Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

February 21, 2021

It’s Done When It’s Done

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 12:45 pm

We seem to get ourselves into trouble when we decide to place deadlines on events and things and people who aren’t playing by the same set of rules.

I’ve watched couples break up because the woman decided that her man “should have proposed by now.” I’ve seen couples splinter because one concludes that they “should have been pregnant by now.”

I am trying to finish my latest book, my first full-length novel, and I admit that, several times, I have felt the self-imposed pressure of, “I should have this done by now.”

Lord knows there are countless people out there who have chucked pandemic restrictions in anger and impatience because they determined that THIS THING SHOULD BE OVER ALREADY!!!

The hard truth is that we don’t get to decide everything. Some things are not up to us and we invite frustration and fracture when we assume the power of creating deadlines that weren’t ours to decide.

You know where I’m going with this..

Hurried stew is just chunks of tough meat in water..

Brain injuries should be completely healed long before most of us enjoy all of our healing. There is an impatience to return to what we had and what we no longer have access to. That wait is painful, frustrating and, when it takes too long, desperate and depressing.

What do we do?

It’s important that we install deadlines in order to get certain things done, certainly. But we have to choose wisely. Not everything, like pandemics, are ours to place deadlines upon. Maybe, in the instance of a dragging partner, we can do the proposing. Maybe, when a couple hasn’t gotten pregnant, they can set a deadline for when they turn to alternative avenues for bringing children into the family.

We can sit around feeling anxious and desperate for things to meet our deadlines. Or we can aim that energy toward positive action and change.

It all begins with assessment. We have to take an honest look at what we are dealing with.

Brain injuries aren’t working for anyone. They don’t answer to me or to you. They have their own timetable. While it’s important to measure, the measure of progress should not begin from the day before your injury. It should begin on the day after it. Start your measurement there.

How far have you come?

Setting deadlines can help if we set them NOT for a finished product of our choosing but, instead, to mark progress. In the case of my writing, the book is just not ready yet. Ugh.

But I can assess and I can set deadlines that are reasonable. I can grab power and create power by inspiring myself and imploring myself to write each morning.

One by one by one.

All of us will face uncomfortable situations that we want to rush to a conclusion. But rushed stew makes for tough-as-leather chunks of meat in water. A rushed book makes for a lousy novel. A rushed return after a sprained ankle means pain and limping.

It’s done when it’s done.

When it comes to our injuries, we can alleviate stress and frustration by installing the deadlines, not of conclusion, but of assessment. Allow yourself to set down the deadlines you created for when this thing should be over and when you should be “back to normal.” Instead, set your deadlines to assess how far you have come and which things you can impact.

If you allow yourself to view it as a marathon, you will stop training for a sprint.

I am assessing today and I realize the pandemic is not done yet. I cannot just burn all my masks and go running naked into a crowd, hugging and kissing as I go.

The pandemic is not done yet and it’s not in my power to end it.

I am assessing today and I realize my book is not ready. I cannot just publish it now and put out a lousy product.

It’s done when it’s done.

The end result of our choosing doesn’t always come with a time stamp of our choosing. Not for a marriage proposal. Not for babies. Not for pandemics or novels or brain injuries.

But we can keep working to improve a relationship. We can investigate adoption. We can keep getting up at 5 in the morning and writing. We can get through another day of wearing masks and not hugging our loved ones.

And we can assess where we are on this brain injury journey and see if changes need to be made. Instead of awaiting some golden finish line, we can set deadlines for things we have the power to create. Solve problems we can figure. Determine we need help for this or for that. Add this. Trim off that. Stop here. Turn there.

It’s done when it’s done. We have the opportunity to look at it in a different way. What is done can be the excruciating waiting for an end we cannot choose and, instead, a step toward better in any direction. We can’t keep waiting for our brain injury journey to return us to our starting line. We have to invite and allow for our journey to take us to somewhere else. Somewhere that can be, dare I say, better.

January 30, 2021

Celebrating 25 Years! Yayayayay!

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 10:12 am

As soon as I hit 56 two weeks ago, I knew my 25th year of being brain injured was just around the corner. Twenty-five years. Proud as hell.

One day, God willing, I will have lived more years as a brain injury survivor than I did as “well”…Some days that feels remarkable to me.

I don’t need to look at the calendar anymore. My body knows. My BEING knows. All that was me and is me now…

Knows.

