days!).  This area of the brain that tracks fast movement is in the left temporal lobe, and it would have been in the path of the surgical point of entry.

She explained to me that there isn’t a rehab program for restoring this part of the brain. But then, there wasn’t for the other parts of my brain that where compromised by many seizures, an A.V.M., and the surgery.  So, my new challenge is how to work on rehabbing this.  My choice of work will be a Nia technique called “head and eye” movement.  It has to do with moving the arms around the body and tracking them with the eyes.  This will help with the visual field limitation, as I need to learn to turn my head and look, in order to see what is low and to my right.  I need to transform this action of turning my head to see, rather than attempting to see low and to the right with my eyes, which cannot do this.  So with head and eye movements, I will practice turning my head in order to see.

I am also hoping that it will help with the tracking, as I vary the speed of tracking slow moving to quickly moving arms, hands, and fingers.  While I’m not ready to have people throw baseballs at me to practice quick tracking, perhaps hanging out with a bunch of playful, quick-moving kittens?  Or perhaps, just dancing with cats, as the image suggests?

I’ll keep you poster, and here’s a great piece on this part of the brain that I never knew about before yesterday.  It’s amazing how specific certain brain functions can be!  So send me good energy as I attempt to rehab my visual fast track center!  In gratitude and joy for life force energy to continue healing, Kristine

On Becoming a Joy Warrior . . . Practice R.A.W.

20150826_194007One of the things I’ve learned over a lifetime, but especially in the past couple of years, is the significance of slowing down and really paying attention.  It’s the only way I am able to be open to the small details that bring daily joy.  When I barrel through life too quickly, I forget to look, and I don’t see.  I remember someone I worked with who struggled with depression telling me that, when the depression hit, it seemed as if the world went from “color to black and white.”  Likewise, brain trauma can create an experience of a black and white world, where the flashes of color, the moments of wonder, and the surprise of unexpected joy are not easily found.  So I use a practice from Nia, the form of movement I teach, called “R.A.W.” It stands for “Relaxed, Alert, Waiting.”  Relaxed of body, alert of mind, and my spirit waiting for . . . That’s the fun part.  Open to waiting for the magic of the unknown, the little detail that brings a moment of joy.  So, as a self-proclaimed joy warrior, I make it my practice, my discipline, to be in RAW, ready to notice moments that bring joy, to the best of my ability.  This means letting go of the pre-occupations that distract me, as well as the story lines that may have been comforting in their familiarity, but which no longer serve me.  I share a couple of photos of my joy surprise from a recent trip to Port Townsend, Wa.

20150826_193954These beauties were a part of my daily walk to a Nia training I was attending.  They are barriers, gateways, transformed by those who pass by into pillars of detailed beauty.  I added to them everyday as I walked by.  They were (and are) a reminder to me of the value of transforming what has seemed like a barrier, or a stopping point, into a place to pause and re-collect.  Since I’ve been home, I’ve been creating my own versions as I walk around my “stomping grounds,” hoping that they will help others to stop for a moment and appreciate.  Slowing down calms the confusion that is still present in my brain, at times.  It brings clarity.  Cultivating and seeking joy is the fuel that moves me out of the frustration of living with brain challenge.  I don’t ignore the challenge, but I choose joy!

Epileptica Recreated

Last Thursday, I had a celebration of my 2nd birthday. It has been 2 years since I had brain surgery, and October 8th will, forevermore, feel like a “new birthday” for me. The Montessori children (with whom I have the joy of dancing and doing Nia from time to time) made me a birthday card. I was talking to one of them who shared that she thought we should all have a “new birthday” every once in awhile. A lot have shifted during the past 2 years. I have retired from ministry at the church, and I now focus on teaching Nia (dance) and yoga in my studio, Aloft, here in Pullman. I have been given several opportunities to do more writing about my experience, for a Nia blog (talking about how I used Nia as a part of my healing process), as well as some other writing about recovering from brain surgery. So I find myself going back through the whole experience (in Nia, we call it “recapitulating”). I’ve been reading through the blog posts with interest, laughing with Jonathan about “My first boast” (my ability to write and spell was not epic at that time — my first post after brain surgery). I enjoyed reading the “Dr. Sunshine” posts, many of which I had not read before.

The blog is now renamed as “Seize Joy.”  That is what I try to remember to do every day.  I choose to focus my energies on being a “joy warrior,” to the best of my abilities.  Some days I fail miserably, but, on many days I find ample reason to seize the joy of the moment.

And to seize joy rather than randomly have seizures is a much fuller way to live.

I am hoping that most of you who were following this blog have, by now, unsubscribed, as your life has gone on. However, for those of you who might still be reading when it pops up, I invite you to read as I reflect further upon the experience, share some of the posts I’m writing for Nia, and share the next steps that will be coming up, which include finally going to a neuro-opthamologist to see if my vision can be “tweaked” to something closer to normal, as I continue to reduce meds (we don’t know how much, but I’m working on it with my neurologist, and as I go back to Boston once again for more scans (sometime in the spring). Like most real-life stories, this one goes on, and I find this blog to be a place to write the journey. Join me if you choose, or not, and thank you to so many of you who have been a part of this experience. With love, Kristine