Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

December 21, 2008

The Big Things Little Things Can Do

As the warming-gold Autumn has turned to winter, I’ve heard the echo of familiar fears the ice and snow bring to TBI survivors like me.  For many without brain injury, winter is merely the months of aggravation scraping windshields, shovelling driveways and waiting for the car’s heater to ratchet up.  For many survivors, however, it is Fed-Exed fear.  Delivered right to your doorstep.  The reminder of falls we took when finely-tuned brains smashed on unforgiving sidewalks.  Or the reality of cumbersome wheelchairs trying to navigate through slushy, sliding pavement.  For me, it is the unsteady slippery terrain, laughing hungrily at my poor balance. 

 During good weather I use a cane to walk, allowing me to keep three “feet” on the ground.  During winter, I often use a trekking pole, even two, to keep me upright.   Always beating back that fear, knowing already what one misstep can cost.  Reminding myself that safe and smart never look ridiculous.

Yesterday I quick-determined not to head out, as we were getting 8-12 inches dumped on us.  I decided, instead, to put up some Christmas decorations and watch what I imagined would be huge lovely snowflakes sweetly falling  hour after hour.

What came were teeny tiny, nasty snowflakes.  Mean and angry.  Not lovely.  They blew sideways and stung the cheeks and watered the eyes and there was nothing lovely about them at  all. 

When they tailed off to mere flurries about six hours later, I had to behold their splendid work.  I was amazed that all these teeny tiny snowflakes could create such a beautiful landscape.  And it hit me then…

Look what big things little things can do!!!   Sometimes during our recoveries, we are so frustrated by what we can no longer do the way we used to do it.  We were once such huge lovely snowflakes…

But time and time again, in the 12 years since my injury, I have been reminded how far baby steps can take us.  Progress, in any measure, in any pace, is progress still.

Sometimes we forget that different doesn’t have to mean worse.   Those teeny tiny nasty flakes created as beautiful a winter landscape as any large lovely flakes could have mustered.  As is with everything, brain injury survivors must take heart that there is more than one path that leads to  accomplished.  To beautiful.  To, “Yes, I can do this”….

December 16, 2008

Forever Seeking “Normal”

In my travels around the country speaking to the brain injury community, and during the time I’ve spent counseling survivors on line, I’m so often confronted with people who are so heart broken and frustrated and angry because they are no longer “normal” and will, likely, never be.

I tell them how normal they really are.  Normal that they would be frustrated and heart broken by an injury that takes so much.  Angry.  Scared.  Brain injury is no gig for sissies.

But I remind them that they are normal in a bigger way.  That NOBODY gets through life unscathed.  Nobody.  Everyone has or will have that condition, disease, accident, injury or event in their lives that knocks them sideways and turns their life upside down.  It’s one of the prices we pay for the gift of living.

I tell them, “Don’t be normal.  Be better than normal!!!”  We haven’t been put into a box because of this; we’ve just broken out of it.  Armed with a unique perspective on how quickly life can change and how blessed we are to still be alive, the survivors of this injury and like conditions/situations get to learn what many don’t learn until far later in life.

This is a gift.  An opportunity.  A door blowing wide open.  It’s a chance to decide that life really is too short and that there is no time for bad relationships, grudges held and mean spiritedness.  Truly.   What’s the point?  How many years is enough to stay in a bad marriage, to hate a loved one for a misdeed you can’t even recall, or to keep taking back that rotten bastard promising never to hit you again?

People are seeking the greener grass that doesn’t exist.  Nobody is normal and everyone is.  Nobody struggles like me and everyone does.  It’s life.  And sometimes life comes knocking sooner and sometimes later but it does come knocking.  And it might wear a hundred different coats but eventually it breaks everyone’s heart.

Beginning to successfully recover from brain injury, regardless of how many symtoms persist, occurs in that moment when you lay down the anger because it no longer serves you.  When you stop counting things lost and start noting things gained and left and still available.  When you start laughing at yourself again.

I often think of brain injury recovery as waiting for a bus.  You sit at the bus stop waiting and waiting and waiting for the bus to come.  To be healed.  To be returned to the life you chose.  And then…one glorious day, you simply get up and start walking.

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