You know, too.

I look out at the frigid January morning and I nod, quietly. The sun tricks us into believing it’s warmer than 14 degrees out there. Then, as now, the air cuts and the eyes water and the salt spray covers ours cars and our boots.

I smile to myself. I catch myself thinking…most would say today, 25 years ago, was the last day before my whole life blew up. I know, instead, that that day, before my crash, was the last day of the shiny shield.

But not the last day of the warrior behind it.

She was just getting started.

I know, true as anything, that I’ve done way more in these last 25 years than I did in the ones before it. I was prettier then, surely. Slimmer. I made more money. I was moving and dancing and coaching and playing ball.

But I decided something extraordinary after I was left with a pile of less than ordinary. As I gathered the stories and missions of those like me, determined to get back to their old selves, their old lives, their old “par”….

I decided my own “par” was a low bar, really. I wanted more. I wanted better. In looking at the ruins of my life, strewn like puzzle pieces all around me, I decided:

I can do better than all of this. Better, in every direction.

Have you decided that?

Most of you know me because of the book I wrote all those years ago. “I’ll Carry the Fork! Recovering a Life After Brain Injury” was about what happened to me. What happened to us. It was about trying to define what none of us understood. For all of us left trying to count raindrops in a bucket.

That first book on brain injury scored me awards and articles in the paper and invitations to speak all around the U.S. and in Canada. It was successful because I was not nearly alone in my quest to name this invisible, devastating monster. To convey the extent and the wide spread of the ruin.

Most would say that was the best book I’ve written. To me, it isn’t. To me, the need to define it was only a modest beginning. I knew that, in order to create a life I could be proud of and to do things that were meaningful and significant, I would have to answer the question posed in the first book.

What do we do now and what do we do next?

I wrote my second book about brain injury, “I’ll Carry the Fork! The 20th Anniversary Chapter,” because we cannot just sit there in the ruins. We cannot, even, simply define the ruins and make no space between them and us. Knowing what happened may bring peace but it doesn’t bring joy.

We deserve joy.

I am sitting here, 25 years after my injury. I am full of joy. Love. Peace. I share my blogs and my books because the bottom line is that I was so young when I was hurt that I hadn’t yet acquired any life skills necessary to create some kind of fabulous, stand-out recovery. That is so key! I am not extraordinary and, yet, I am living an extraordinary life.

Are you, yet?

Successful recovery has very little to do with how much of our symptoms heal, amazing as that sounds. I don’t have to ask you to believe that or trust my story. What I do or who I become is not important to your story.

Your success story.

All that matter is you and how you write next. How you pick important. How you measure success. How you aim your best energies and intentions.

I’m celebrating my 25th anniversary from brain injury by slashing the price of my second book to clearance levels. I marked it down where I saw people were selling used copies of it and clearance prices for it.

I am hoping it is another tool in your tool box. Another high step in your march to a version of your life you can celebrate, too.

These brain injuries end lives we chose. Many of them were solid lives. Good lives. Happy ones. But, after 25 years of this, I know full-well that this injury did not take our choice to make, again, solid and good and happy lives. I believe that for us.

I believe that in you.

Wishing you a day when you will celebrate 25 years of living after your brain injury. Feeling joyful and happy and successful and peaceful. You joined me in the sour, splintered past. Hope you’ll join me in the glorious today, sitting around drinking coffee and eating brownies and planning extraordinary futures. Throwing our heads back and laughing, surrounded by delicious possibility.

You know I’m cheering for you.

January 23, 2021

What Is The Cost Of Change?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:11 am

We’ve all heard how change can be so hard for most of us. Those of us with brain injuries often cannot navigate or invite or suffer change because, for so many of us, routine is a helpful tool in our toolbox of successful recovery.

The cost of change, then, seems too big. Too dangerous. What might we lose? We might fail or we might look dumb or people might laugh at us or we might make things worse.

Change becomes something to avoid, at every cost.

The problem, though, with never changing is that we remain that close to the worst times in our lives. We cannot move away from them. In our need to keep things from getting worse, we create a situation where things never get better, either.

Those of you who know me well are sure to roll your eyes when, every new year, I vow to lose all this weight I’ve been keeping for too many years. Like a sick, nonstop rider on the merry-go-round of madness, I try to change everything at the new year. I decide I’m not going to eat sugar and I’m going to walk miles each day and do push-ups and drink gallons of water and start eating all sorts of crazy non-meat and non-chocolate foods.

