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Is This My Shirt…Really?
By Ariel Kane

In the summer of 2013, we were in Cambridge, England, leading a series of seminars when Shya unexpectedly had a dramatic episode that we later discovered was an extremely rare condition. Other people who went through this type of episode have generally viewed it as a deeply upsetting, fearful event. But fortunately for the two of us, being present and taking things moment-by moment had prepared us to deal with this circumstance with humor and ease. This is what happened from Ariel’s point of view:

Many of us dream about having the ability to live in the moment, to drop our story and discover the world anew. Shya and I had that experience. Well, Shya did, but that doesn’t mean he remembers it.

It started on a Wednesday in Cambridge, England. Shya and I were scheduled to lead a seminar about Instantaneous Transformation for a local group that evening and we had some “afternoon delight” followed by a nap. We thought we would feel refreshed, but it didn’t work out the way we had planned.

We were lounging in bed, enjoying a bit of post-coital languor, drowsy and sated and drifting toward sleep.

Lying on our left sides, I had placed Shya’s hand on my shoulder. Several weeks prior I’d had shoulder surgery and I was still feeling its effects. His hand was warm and soothing on the ache and our conversation would have been largely forgotten had things not taken a sharp turn.

“Ariel,” Shya said, “when you had your shoulder surgery, I know we spent the night in an apartment but I can’t remember where it was.”

“Neither can I,” I replied.

“How did we get that apartment?” he asked.

“Through the hospital.”

“What was your doctor’s name again?”

“Dr. Glashow,” I said. I was warm and cozy and the conversation was slow and easy.

“I don’t really know where I am right now,” Shya said.

This was not a particularly unusual statement. We travel so much we may go to sleep in three different locations or countries on three subsequent days. When we wake up, we have to remember the room, the surroundings and the city we’re in. It isn’t disconcerting. It’s more like emerging from a fog into the clarity of who we are in a particular time and space.

“Where are we?” Shya asked.

“In Cambridge,” I replied drowsily.

“Cambridge?”

“Yes, Cambridge, England.”

“What are we doing here?”

“We’re doing a group here tonight.”

“We are? How did we get here?”

By now I was beginning to perk up a bit as I realized that Shya’s questions were somewhat odd yet sincere. “You know,” I said. “We flew in from Helsinki. You just spent a week in Russia.”

“Russia! Me? No. What was I doing in Russia?”

My eyes flew open and I quickly sat up. For an entire year Shya and I had planned a salmon fishing adventure in Russia, but in the months preceding the trip, our plans had radically changed. I had developed a condition called “frozen shoulder,” an extremely painful affliction, and I was advised by Dr. Glashow that I would still be in no shape to go, so our friend, Peter, took my place. Shya and Peter had gone together and Shya had tied fishing flies for months prior to the trip. From the questions Shya was asking, I knew something was seriously amiss.

“You went to Russia to go salmon fishing,” I said staring at him.

“No. Really?”

“Yes, you went with Peter, remember?”

Shya’s mouth dropped open and the look on his face was incredulous. “Peter?!” he blurted out. “Peter? We went to Russia with Peter?”

“No, I couldn’t go because I had shoulder surgery,” I reminded him.

It was clear that something was desperately wrong. “Hang on, Shya,” I said. “You might be having a stroke. I’m going to get you a baby aspirin.”

I jumped up and began rooting around on the desk until I found the little snack bag filled with Shya’s vitamins that contained a baby aspirin. I’d heard that if someone was having an episode, taking a baby aspirin would act as a blood thinner and could make the difference between life and death. In the moment, I couldn’t remember if this applied only to heart attacks or also to strokes but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I handed him a glass of water and put the aspirin on his tongue. “Here, drink this,” I said as I picked up the phone and dialed “0.”

“Front Desk, this is Vanessa.”

“Do you have a doctor here?”

“No but we can get one. Do you need an ambulance?”

That question caught me off guard. “I don’t know,” I said. “My husband is extremely disoriented.”

“I can get you an ambulance if you need one,” she exclaimed. I heard a resounding click and looked at the phone in my hand. “She hung up on me!” I said.

Assuming she was calling the doctor or ordering an ambulance, I started getting us ready.

“I’m confused,” Shya said. “Now, where am I?”

“You’re in Cambridge, honey.”

He paused and said, “I’m confused. What just happened?”

“We’re in Cambridge to lead a group…”

“Really?”

“Yes. We had sex.”

“We did?”

“Yes, and suddenly you got disoriented.”

The phone rang. The ambulance was on its way.

“Let’s get you dressed,” I said, pulling on my own clothes. “I’m getting your underwear.”

“I have underwear?”

“Yes, how about jeans?” I asked as I pulled a pair off a hanger.

“Jeans would be fine.”

Shya had slipped into his underwear and I pointed to the shirt he’d been wearing earlier. “Put on your shirt, sweetheart.”

Shya lifted the slate-grey long-sleeved t-shirt. It was a brand he had researched prior to the Russian trip, made of lightweight wool that would keep a person warm in winter and cool in summer. He’d been wearing it almost like a uniform, but now, he held the t-shirt in two hands as if he’d never seen it before. His face took on a look of wonder.

“Is this my shirt…Really?”

“Yes, Shya. Put it on,” I said evenly.

Shya pulled on his shirt and I got him his socks and shoes and I got my own.

“I’m confused. Now where are we?” he asked.

“We’re in Cambridge,” I said.

“We are?”

“Yes. We had sex and then you became confused. The ambulance is on its way. You just came back from Russia where you were fishing for salmon.”

I kept up a steady stream of conversation as I grabbed my phone to call our friend Menna to alert her that we would not be able to make the event we were scheduled to lead in just a few hours. Suddenly I felt as if I were operating like Menna and her husband Artur. Earlier in the day, they were being loving and respectful to their toddler Oscar, even though he wasn’t talking a lot just yet. I couldn’t imagine them getting irritated with him when he grew into the repetitive-question phase so I patiently answered each of Shya’s questions as if they were new and had never been asked before.

Menna assured me she would take care of things, not to worry (bless her), and she promised to bicycle over to the hospital to meet us.

“I’m confused,” Shya said, standing in the middle of the room. “I see fly rods in the corner. That must mean something.”

“Yes, you went fly fishing in Russia.”

“Russia? Really? We did?”

“Yes. You and Peter went fishing in Russia.”

“Peter? We went fishing with Peter!?”

We went through the series of questions and answers once again and for a moment I got tight. My tone of voice changed and it immediately translated itself to Shya who suddenly became slightly agitated. I became aware of my change in attitude and let it go without being hard on myself for having gotten disturbed in the first place. Oh, well, I thought with a slight smile, he won’t remember it in a moment anyway.

Shya paused and then he said again, “I’m confused. Now what happened?”

“It’s alright honey. We had sex and…”

“Was it good sex?” He asked innocently.

Innocently is the only way to describe it. It wasn’t an embarrassing subject. Of course it shouldn’t be after more than three decades together. It was a simple question, sincerely posed by a sweet, sweet man who was my husband and yet…

“Yes, it was very good sex,” I said, laying my hand on his cheek. It was odd that Shya was so himself and yet not. It was as if his life had been distilled to this moment. While he clearly had no history, not even immediate history, he still retained his fundamental self, his innocence, his wonder, his love, his heart…
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