That Time I Lost My Words
One day I lost my words.
I woke up that day, and every day since, the words weren’t there. Instead, a jackhammer attempted to break through my skull, loud, internally rattling, my brain violently slamming around, forcefully hitting the sides of my skull in quick, violent, and unpredictable patterns that did. not. end. Only an ice pack numbed the sensation, but the rattling did not stop. Once the ice melted, the coldness dissipated, and the numbness subsided, the pain returned.
This started 6 weeks ago. Today are the first substantial words I’ve written in 6 weeks.
I am a writer. Not in some lofty sense of a great novelist or essayist, but as a scholar and a teacher: a professor. My job is to think and write and teach. That’s it. The inability to write means the inability to do my job means the inability to attain the holy grail of lifetime employment means foiling a goal towards which I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, in essence mortgaging my family’s wellbeing. Not being able to write means not being able to put food on the table. We don’t have a safety net. No one is paying our rent or putting food on our table if I don’t have this job.
But, if I cannot write, I cannot write. I want to write, but I can’t. If I have lost my words, they are lost. I have looked for them. They are out there, somewhere, like in a word search with many letters but I can’t find the words. I am like a child who recognizes letters but not yet words. They are there but not there.
Today, I woke up and there was stillness. After two trips to urgent care and a somewhat-disappointing neurology appointment, I woke up today and gratefully said “hello” to the cheerful southern California sunshine. I hit snooze on my alarm because I wasn’t ready to get up not because I needed to hide my eyes from the light. I cooked breakfast for my kid the first time he asked instead of saying go ask your father as I fought the morning nausea that accompanies my headaches.
And look at this: here are my words. I don’t know if I found them or they found me but it doesn’t quite matter. Either way, there is so much to catch up on. So many things that the past six weeks have left undone.
But words are tricky. And they do not like being abused. They will leave as quickly as they’ve come.
And the rattling can begin at any time.
So these are the only words I’ll write today. And tomorrow I’ll write a few more words, and a few more the next day, and then more, and so on. Hopefully, the words will stay happy with me. And I won’t lose them again.