And all that goodness lasts about three days, if it is a good year. Ha. Two weeks later I catch myself thinking, “Wasn’t I supposed to be doing push-ups?” LOL

What does change cost? Does it cost you everything? Does it cost too much?

I submit it costs us less than 20 dollars.

We don’t have to lose everything to change. Not all our hard-won progress. Not our sense of security. Not our stable bubbles which allow us to function with damaged brains.

We can inch away from the people who were so close to the white-hot heat of our devastating injuries and inch toward those people we aim to be. We can have a little more. A little more confidence, a little more success, a little more happiness.

A little more than today or the day after we were hurt.

It’s not something to feel pressured by. It’s not for those around us who may conclude we are not doing enough. It’s not for those who judge us as failures.

It is for us. And, gosh darned it, we sure deserve it.

So….how much does change cost?

I welcomed and created and enjoyed and successfully created change with less than twenty dollars. This new year, I bought different tooth paste and different deodorant. I tried this new hemp face mask that you wear for five minutes. My family bought me the paint and tools for Christmas and my birthday so that I could finally paint my living room in order to get rid of the dingy gold it had been bugging me as. I downloaded a free app that reminds me to drink water throughout the day.

Change.

It is glorious. It feels awesome. I have a skip in my step. It doesn’t matter that, even with the hemp face mask, I still look too much like my Aunt Laila, all of a sudden and thirty years too soon. It doesn’t matter that, between you and me, I am a terrible painter and I have paint all over my feet and I spilled half a gallon on the tarp. It doesn’t matter that I don’t always drink all the water my app tells me to and that, in all honesty, I am lying to my app robot. LOL.

It’s wonderful. I am inching toward better each day. Even with all my wobbles, I am walking forward. I am taking my soft face and my clean and fresh walls and my better-watered body and rocking today and planning tomorrow.

Change is good. Change inches us forward but, even better, it inches us further away from the worst of our days.

Best wishes to all of you in all the ways you invite and welcome good changes in your lives. Love you.

January 1, 2021

What If?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 2:24 pm

One of the things I like about playing Words With Friends on Facebook is that my opponent cannot see all my tiles. They don’t know if my word is the best word I could have played. There is no one looking over my shoulder, frowning upon my choices or my performance. It is just fun. It is a great exercise for my mind. It is something I enjoy.

As we kick off this new year, I allow my thoughts to swirl some. I can do this and I could try that! I might like this and I could change that! It’s new and fresh and exhilarating to imagine and dare without fear. Long ago I gave up the fear that I wouldn’t write well enough or speak well enough or play all the best words in Words With Friends.

No fear left.

What if we painted, just to see what we came up with? What if we wrote, just to see what kind of story we could tell? What if we took up knitting just because it always seemed kind of cool? What if we sang, just because it feels good?

This past year was tough, no doubt. The pandemic shut our whole world down and we were faced with something most of us are not used to: a very real need to prioritize survival. Our days and weeks and months were pared down to basics that kept us alive but, also, left us missing. We missed a lot this past year.

But we made it.

While there are still months to go before we get to see some symptoms of what was once normal, it’s a great time to allow our thoughts and imagination to swirl a bit.

What if?

What if you weren’t here today? What if you had died on any day before now? All that fear and worry that holds any of us back would simply slop into regret. We would regret.

So let’s sing because we like to. Let’s join the church choir or the community musical or the other people singing the National Anthem before ball games. Let’s sing extra loud for all the people who didn’t make it. For all the people who would love to sing anything.

Let’s not care how it all works out. Let’s not measure it by whether our singing is the best there ever was or by whether it wins us a Grammy. Let’s just sing because we want to and because it feels good and because we are alive..

I was looking through the books and magazines at my grocery, shopping for a mag for my niece for Christmas. I saw a bunch of famous authors’ books and they were selling for 99 cents in the clearance bin.

So let’s write.

I’m finishing off my first full-length novel and I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. LOL. I have no idea if it’s good. I’m pretty sure it’s not The Grapes of Wrath.

But it sure feels good to write, just to see what story I can tell. Just to see if I can do it. Just to see how it all comes out. Just to see what my characters do.

