Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

March 17, 2009

Realistic Expectations of Life

I was thinking tonight about life in all its ironic, incredulous, ridiculous, humorous, head-turning, jaw-dropping glory.

Side effects of certain asthma medicines can render sudden respiratory death.  Side effects of certain heart medications can increase the risk of stroke.  Medicines meant to treat Parkinson’s have reportedly caused gambling addiction.  Women drink alcohol because it benefits their hearts, only to find it raises their risk of getting cancer.

A soldier survives two tours of duty in the war and comes home, only to die in a drive-by in front of his house the next day.  A marathon runner gets bone cancer in his femur.  A kid gets pregnant or HIV the first time s/he has sex.  A gifted surgeon acquires crippling arthritis.  A couple saves every penny all their lives for retirement and then they die in a plane crash on their first vacation in twenty years.  Or their only child dies and they are left raising their three grandchildren in their 60’s or 70’s.

We decide that life is short and that we deserve to drink Dom Perignon just about the time we realize we don’t really need to drink the really expensive stuff, after all.  Or we decide that life is short and we deserve to drink Dom Perignon just about the time the Stock Market crashes and we are scraping nickels together for a quart of Bud.

We’ve seen enough kids die to know that life can feel unfair.  Nonsensical.  Inexplicable.  We’ve seen enough of our friends and family members get cancer, MS, and Alzheimer’s to realize that nothing’s promised.  Non-smokers get lung cancer and slim, fit people have heart attacks.  Athletes get paralyzed.  Smart people get dementia and kind, generous people get their houses robbed.  The only thing for certain is that nothing in life is.

Surely, surely we must know by now that the blueprints we make for our lives are, more often than not, laughed at by life.  Taunting and giggling.  Go ahead, make your plans!  Choose your path.  Write down the goals.  I’ll bump you off that path before the ink is dry…

If nothing else, the myriad examples of life’s ability to toss us and flip us and scatter our plans to the wind invites us to grab the good when it comes.  To work on becoming more flexible, more adaptable, more willing to change. 

Seemingly gone are the days you married young, stayed in the same house all your life and retired from one job to a gold watch, a buffet dinner and a nice pension. 

So much around us now invites, asks, dares and demands that we accept more possibilities.  And not just accept them.  Welcome and invite them. 

If a hundred bad things can happen to us every day, every year, every lifetime, then our challenge must be  to ensure that we create a thousand more that can happen every day, every year, every lifetime that balance us out, add light to the dark, add day to the night, add love to the hate, add wellness to the diagnosis, add humor to the heartbreak, add faith to the doubt, add peace of mind to the worry, add music to the silence…

No good thing is a bad thing.  No small kindness is small.  No good friend, no warm hug, no fit of laughter, new love, family dinner, call from an old friend, great movie, night of romance, exciting ballgame, giggle of a child, or tail-wagging welcome of a fur kid….None of it is too small and insignifant to rush by.  Rushing to what?  Where in the hell more important are we rushing to?

Nothing good can be disregarded, overlooked, passed by, skipped over or unmeasured.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. If it’s a glorious sunrise, let’s keep it and feel it and tuck it in our hearts, allowing it to warm every bit of us.  And if the day after it’s life that comes up over the horizon, we’ll have the memory of that sweet sunrise to keep us warm and give us hope for whatever lies ahead.



  1. […] Michael K. posted a noteworthy aricle today onHere’s a small snippetSurely, surely we must know by now that the blueprints we make for our lives are, more often than not, laughed at by life. Taunting and giggling. Go ahead, make your plans! Choose your path. Write down the goals. … […]

    Pingback by Ask the leadership coach » Realistic Expectations of Life « Kara Swanson’s Brain Injury Blog — March 17, 2009 @ 8:38 am | Reply

  2. So true… so true….
    That’s why it’s so important to be good to all living things all the time. I hope people look at themselves and forgive everyone for everything.

    Comment by Linda — March 18, 2009 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

  3. You’re right, Linda. Harder than living with brain injury or anything else is living with regret. There’s no sense carrying grudges when there is enough to carry already. You simply never know when you’ve seen someone for the last time. Sad but true. There’s just nothing good in all the negative energy from grudges and squabbles and regret.

    Comment by Kara — March 18, 2009 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

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