Silence, Noise and Bravery.

I can pull this all together. 

Let’s start with the silence. Chronic Lyme Disease has left me with an addled brain. As a result, I have become incredibly sensitive to sound, and my brain is very easily agitated. In response, silence has become my favorite sound. I live for it. I find solace in it. I need it like a drug. I walk at dawn so I can experience the earth at its most quiet. When in my car I often don’t listen to the radio. When I’m home alone I do not play music and rarely turn on the TV. I meditate. Blessed, blessed silence.  

There are however, two occasions on which I seek out noise. The first is when I miss my beloved late brother. We shared a deep love for each other and for Springsteen. So when I miss my brother, I play Springsteen. Loudly. The more I miss him, the louder the music. In this instance, my heart hurts more than my brain, and music becomes medicine. 

The other time I actively seek out loud noise is when I need to feel brave. I am at the point in my recovery where bravery is imperative. Maybe it’s been imperative all along, but my need for bravery feels more urgent now.

It’s hard to explain what this moment is like for me. I am emerging from a long period of being commanded by illness and anxiety. I am at the point right after the car accident. I am dusting myself off, checking to see if all body parts are present, and am somewhat unsteadily walking away from the wreck. 

I am not the person I was when I was in the deep clutches of illness. And I am not the vibrant, fully functional person I was before I got sick. I am somewhere in the awkward middle. Striving to regain some of my past life, but within the limitations of my lingering health struggles.

It’s unchartered territory. It’s scary. I am still easily fatigued, and anxiety is always a whisper away. But with hard work, persistence, and a lot of self pep talks, I can do more than I used to. The new world I’m trying to inhabit is foreign to me. My primary identity for the last eight years was “patient” and now I am trying to transform my identity to “person”. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

It takes courage. Courage to believe I really am getting better. Courage to believe getting out won’t wear me out. Courage to believe I have the fortitude to keep my anxiety in the background. Courage to believe a bad day is an isolated incident vs. backtracking to a previous state.

I accidentally stumbled on a counterintuitive (at least for me) way to boost my courage. My daughter and I share an iTunes account, so random music is always popping up on my phone. While in the car the other day, my phone somehow connected to the radio and the Sara Bareilles song, Brave started playing. My first instinct was to turn it off (noise), but instead I decided to listen. And darn, if I didn’t feel more brave afterwards. So I listened again. A little louder this time. And again, louder still. And with each new playing I felt just a little more brave.

These lyrics spoke to me in particular:

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in

Show me how big your brave is

My life felt like a darkened cage for a long time. I just felt so trapped by Lyme and anxiety. I had been everywhere and tried everything, and I was not getting better. I couldn’t see any daylight. And then finally, there was a crack. My job now is to make that crack just a touch bigger every day.

Enlarging that crack is very much a mental game. I am wobbly, and it would be easy to fall back into the dark cage. But I feel just well enough to continue fighting for the light. But I can’t do it if my brave is not big. So on those days when my brave feels small, I crank that song and play it as many times as I need to. Cheesy? Absolutely. Does it help? Absolutely.

At this point, I need to embrace anything that helps. Cheesy or not.

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