I know I’ve mentioned here before how my life after brain injury has been about seeing what I COULD do and not just tallying what I could no longer do. I believe in that, entirely.

Let’s not allow our fears to slide into regrets. Let’s realize that everything we “always kind of wanted to do” is worth trying. Let’s dare! Pick up a paint brush. Pick up a pen. Pick up some knitting needles. Pick up an instrument at a pawn shop. Pick up a cook book. Pick up supplies at the hardware store.

Let’s make this a new year when we become something new and something extra that we always secretly imagined would be cool. Let’s brush off this 2020 knowing how dangerous a situation we have, so far, survived. And let us take that last year as a reminder that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

I am not alone in saying that I could never have imagined an event that would, in short order, literally shut down our world. I still can’t believe it.

But it reminds me that fears shouldn’t slide into regrets. That we have no idea what’s coming around the bend and we need to act as if.

Let’s live! Let’s try everything. So far I’ve tried jewelry making and bird house painting and dog watching and piano playing and book writing and public speaking and antique researching and sports announcing and canvass painting. I have dozens more things in my head, swirling with their hopeful magic.

Do you?

Happy New Year, all of you. Wishing you a year when you keep safe and keep moving forward. Trying new and becoming a you that surprises and delights and evolves and learns and gives and enjoys.

Know you deserve to be happy. Know you deserve to enjoy and to try and to be delighted.

Know I am cheering for you, every step of the way. Love you! Kara

December 24, 2020

Practice Your Past

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 6:45 am

I’ve been at this brain injury thing coming up on 25 years soon. As I am older than many of you, I can share with keen certainty that age-related memory dysfunction, coupled with all the brain injury whonky memory nonsense most of us endure, all blend into a stupid stew.

Thirty years ago, I was surprised to hear that my Great Aunt had once been married. I asked her what his name was and was astounded when she replied, “Oh, Kara. I don’t remember his name!” I couldn’t believe it.

Now I get you, Aunt Helen!!!! 🙂

I’m finding that, as I get older, doors in my mind seem to be shutting, closing me off from tidbits of information that I never imagined I’d lose access to.

The struggle is real.

So I’ve started playing a game with my mind. I do it a couple of times a week. Thought I’d share in case you want to join.

Take a few moments, here and there, and fling open those doors in your mind. Test yourself. Reclaim access to that information.

Name your teachers, starting with Kindergarten. In order, as far as you can go. Picture the block you grew up on in your childhood home and name all the families all the way down each side of the street. Name every boyfriend or girlfriend in order. If you are feeling sassy, add those shameful drunk hook-ups from your college years if you ever got their names to begin with. LOL.

Name all your Halloween costumes. How about every quarterback that played for your team or every baseball player or hockey player. Go through the alphabet, naming a show that starts with every letter. Yes, you can use Charlie’s Angels for “C” 🙂

Test yourself so you can recall your past but not so that you have to repeat it. We are, all, moving forward. We are, all, writing new chapters in this exciting lifetime. Keep your past alive so that you can be reminded of all that you have accomplished. All the ways you have been outstanding. All the ways you have enjoyed and learned and been loved.

Use those memories to boost your confidence as you go forward into this new year. Take a strong mind with all those experiences to guide and support and protect you.

Get ready to rock this New Year!!!!

Wishing you all a great one. Love, Kara

December 20, 2020

133 And Counting

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 8:52 am

At the conclusion of each year, I receive statistics on where my blog has traveled and all sorts of interesting facts about it. Over the years, this blog has traveled to 133 countries around our globe. That tells me, and I hope it tells you, that we are not nearly as alone in this as it often feels.

I was watching a special last night by CNN on the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918. I marveled at the reporting. Seems that many of our challenges today mirror those of more than a hundred years ago.

Back then, citizens, out of fear and lack of answers, concocted conspiracy theories. Government officials, both local and Federal, didn’t want to lose the economy so, in many cases, downplayed the pandemic. There were shutdowns of schools and gatherings and businesses. There were protests and movements of angry citizens pushing back against mask mandates. There were grave losses of businesses and incomes. And, of course, a lot of people died.

Sound familiar?

Amidst a pandemic that leaves so many feeling isolated and, closer, for those who suffer the isolation of this cruel brain injury, I feel a sense of comfort in knowing how so many people have been here before.

I hope you do, too.

