Watching through windows

Green fern branch in silver vase on white window sill in sunlight uid 1172553Every day stuff aren’t always every day. I think about how other people do the little every day things like getting up, getting dressed, brushing their teeth. I’ve watched people brush their teeth with great fascination, how they can carry on a conversation, brush, spit, rinse and walk up and down whilst never stopping to think about what exactly it is that they are doing. I can’t do that. I’ve stopped trying. At the moment my wrist feels as if its on fire. I make time to put ice on after every injury, it helps. I wrap it up in a heated towel and it helps. I splint it for part of the day and most of the night. I’m not sure how much that helps. I diligently do my stretching and strengthening exercises. I practice control and coordination. I try my utmost to keep it in neutral and not over-extend or hold it in a funny position. It’s difficult as I can’t tell where it is unless I look and I can’t always look at my wrist, but I try. I look at the toothbrush and toothpaste. I cringe. Chris takes the top off and puts paste on the brush. We’ve talked about this. He says that he doesn’t know when to help so I have to tell him which days I need help with what. We no longer talk about toothpaste caps and taps hurt and why get hurt if you don’t absolutely have to. I take the toothbrush and think about holding it, gripping it, not letting go, not dropping it on the floor. The fire in my wrist has flames that lick across the left side of my hand, engulfing my fingers on that side, burning hot.  I try to make soothing noises in my head, think happy thoughts I think, think about your favourite music, think of the toothbrush in your hand or you’ll drop it. It’s at this point that my multitasking skills are clumsily deployed. Think and do. I’m not sure if I’m holding the toothbrush tight enough or too tightly. I focus on the sensation in my hand, the feel of pressure.

First there is nothing but blankness and then I can feel it, right there, in my hand. Too tight. I can feel now that the muscles in my hands are getting tired and panicky, a little jumpy. The bones are sliding just a little in my finger joints and it’s a sharp, sudden pain like tiny stab wounds. I think about my fingers, how I should be moving them and how I shouldn’t… my wrist makes a clunking noise. I put the toothbrush down slowly, leaving the tap open. I use my right hand to make the bones in the left slide back where they should be. Stay, I say. Just for two minutes. I need just two minutes to brush my teeth. But I need a normal two minutes and I’ll never have that and so I know its more like ten or five, but sometimes lying to yourself is not such a bad bad thing. Two minutes I say out loud and reach again for the toothbrush. The sound of the water running in a tiny stream is beating against my thoughts. It’s as loud as the ocean in a storm. I have been tuning it out, focusing on the handle in my hand, distracted by the pain. My head is throbbing in sync with its rhythm and its reaching that unbearable pitch where nothing can distract me. I put my toothbrush down again and close the tap, leaning back on my tooth brushing chair until my head rests against the door frame. It’s not a comfortable position, but it will do. I place my cool wet hands against my temples and will the noise to calm down. Three deep breaths, I think. Calm down, its not that difficult. I think of rain and trees and wind blowing through my hair. The pounding finds a slower rhythm. I go back to brushing my teeth.

Fifteen minutes after I started I open the taps again, it stings and the fire flares, but I focus on the cold water rushing over my hands, how cool it feels, nice, soothing. I hold my wrist under the tap, look at the neighbours’ garden through the open bathroom window, feel the wind blowing across my face. Chris comes to check if I’m okay. I nod yes. He closes the window. Picks up the toothbrush and puts it back on the stand. Puts his arms around my waste and walk me back the six steps to the bed. I’m okay, I say. I’m fine. You look tired, he says. I know. But I’m okay. We put the wrist splint back on. I sink back against the pillows. My head hurts. “My head hurts”, I say. “I know,” he says. “Sleep a little more”, he says and shuts the door as he goes back to the daily stuff of daily life. I think about my day and what I’ve done today and how my wrist hurts and how my head throbs and it’s easy to forget that time moves on and right now I’m just right here in this room where it’s cool and dark and I just need to be quiet and still. I’m good at being quiet and still. I’ve had lots of practice. I stop thinking about how other people brush their teeth and instead think about sleep and summer and the cold air caressing my skin and go back to sleep. Just for a little while and if I can’t sleep which happens more often than not, I can try and escape somewhere else. Somewhere not so quiet and not so still, where I can swim long lazy laps in a lake or fall asleep on a hammock hooked between two big trees.

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2 Comments

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  1. Because you don’t mention here, have you considered a powered toothbrush. It would reduce the strain of the back and forth motion and would add the vibrating sensation from the handle so you know when it’s still in your hand.

  2. Thanks Matt, but I already have a powered toothbrush. It’s not so much that I have impaired sensation as impaired proprioception. I know the toothbrush is there, I just don’t know exactly where there is. Whether it vibrates or not makes no difference, in fact, if anything the movement makes it more difficult to perceive exactly how I’m holding it. It is most definitely a big help, absolutely adore my powered toothbrush, couldn’t get by without it.

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