Monday, October 24, 2011

Cocky in the Brain

Hello there. I haven't posted for a while because recovering from stroke slows down your entire life. Even though I do rehab exercises every day, my rehab team keeps reminding me that it will most likely take six months for me to recover fully. (Even typing this post is amazingly difficult.) Kind people who have come to visit seem surprised that I don't look like Lon Chaney Senior playing Quasimodo. Shouldn't stroke victims be all dribbly, with one side of their face drooping? This is pretty much society's preconception. My face looks symmetrical at the moment, but then I've been exercising it every day, trying to rediscover how to lift my soft palate. There are perfectly good muscles on the left side of my face but my brain has merely forgotten they are there. There's a trick where we remind the brain of these muscles by placing an icepack on them. Suddenly the brain senses something. 'Oh, that's right, there are muscles there, so I might as well use them.' I can now walk without tripping over, because I've been practising balancing. Standing on one leg and closing your eyes might not seem that difficult, but I still can't do it. Balance exercises take up an hour of each day.

I suppose I do appear quite chipper for a stroke victim. I can even run - though I've found only one place where it's safe enough to do this. There's a park alongside the commission flats in Prahran. It's a concave shape and the grass is quite long and tufty- giving me a soft landing surface should I trip. The treat of the week is to go to this park and run its diameter two or three times. It feels so good to run and leave the stroke-stricken version of me behind.

I had the stroke on 7 September (I’m a little hazy on dates, my short-term memory is still bad) which means I'm in the middle of that vital three month recovery period, where everything I do now will have the strongest impact upon how completely I recover from this thing, so I’m working hard on my rehab. Try standing on one leg and squatting. Not so easy, is it? Now try it eight times in a row, three times a day.

So I'm looking relatively 'normal', but it's what's going on inside that worries me. I don't seem to have recovered the mental faculties that enable me to write TV scripts and books. Even my Final Draft software is hard to negotiate. I very much want to write a sequel to my book, The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher, but I'll have to read it again because I forget the characters and story.

I'm overemotional. They warned me that I would be, but I was taken by surprise when I found myself weeping at the end of Shrek 3 - and it wasn't because I'd just wasted my money on seeing a movie that should probably have been better, given the many resources at Dreamworks' disposal. I was also aggrieved when I read on Megan Burke's blog the following teen reviews of The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher. This is a précis:)

Virginia said:
The book was quite good but a bit boring at times. Some of the humore wasnt very funny -_- , But it was a goodish book but LOTS of room for improvement .

Rabid said:
boring not enough gore

Samantha said:
Fairly good book i guess but not really my type of book. The jokes should be more understandable

It's rare of me to self-google. It was an ill-advised attempt to get a bead on the first book, to try to find out what people liked about it (I really should know this already, but the memory has gone).

Megan explained to me that these emails all arrived at the same time and had an edu. suffix, so it's pretty likely that some poor teacher had been given the task of 'teaching' the book, but rather than read the teacher's notes or look too deeply into the novel in order to answer questions from the students, they have taken advantage of Megan's better nature and directed the students to send their comments to Megan, since she is known for dilligently replying to all comments she receives, and she's astute. This normally wouldn't and shouldn’t bother me. But it did, and I'm very happy to say that Megan as moderator declined to publish my response to the slew of critiques from young readers. I even think I had a go at Samantha, suggesting that just because she's too dumb to get the jokes, doesn't mean that other readers are. But Virginia was the one who really got to me with her 'LOTS of room for improvement'. Each one of those uppercase letters stings. I feel like I've been reprimanded by Mr Atkins  (a much disliked schoolteacher character from the book).

In 2010 I wrote a novel called The Shiny Guys. I had to copy-edit it last week, alongside my editor, Dmetri, and I found that I no longer loved the book. It's very dark, with hardly any jokes, so at least Samantha should be relieved.

I'm sure my sudden ambivalence toward the book is a result of the stroke. (UPDATE 29 October: I now like the book. Wait till you see the cover!) So the very last thing I should be doing is paying heed to the pulings of readers who didn't exactly 'ship' my last work.

Here is something funny. I daresay that even Samantha might be able to understand it. In The Shiny Guys, the villains resemble cockroaches. (They are the sole survivors of a nuclear war.) Now, look very closely at this MRI below. It's my brain just after the stroke. You'll note there appears to be an evil grinning'Jack o'lantern face in those dark areas of my brain. But there is something else. Have a good look now at the space between the Jack o'Lantern eyes. Remind you of anything? It's a cockroach. I obviously had cockroaches in my brain when I wrote The Shiny Guys.

Well-meaning stroke comment number one:

'You'll be fine. My grandpa had a stroke. He spent six months in hospital, but when he came out he was sharper than ever. And he didn't lose his sense of humour, which I know you're very concerned about. He came to my cousin's birthday and got big laughs when he said 'Pull my finger,' then farted.  Same old Grandpa! Unfortunately, he shat himself as well.  Mind you, that used to happen even before the stroke.'

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