Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

June 1, 2009

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet

I cried a little for GM today.  It wasn’t because I believe GM, or Ford or Chrysler for that matter, to be the innocent victim of some unforeseen catastrophe.  I don’t.  And it wasn’t because I don’t believe they can emerge from this painful low and again stake their place in a competitive auto industry.  I do.

No, I cried a little for GM today because it’s all we’ve known.  Growing up in Warren, MI, just outside of Detroit, most of our neighbors and friends and classmates were from auto industry families.  They worked the lines and drove the brands and there was a real sense of pride hailing from the Motor City.  It was drilled into our heads from the time we were little, “If you get in with the Big Three, you’re set for life.”  And for all my life that has been true.

It’s not true any longer. 

It’s hard to lose all that you’ve known of something.  Painful and disorienting to lose the comfort, familiarity and security of that constant.  It’s hard to lose an identity.

I cried a little for GM today because I know what it’s like to suffer that moment when you realize nothing will ever be the same.  I’m sure each of the decision makers and board members and VIPs and employees from GM had their one moment when it became apparant that they weren’t going to resolve this problem and hold on to all they’d built and all they’d known.

It’s a tough moment.

My moment came not long after I was injured.  I didn’t tell anyone but I knew.  Until then I had denied the looks I had caught between family, friends and co-workers.  Between therapists and doctors.  I had denied the voices taunting  in my head between pledges of hope and untired determination.  Denied the mounting evidence. 

I didn’t speak those words.  Wasn’t ready yet.  I kept quiet even when my eyes were screaming in the mirror.   My heart breaking with disappointment.  Even when I continued to tell myself, prod myself… if I try harder, wait longer, believe more strongly…

And then one night when no one was around, it came.  My moment.  Lonely in the middle of the night.  Like the first frost.  Things were dead then.  I knew my life was turning fast to winter and there was no more denying that the sun wasn’t staying as long or burning as brightly anymore.

It’s a tough moment when you realize that the only life you’ve ever known has already died.  It’s already gone.  You just didn’t want to say good bye.

When a door locks behind us and we no longer have the key, it takes a little while before we stop pounding and jimmying the knob and kicking it and cursing.  We simply don’t want it be closed for good.

But if we are blessed enough to see a day that holds only what we are no longer, then we are equally blessed with the opportunity to use that day to start becoming what we wish one day to be.

Like GM, those of us who suffer life-altering events will keep those bittersweet memories of easier times and top-of-the-mountain moments when the choices we made and the paths we walked brought success, reward and satisfaction.

But there is much work ahead if we are going to become more than simply what used to be.  If we are going to revamp and retool and redesign our present into a future we can again stand proudly aside, then what is lost is best left to the ruins. 

The time comes in all of our lives when we must finally toss out that favorite old coat, now full of holes and moths and smelling of disappointment.   

The time comes to all of us when we have to determine a second chance to be all that we need.  To re-evaluate and to see if the dreams we once clung so tightly to even make our hearts swoon anymore. 

Sometimes we believe something simply because we have always believed it.   Because our parents told us to.  Or because our friends did.  We eat something cooked a certain way because we have always eaten it that way.  We don’t even wonder if maybe something else could be better.  Or we don’t even pay attention to whether it even tastes good anymore.

I once heard a story of a man who had always dreamed of owning his own boat.  He had dreamed of it and pictured it and planned it and told everyone over the years.  He would buy that boat when he retired and sail around the world.  It was the dream he lived by.  The dream he was known for.

But over the years he had been in the Navy when his ship was bombed severely in WW2.  He had almost drowned on a family vacation in the ocean.  His knees were horribly warped and painful from arthritis. 

So when he retired, he bought that boat.  But the memories of those bombings and his fear of the water after almost drowning and his limited mobility from the angry knees made it impossible for him to fit into that old dream.  He never even sailed it before he died.

If tomorrow is simply another  yesterday, they wouldn’t call it tomorrow.  If tomorrow were only yesterday, we’d be going backwards.  But we’re not. 

We’re going forwards.

New dreams that haven’t been realized yet are better than old dreams that no longer can be.   Tomorrow is better than yesterday because we can still change tomorrow.  We can still shape our dreams to fit our actual desires, abilities and needs. 

It’s OK to cry a little bit when the first frost comes and the future feels horribly cold and dark and the soft warm light of summer has long faded.  But in a moment comes Spring and that is worth every wait. 

Let’s get going now.  Our lives have been patiently waiting.



