Off to a Limpy Start
Me waving hello, to the best of my abilities.
The facts are these: I had pulled an all nighter with a gaggle of teen spoken word poets – we had gone to see the movie Fruitvale Station, eaten an indulgent meal at Denny’s, and then sat on our carry-ons practicing poetry at Sea-Tac before boarding our flight to Chicago. I – exhausted chaperone – pulled my signature move and knocked out on the tray table. When I awoke two hours later, wiggling my sleeping limbs back to life, my left hand refused to wake up.
Fast forward a few hours, and I was chillin’ in the ER at the U of Chicago after having checked my squad in to the festival. While they partook in the opening ceremonies of the glory that is Brave New Voices, I was crossing my fingers I hadn’t low-key had a stroke.
What I have is a radial nerve palsy, a compression of the nerve that runs from our shoulders to our fingertips and makes our wrists and hands do what they do. Normally your body shouldn’t let your body do that to itself, but my senses were so depressed from exhaustion that I guess sleep was paramount to nerve damage. I can’t lift my hand from my wrist, and I can’t make a thumbs-up (quite the bummer!), I can’t type, probably shouldn’t drive, and can barely hold anything. And because nerves take about 1mm/day to grow back, I’m looking at 4-6 weeks of full recovery time.
My ER text conversation with my concerned mom, who ultimately knows what’s most important.
I let myself mope for the rest of the evening, so frustrated by my diminished capacity, but grateful the damage wasn’t permanent and amazed at how I take my full faculties for granted. And it didn’t hurt to put my injury in perspective that I was in the most inspiring place ever. I’ve attended Brave New Voices five times since I first competed at 17 as a new spoken word poet from the Bay Area. It’s a gathering of ferociously talented young poets and storytellers who speak with immense passion and grace, a gathering of artists, a powerful convention and affirmation that the next generation can speak for itself. It blew my ceiling open as a youth poet and allowed me to make some amazing connections and friendships – including my girl Mary Lambert, who floored me with her poetry when she was competing and is now the uber-famous voice of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love”.
The 2013 Seattle Youth Speaks slam team: Ronald, Julia, Kiawe, Janessa & Hamda. 100% bad ass.
Poetry – especially bombastic spoken word – is where I found center as a teenager and as an artist, although I now write songs and sing instead of spit poetry, the grounding is the same. It was my privilege to co-coach a team of five truly badass wordsmiths and performers from Seattle, and was probably the best place I could have been to put my nerve damage in perspective. Especially as I enter this next phase of my life and my career as a musician, I couldn’t have asked for a better place and better people to be with.
The takeaways are these:
+ Don’t fall asleep with your head cradled into your elbow to the point where you compress your nerve.
+ I am frequently tired. A lot of people I know are. We are tired and worn thin, overextended and because of it, we sometimes numb our senses. I know this injury was part back luck and part my own doing. Having my hand partially immobilized has made me immediately and at times painfully attentive to the needs of my body – I have to be more alert, careful and conscientious of myself.
I am tired because there is so much I want to do, so much I want to make, and see, and write. But because I am defined by my drive, I have to be good to the hands behind the wheel.
So welcome to my blog. Shoulda been blogging earlier, but I am doing it now, scribbling by hand, humbled, checked and ready. Let’s do this.