Back a hundred+ years ago, there were no phones to text and computers and Netflix to accompany the isolation we find ourselves in. I am so grateful that I was hurt during a time, and this pandemic arrived during a time, when we have tools to keep us connected and informed and entertained.

This holiday season, fumbling and bumbling and limping into the end of what will long be considered the worst year by so many historic measures, I hope you will feel a sense of power and pride in all that you have beaten down and beaten back. It’s been a heckuva a year in uncountable ways. I hope that all of you, in 133 countries around our globe, stand tall in your accomplishment. Stand smiling with faces to the sun.

We are here. We are battling. We are in the game. As long as we have today, we can dare hope for a tomorrow. As long as we are putting one foot in front of the other, then we are stringing together the story of our lives.

Let them be kind lives. Let them be lives generous in spirit and helpful in intention.

A lot of people didn’t make it to this place. A lot of people are gone now. Many more will fall this coming year.

Let’s stay safe. Let’s spread safe-keeping so that we can keep inching toward our version of better. During some dark months ahead when, especially in the U.S., there will be high virus numbers and we will be isolated still, let’s make plans to do things we haven’t done before. Let’s stretch and reach and evolve.

What are you going to do this winter? I am going to paint my livingroom, God help me. LOL. I am going to empty drawers and cupboards of stuff that marks a me I am no longer. I will continue to watch documentaries on subjects I am curious about.

Will you?

A new year awaits. A new President, here in the U.S. A new normal. A new perspective.

What will you do with it?

Let’s not spend all of our energies just trying to be what we already have been. Let’s use some good energy to become new things that are better. New people with new adventures to report. New people with different things we’ve tried and tasted and learned.

The past is what we were. It is what we cannot be again. None of us are meant to stay still and stay one thing forever.

So on we go. Forward, we choose. Let’s turn our faces to the sun and inch in any good direction. I wish you all safe-keeping and the knowing that you are not alone in this injury or in this pandemic. You are cheered and endeared. You are loved.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Best wishes to you and to yours in all the ways you celebrate. Keep safe and well. Love you, Kara

November 24, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving and the Packet of Seeds

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 8:06 am

I’m not going to apologize for posting my Thanksgiving wishes two days early. In a year like 2020 has been, seems all bets are off and I think any measure of thanksgiving is welcome. I don’t think thanksgiving should ever have to wait.

This has been a tough year, no doubt. The stresses of the pandemic and, here in the U.S., the election have been draining. Most are exhausted as we hit the clubhouse turn of 2020.

For those of us who have sustained brain injury, we were uniquely qualified to deal with a situation that changed our whole world in an instant. While the lockdown freaked out most of the world, I have heard many from our brain injury community remark that not much had changed for them. Some even welcomed the quieting of the world around them.

I have posted before how I have recognized similarities in this pandemic and our brain injury lives. The sudden change, the almost-frantic search for information, the amazement and fear, and then….

The gameplan.

Whether it’s brain injury or global pandemic, there comes a time when everyone must recognize that things aren’t going to return to “normal.” Not for a long time. Some of us realized that a month in to restrictions and lockdowns regarding this virus. Others are still struggling.

That goes with brain injury, too.

While many will disagree with me about this, I believe there is hope in admitting reality. That things have changed and some for good. I believe that allowing for a truth like that, whether it is regarding brain injury or the pandemic, actually GIFTS us power. It doesn’t strip us of it.

When we can’t know if and when we might heal all the way from brain injury…and when we can’t know when our world will put this Covid virus behind us and resume what is left of all that we left….we find ourselves with today.

To me it’s like coming out of your house after a tornado has powered through. You look around. You see what’s left. You measure the damage. You lament the losses.

And then you go get the chain saw and the broom and the work gloves and the garbage cans.

And you give thanks.

Thanks, for this? For any of it? After all the damage and destruction and loss and fear and frustration.

Yes, thanks.

I am so thankful this Thanksgiving because I didn’t lose everything. Like everyone, yes, I lost some. This year has been hard and painful and sad. Some families lost three and four and five people to this virus. Some brain injury survivors lost their legs or their homes or their ability to make their own choices.

While I didn’t lose anyone to the virus, I have had to say good-bye to some pretty dear people this year. There’s nothing easy about it and yet…

I am so fortunate and blessed and lucky because I didn’t lose the packet of seeds. I keep them in my pocket, close to my chest. Close to my heart. They are seeds of hope. Promises of better to come. Promises of good to return.