  1. That was really good Kara. I will sit and think about this tonight, when it’s quiet and I’m alone with my thoughts. I don’t think that people take a moment to ponder their goals and dreams – and direction in life. We should all do that each morning we’re given a new day to live. Thanks Kara!

    Comment by Cathy Gothro — June 5, 2009 @ 12:57 am | Reply

  2. I think it’s so hard for parents because there’s so little time to devote to their own lives. They are running willy nilly here and there to take care of their kids. It’s hard to find enough quiet time to even hear what our hearts are whispering. But I do think our dreams change. Like I said before, I only need remember that I once wanted black laquer furniture to remind myself that we’re not the same people we were all those years ago when we dreamed some of those dreams. Hopefully we can all find enough quiet time to listen to the new dreams tapping gently at our hearts, waiting, like children, to be noticed. 🙂

    Comment by Kara — June 5, 2009 @ 1:10 am | Reply

  3. Hi Kara –
    Trying to get in touch with you about using an excerpt from your book on http://www.BrainLine.org. Can you email me at vmcdonough@weta.com?
    Thanks so much and hope to hear from you soon!
    – victoria

    Comment by Victoria McDonough — June 11, 2009 @ 1:08 am | Reply

    • Hi Victoria: Please see your personal email. I’ve written you there. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — June 11, 2009 @ 1:19 am | Reply

  4. I am a brain injury survivor in the past year and I’ve been reading (very slowly due to my aphasia) Kara’s book; I’ll Carry the Fork. I am going to travel to my brothers house in July and will fly into the Detroit airport. I just wondered if any time I was there that it would be ok to visit with Kara as I also would like to write my story.

    Comment by Bridgid Ruden — June 26, 2009 @ 4:00 am | Reply

  5. Hi Kara,

    I’ve survived many “changes” and prided myself on my ability to bounce back. While each change had it’s pains, lessons, realities, and trust me the emotional gamit of working thru each wasn’t exactly overnight successes. You know like the first layoff I experienced, man I was devastated! I was so great at what I did, how could they do that? I soon realized that it wasn’t “personal” and have since been laid off more several times. I took advantage of each time off, figured it was a good time to spend with my daughter or tackle one of those projects on the list. And, I could always get another job. My skills, experience, work ethics, etc. I was marketable.
    While I have endured many different types of life changes including domestic violence, divorce, and single parent, I made it thru each one because of who I was in the work world.

    This time, the challenge is much harder, because it is all encompassing. Because now it is much more than changing jobs, it’s changing who I am. I am different abled. Man, talk about daily challenges! While it is easy to wallow in the loss, I try to appreciate the lessons learned, the paths crossed, the experiences gained, and fondly remind myself, “I’ve come this far so keep on truck’n girl!”


    Comment by LaurieDeptula — June 27, 2009 @ 2:46 am | Reply

    • Dear Laurie:
      Yes, keep on truckin’ girl! Ha. Our changes are significant, true. But you have such a great attitude about them and that’s half that battle. You’re taking it on and forging ahead and that tells me you’re heading in the right direction. I’ve no doubt you will be amazed at how many delightful surprises this new journey gifts you and I wish you a hundred of them for every time you falter. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — June 27, 2009 @ 4:38 am | Reply

  6. Hi Kara,
    Five years ago I sustained a closed head injury. I minimized – I was in denial for quite sometime. I was fortunate that my primary health physician knew enough about head injuries & didn’t give up on me. Two years later when I had my disability evaluation, Dr. Jan Caputo, neuropsychologist, had highly recommended I read “I’ll Carry the Fork”. Finally, two months ago, I began to read it!!! I’m still not done! It takes me awhile since the incident. My incident was different, but still…as soon as I begin to read, it was as if I was re-reading so many episodes of my own experience through this journey! Do I wish I had read it 3 years ago? Sometimes. It might have been much more beneficial in connecting with an attorney familiar with head injuries. However, at this point in my life I feel that I want my attorney to read your book. Maybe even the opposing attorneys. Maybe then I’ll settle for their holdout. It’s not even a year’s worth of wages. I just want to get on with my life. Yes, it’s different, I’m different. I’ve quit saying I want my life back. I’m simply trying to rebuild. Thank you Kara, for this wonderful book.

    Comment by Maria — March 8, 2012 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

    • You have made my day, Maria. Thanks for the kind words. So sorry you are on the bus with all the rest of us but you are welcome here and we are cheering you on. Glad if Fork can help. Just starting to accept things is half the battle. Sounds like you’re doing well. Good luck to you. Hope to see you here again. Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — March 8, 2012 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

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