Tougher Than I Know

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Part of the flier my husband created for the yoga classes I teach to veterans.

My husband likes to tell me something when I’m feeling down–not just down-in-the-dumps down, but “I’m a brain-injured dumb-dumb, and I can’t cope with this and this and this and whatever anymore” down.

You can probably guess by the title of this piece what his message is. “You’re tougher than you know,” he always says, and I always end up feeling better. Then we always end up laughing about an incident during my hospitalization after The Accident more than a decade ago, during a time when I was in and out of consciousness and mostly out of coherence. A former high school band mate who’d gone on to become a professional musician had apparently told my sister at one point that I had perfect pitch. In the hospital I became convinced this saxophonist had called me a “perfect b—-!” During the years that followed, that silly misunderstanding morphed into my husband’s belief that I am “one tough b—-” (meant as a compliment, of course), and he’s almost made me believe it.

But yesterday, from beginning to almost the end, was a true test of my tough b—-ery.

So I wake up, resolved not to hoof it to the Community Center gym as I usually do because I was nursing a twisted ankle. With coffee in hand and a pillow propping up my foot, I was reading the newspaper when a call came from the Veterans Center, where I was due to teach my next yoga class in a week.

The social worker there greeted me in a cheery voice and said she wanted to let me know who was expected at tonight’s class. (You might recall from the previous paragraph that the next class wasn’t for a week.) Oops. After my initial panic, I told her I’d be happy to teach.

The truth is, the center had been having trouble getting participants to commit to coming to yoga. For the most part, they come for counseling, so getting even a small turnout to my classes has been a challenge. I understand that. It’s just that I’ve spent many a stressful Tuesday and/or Wednesday trying to reach the right contact person at the short-staffed, overworked office.

And I’ve been known to obsess over the yoga sequences I plan, revising or completely redoing them up to the last minute.

And I don’t drive, so I coordinate with a neighbor to take me to the center. That arrangement went off without a hitch … until yesterday. She hadn’t come to pick me up, so I lugged my equipment to her door and rang the bell. … Nothing. So I tried her cell phone, leaving a message that we must’ve gotten our wires crossed about the date (the class used to be on Thursdays) and that I would get another ride. (She called me after I’d gotten to the vet center–oops, spoiler alert–apologizing profusely for having fallen asleep. No worries, Pat!)

And it was raining. And I’m not good with Plan B’s.

But then I pulled up the hood of my raincoat, walked back across the street and called my next-door neighbor, Ian. (Ringing doorbells is so last century.) He just needed five minutes for his little boy to finish his dinner, and he’d be right over, with his son in tow. So I got to know a neighbor I’d only spoken with in passing and made it to the Veterans Center in time.

The yoga class, as always, was a joy! When I told the class that I’d have missed the morning phone call if I’d gone to the gym as planned, one of the veterans said it must have been meant to be. I think he’s right.

The overworked social worker had offered to drive me home, but my husband made it back from work in time to pick me up. I told him his words had gotten me through what for me was a hard day.

“You’re tougher than you know,” he said. … “B—-.”

4 thoughts on “Tougher Than I Know

      1. I just so happens to read Brain and Life. Story is showing me how to move on. Name is Lisa & 2004 was hiy by car @ college.

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      2. I’m so sorry about your injury, fellow Lisa. I know from experience how difficult it can be to start over, and I hope you’re getting all the support you need to do it, little by little. I’m not the same person I was before my accident. I still have trouble with numbers, technology (it’s a miracle I’m able to work this computer-thingy!), I’ve got no sense of direction, and if I don’t get tons of sleep and stick to a routine, I’m prone to crying spells. But I also gained a new sense of joy. I wish the same for you (the joy, not the crying)!

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