I count myself as one of the very, very fortunate.

Do you?

I still have hope an it is an easy reach for me, even now. So many are not that fortunate. We will gather this Thanksgiving, even as many of us choose not to gather in person. We will gather our thoughts and tally our thanks.

I hope there isn’t enough time in your Thanksgiving Day to tally all the ways you are blessed and fortunate. I hope you are exhausted by the count. Many will look at me like I have three heads but, to me, it really is uncomplicated and clear.

If you are alive, then there is hope that you can make things better. If you can read this, if you can choose that, if you can consider and learn, if you can call up anyone to count on, if you can help, if you can love, if you can be kind or generous…

The counting begins, then.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and to yours. Keep safe. Offer up your special good in every way you have. We all could use second helpings of that.

Love you.

November 11, 2020

For The Veterans Among Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:42 am

Hello to all. A special nod, this day, to those who have been thrown into our brain injury community because of their military service.

It is Veterans’ Day and I just wanted to reach out to those of you who have served and, especially, to those who suffer ongoing wounds from your service. All around the globe!

We didn’t learn quickly enough, all of us. We didn’t know enough how to help those soldiers who returned from every war since war began in this world. They returned with and were saddled with toddler-perspective descriptions. He got his bell rung. She isn’t the same. He’s not right….

I wish we could have done better by all.

To those who served their countries in the military and military-related fields of support, administration, tech and intelligence and medical, thank you.

To those who donned that uniform with all the bravado that youth and good health and physical wonder and cognitive keenness can heap, only to return with so much shattered, please know I join countless in thinking of you this day. Cheering you. Admiring you. Wishing you good turns, going forward.

In their name, I call upon all of you, all of us, to speak about brain injury in sober, medical terms. To spread your knowledge in your intimate circles using phrases that are not cartoonish or light.

For every soldier we failed going back centuries, let there be none we fail, going forward. We cannot avoid all these injuries but we can build knowing and empathetic and helpful chains around those who suffer.

Thank you, veterans, for all you gave and continue to give. With love, from all of us who could never fully know.

October 24, 2020

The Good News Is…

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 10:17 am

If this crazy Covid year has taught us anything, it is that we, as brain injury survivors, are not nearly the only ones who find our lives getting flipped and flopped overnight into something we don’t even recognize. This year we have watched as our normal, all across the globe, was stopped. Stopped. It is amazing to think of it, still.

After brain injury, most of us know, too well, how a life can just stop.

Stopped. Still.

We go from sailing along in all our choices and preferences to something that has very little to do with what we might choose or prefer.

I titled this because, to me, there IS good news for us after brain injury. It has to do with vacation spots and long-held traditions and routines and familiar fall-backs.

The good news is that we don’t have to do everything again. We don’t have to have everything exactly the same. Not after brain injury and not during this pandemic. Not after any losses when we have the choice to…

Gain. Gain good.

I remember, after my Mom died, how awful that first Thanksgiving loomed. I have friends and relatives now who are facing a holiday season after the loss of a significant loved one and my heart aches for them. Loss is awful.

After brain injury or for those many millions who have lost their jobs or their homes or their health due to Covid, it is a scary time of uncertainty because no one seems to have good answers to our many questions. Loss affects everything we depended upon.

What has helped me, when faced with the loss of my parents or the loss of abilities after brain injury or the loss of so much normal during Covid, is to preserve something true and treasured amidst all the crazy new.

As traditions and routines and favorites get thrown out the window because of any change in our lives that we didn’t seek, there is the opportunity to grab hold of and preserve something from the old to take with us into the new.

When I lost my ability to play sports after my injury, I became a sports announcer. When my parents died and we sold their house, I learned to make my Mom’s stuffing for Thanksgiving and I took some precious reminders of them to my new home.

The key is to preserve something precious and build something new and fabulous around it. We don’t have to do everything the same way we always did them. Different isn’t a failure. Whether it’s your job after brain injury or your holiday plans during Covid, we don’t have to have everything the same as it’s always been in order to create happy.

Allow yourself to be dynamic again. In new ways. Allow your holidays to be precious and joyful in new ways, as needed during this crazy year. Nothing good comes to those of us with brain injury who just keep failing at a job or a life that we can no longer execute as well as we once did. No one, in this pandemic year, is going to be happy if they keep showing up to a theme park or a concert hall or a cruise ship each day when those options are not available right now.

