The calm before the storm

It’s been a while since I have written because I’ve been on self-inflicted radio silence so that I can focus my energies on my upcoming comprehensive exams, arguably the greatest test in getting a PhD, and  a test that had I  done my research and known existed may have deterred me from this particular career choice. I’m particularly test averse. The test starts tomorrow and I decided to go easier on myself than I have in a while, to allow the stress to just momentarily dissipate. To let the worst of my worries today be the mild headache that’s been lingering after medicine and an exploration of how far away I can plug the heating pad and still have it reach my head. I’ve found a sense of calm., weird, neurotic, calm.

This is arguably one of the most stressful times of my life. It is a culmination of sorts, of everything I’ve accomplished professionally and academically thus far. It is one of those times where the stress slowly builds, you can feel it in the pressure in your chest, your shortened breaths, the slight twitch in your eyelid. You can feel it in the increased presence of headaches, you can feel it in your scar. you can feel it everywhere. It is a time that you reflect on how far you’ve come and how far you’d like to go.  I have had other moments of stress, and being someone who studies trauma, identity, representation and how we mediate them, I can understand that each feeling is a byproduct of my environment. That every palpitation is a consequence of my constructed environment. So I allow the stress to run its course and try to keep it in perspective. I liken it to the stress I felt before surgery, though that was a process I had no control over. It was a helpless space. I think of times of life that surprised me with stress, attack or fear, the unanticipated stressors in life that you simply can’t predict. Those too are helpless spaces. This, this is a space where my fate is in my own hands, based entirely on my own capability, and that, well it’s almost scarier.

So today I went to the gym, to work out the emotion, to continue on my path, my quest really, to find my new me, my new size and physicality, my new emotional state and my new form of bliss. I wandered around bouncing from machine to machine, nothing quieting my nerves until I worked my self to a point of exhaustion that gave way to an endorphin fueled comfort. As I walked out the guy at the counter implored me to enjoy today’s sunshine. I could have been my downer self and said, “Oh silly man, I have to study, we can’t all bask in the glory of the sun!” but instead, I looked out the doors, saw the pure blue sky, and turned back and smiled at him, “Thanks!” I exclaimed as I almost skipped to my car. I got in the car, decided some music would be nice.

I don’t listen to music very loud anymore. It triggers a much worse instance of tinnitus in my failing ear and only serves to remind me that I have something everyone thinks I should overcome that I just want to learn how to accept. It won’t get better, it won’t get fixed, it just is, and I want that to be okay. Today, the sun was shining and I figured, what the hell, I’ll drown out the tinnitus with the music. I don’t have to let myself be present with that sound unless I want to and I only wanted to be present to my music. I clicked over from NPR to my iPod where the song Neon Tiger by The Killers was playing. I squeaked my windows down just enough to feel to cool air on my sweat-soaked hair, popped the sunroof just enough and cranked that music loud. And in that moment, I found a moment of bliss. Not just any bliss, but a moment of aware bliss. I was aware that I had drained my body, I was aware I have to start a week of tests tomorrow, I was aware of my scar, aware of my pain, aware aware aware. NONE OF IT MATTERED. I, in that moment, felt more alive than I had in weeks of studying. More free, more okay. I was just….happy. I thought to myself, just keep driving, take a lap, extend this moment, but as I turned on my street and into my garage, I decided this moment, fleeting as it was, served its purpose. I had my moment, felt the wind on my face, let it all go for just a moment. In letting go, I believe, and hope I found the strength to defy my body and prove my mind this week, to grasp all that has been stressing me and take it on head first.

I hope.

Peace and love,




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