concussed. by Julie Anne Caramanico

"I'm concussed!" I joke to my friends while they order another drink at cocktail hour; I reach for more water.  I tend to make light of situations, which I suppose is a good thing while at your friends' wedding. The injury happened while I was working at a local center for kids, and one of the kids rocket launched (see: kicked) a football that went directly into my head.  I saw him connect with the ball, and I had a half second to turn my face before it whacked me in the upper left quadrant of my brainholder.  (My only regret is no video, this would be an incredible gif.)  The future NFL kicker then ran up to me, and because he has Autism, wasn't sure how to react.  He stood before me but faced sideways, put his fingers to his eyes (literally holding back tears) and repeated "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry".  He said it over and over until I could formulate some sort of "It's ok".

I make jokes because I want people to laugh at the story. I need to laugh at the story. But dealing with a concussion in my day to day life has been no joke. On impact I could feel a jostling up there of things that shouldn't be jostled, and I knew it was a pretty bad hit. When I went to the doc, they called it a minor concussion and cleared me of any extra issues. I told him I was still having headaches (10 days post) and he said "that could be stress related, or emotional".  I thought ...well PROBABLY doc, since I just started a yoga program/business and this is terrible timing. Plus I'd just watched my mom recover slowly from a much more serious concussion last year after a bad car accident in Houston - so this freaked me out quite a bit.  

It's been a month post-injury now, and anyone who has suffered a concussion knows it can be a long, slow, and somewhat ambiguous recovery. I have it easy compared to many. Still - I look fine, but don't feel ok.  There's no clear time frame on when symptoms will ease up. I added a lot to my plate this fall. I'm trying to get my kids yoga program off the ground while paying my bills with other work in the Autism field.  All of the work I do requires that I actually do it - there are no paid days off.  However I've needed several days just to rest and recover. Rest involving no SCREENS of any kind.  (How on earth am I supposed to run a business this way?  You tell me.) Working at computers for too long gives me a massive headache, and I need to rest after. Forget about demonstrating poses in my yoga class.  I'm not able to do my yoga practice like I want to, and despite great instructions from my teachers, I'm having a difficult time accepting my body's current limitations. Before the concussion (BC, if you will) I was dropping back into urdvha danurasana solo, and now a standard downward facing dog causes me headaches.  I never thought that child's pose would be the most difficult posture to take, but surrendering my ego has been some of the hardest yoga I've ever practiced. I try to see learning opportunities in all situations. I know that there is some form of grace in this situation, if I can find it.  

In a very blunt and no nonsense way, this concussion is teaching me how to slow down.  I can't be everything.  I can't do everything.  And why do I want to?  It's forcing me to step back and evaluate what is really important in my life, and in my business.  I've been running at a clip for some time, trying to achieve goals and create the life I want.  But slowing down has helped me realize the things I'm most attached to - being busy, doing yoga, teaching yoga, and saying YES to every exciting opportunity.  Yoga is important to me.  My yoga work is very important to me.  But it should not, however, define me.  Work should not be all I do, even if its work I enjoy. I can't let those things fill me up because when they fall away, whats left?  Still me, just a person.  No frills or flashiness to impress you.  Just a human soul that still deserves my own kindness and respect despite my body's diminished capacity at the moment.  

So many of us become attached to the roles that define us.  Then, when something threatens that role or its taken away, it can be depressing because we hung our hat on being "great teacher" or "business owner", etc. The attachment to that role as our identity gives the not doing of it so much more weight, and it'll crush you if you let it.  This is what is so deeply valuable about practicing yoga. Connecting to the breath. The soul. Our highest self. Whatever you call it, its that reservoir of peace inside that is untouchable, unknowable and altogether indestructible despite the physical challenges we face in life. We don't need to hang our hats on an outer identity; the inner one is far more fascinating and deserving of our attention.  But still, we are human.  We live in a social world and its tempting to let something that makes us feel good, something that brings us satisfaction and love and attention, become who we are.  Letting ago of attachments in life is no easy task; it's a lifelong practice. It doesn't mean we relinquish all the things we love and live in a cave.  Rather, acknowledge the thing (person, job, role, etc) as part of us but not what defines us is the key. Still care, still love, but create a bit of space. It can be downright uncomfortable, but I'm so grateful for my yoga practice and the opportunity to learn more about my own attachments. They snuck up on me. Kinda like that football. It didn't quite knock me out, but in many ways it woke me up.