What is available right now? In terms of your ability, your choices, your work, your connections, your paths to joy? What is available right now?

The good news is that we are alive. Each day we are gifted is one capable of changing everything. Let’s change it all toward good. Let’s take one step away from all the things that no longer work for us right now. Let’s grab something precious from all that we’ve done before and use it as a foundation rock for new jobs, new holidays, new routines, new adventures.

Every day is a choice to seek good. To choose better. To share goodness and kindness and help and love.

The good news is that today is a new day. Love you.

October 13, 2020

Big Picture, Small Picture

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 6:36 am

I can’t tell you how many times, over the years, I’ve heard the phrase, “Look at the big picture.” Either as advice given to me or to others, the phrase is well-worn and fits fine and sharply in many circumstances.

After I was first brain injured, many people encouraged me to “look at the big picture” in order to keep my injury and losses and struggles in a manageable size and frame. Yes, I had lost my career but I could apply for disability and do smaller jobs. Yes, I had no balance but I could use a cane and find other things to enjoy. Yes, my memory was damaged but I could use notes and timers and lists.

I’m sure my fellow survivors echo similar experiences of “looking at the big picture.”

This crazy year has seen so many of us dusting off the best of our talents to cast off, sum up, rationalize and anything else we have called upon to cheer us into believing that we are fine at every turn. When, right here in the U.S. and around the world, we are experiencing the most uncommon of events in the categories of weather, politics, public unrest and pandemic, we all have, seemingly, been challenged to keep wrapping our heads around it all.

My experience has long-been, when struggling, to choose to “look at the bigger picture” in order to gain perspective and to appreciate how often-small my struggles compare. However, I am finding the opposite, in this instance, to be more useful.

When “the big picture” looks like OMG Holy *)&()! WTH crazy each day, sometimes we have to leave “the bigger picture” crazy mess and cling like crazy to the smaller one, instead.

What can we make small enough to feel in control? What can we pare down in order to feel ease and peace and comfort?

When the world appears to have been shaken as a snow globe…When the headlines, on any given day, struggle to measure and prioritize pandemic updates and political news and out-of-control wild fires and incoming hurricanes and protests on the streets…then it becomes OUR job to prioritize in order to make sane and keep sanity.

It’s up to us.

I’ve found that, when “looking at the big picture” makes me feel stressed and overwhelmed and unsure and unsafe, it helps me to narrow my focus to a smaller picture. I’ve found that, all year, the unrelenting news cycles have really exhausted me and, at times, overwhelmed.

I started by taking the weekends off from the news. Long a news hound, I found that I could no longer keep up the pace of this year with my many hours and many sources of news sharing during the week. It was becoming too much.

When I started taking the weekends off from all the “bigger picture” crazy, I realized that it helped me to focus on the smaller. On the saner. On the parts of my world that I could control and make better.

This past weekend I, again, kept things small. I washed the windows. I cleaned out my car. I painted some patio things. I cut down some empty boxes.

Nothing I did will change the world and none of them were, really, worth noting. But they eased me. They gave me the feeling that I could affect and improve some things. They left the “bigger picture” for another day and allowed me to thrive in the smaller one.

This is an extraordinary year, no doubt. Each of us is tasked with absorbing many things all at once and, often, for the first time. When we are faced with extraordinary, sometimes it requires an extraordinary response and, by and large, each of us has met that challenge.

But nobody can remain in emergency mode forever. We find that with any long-term crisis whether it is our brain injury recoveries or taking care of loved ones or being in a bad relationship. We cannot just keep taking the brunt, absorbing assault, taking on water. The wild fires must, eventually, be contained and put out. The hurricanes must, once again, move offshore.

While there will be countless times when “looking at the big picture” will gift us perspective, we have to recognize when making it all a smaller picture might serve us just as well. That recognition helps any TBI survivors but it also helps all of us, in any circumstance.

Know yourself. Identify symptoms of chronic stress or fear or battle fatigue. And then clean out the trunk. Wash the windows. Donate some clothes from the closet. Throw out old bottles of vitamins.

Do things in the smaller picture that remind and return feelings of OK. Feelings of sanity and comfort and ability and ease.

Cheering for you. xo

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