Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

January 24, 2011

How Are We Doing So Far?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 6:07 pm

We’re three weeks into January.  How many of us are back to bad eating, back to cheating, back to gambling, back to abusing, back to envying, back to back-biting, back to no exercising, back to smoking, back to drinking, back to complaining, back to couching, back to grouching…

January is a great jumping off point for me, personally.  There is New Year’s Day at the beginning of the month, there is my birthday smack-dab in the middle of the month, and my brain injury anniversary at the very end.  I couldn’t ask for more screaming cornerstones on which to build a new me each year.

The trouble is, sometimes we’re so damned good at the old lives, they’re just easier to keep tolerating than fighting for the new ones.  I look around and I see I am not alone in my struggle to change. 

People who have no problems with their eyes continue to be blind.  People who have no problems with their vocal chords, continue to remain silent.  People who have no problems with their ears continue to hear nothing.  People blessed so richly continue to imagine themselves poor.  People blessed with warmth, so surprisingly cold. 

And people who are given life, gifted life, continue to take it and kill it.

I’m surprised God hasn’t just sent the locusts already and be done with it…

When I read through the brain injury letters I receive, seems the common thread has to do with everyday problems which return the focus on the brain injury that survivors wish to leave behind.

They so so want to not be held hostage by brain injury and yet their everyday is consumed by its ravages.  They resolve in the New Year to “not be injured,” and yet they can’t help but to focus on challenges which throw their efforts into the soup every day. 

One of the ways I have continued to recover from my own injury (it’ll be fifteen years on January 31st!) is to remind myself that, if I want to live in the “normal world” and not entirely in the brain injury one, then I must not live entirely in the brain injury one. 

I had two  New Year’s resolutions and  I’ve already broken them but neither one of them had to do with brain injury.   I may have already stumbled at them but they are “normal world” resolutions.   I am living in the “normal world”. 

And so maybe I ate cake at my niece’s birthday that first weekend.  And OK, I probably had some cake at my brother’s birthday the second weekend.  And alright already, I did eat a little on my birthday too….

But resolving to eat better and exercise more is a “normal life” resolution that helps me, as a brain injury survivor, resist the temptation to return to my brain injury life, a life that gave me all kinds of rationalizations and excuses for gaining weight and not moving. 

Maybe it’s not so much about fighting to stop living an old life but, instead, just choosing to start living one that’s better.  One that looks more like the one you have been dreaming to reach.  Instead of wrestling with trying to fix my balance in my brain injury life, I instead start walking every day to be healthier and slimmer in my new “normal” life.  Does that make any sense?

I hate being cold.  I live in a basement and, when the windchill is minus 20, there’s no way around it.  It’s flippin’, frickin’ cold down here.  But, because I am uncomfortable, I do something about it.   Because I am uncomfortable, I go get another fleece blanket and toss it in the dryer to warm it up.  Or I go put on another sweatshirt.  The point being that, we don’t do anything when we are all warm and cozy and comfortable.  We don’t change anything then.

Maybe that’s why we stay in relationships, marriages and jobs that we hate for so long.  Maybe it’s why we allow him or her to berate us, take advantage of us, cheat on us and ignore us.  It may not be great but it’s not freezing.  We can still get by with a sweater.

Maybe we all need to be cold.  To feel the frigid smack of our realities right there on the kisser.  To be so cold that we have to get up and do something to change what we no longer want, can’t stand and have tolerated for too long.  To ask ourselves, if not now and if not last year and if not the ten before that, then when?

Is this really a new year?  Or is it the thirteenth month of last year still?  Or the 25th month of 2010? 

Are the lives we want actually out there to reach or are they simply air-brushed mirages that taunt and tickle?

Why don’t we all resolve that, a year from now, we will not resolve to change the same things we wanted to change this year and probably every year for the last ten.   Why don’t we all promise to make new pledges next year because we either conquered these or made peace with them or changed our direction and let them go.

Anything is better than continuing to fail.   Anything is better than continuing to be shamed by the unchanged.   The feeling of impotence.   Powerlessness.

It’s time to throw open the windows in January.  Yep.  In the dead of winter.  Throw them open and get cold.  Cold enough where the sweater no longer is enough.   Cold enough where we have to get up and change something.  Anything. 

Let’s live this year as if.  Live it as if we already are the people we have so long aimed to be.  Let’s live it as if we don’t get to make the same resolutions next year.  Let’s live it as if there might not be a next year.

Let’s ROCK THIS YEAR!  This year!

Good luck, everyone.   Let me know how you do!  🙂



  1. Happy New Year, Happy Birthday and Congrats (?) on your anniversary (never quite sure about that last one but I figure survival and emergence into the new lifestyle is to be celebrated)
    Another great post Kara…I gave up making New Year’s resolutions long before my injury because they were always broken within days. This year however I decided that an end of year inventory was in order…and as sobering as that process was, I emerged with some simple targets.
    I made some (actually pretty great) progress towards a new and acceptable life for myself when I finally stopped yearning for the old life and accepted that was gone….
    Naturally I spent some time rummaging around bogged down with the injury and its effects (don’t we all?) but I soon realised that I did not want my injury to define me. I am not my injury. I am way more than that…and I realised that this meant I had a whole new life stretched out before me.
    As time passes I realise that it is as easy to slip into bad habits now as it was before….and slightly harder to form new good habits. Rather than sweeping changes (I will… lose weight, exercise more, socialise more, learn new tricks blah blah blah…) I decided on trying to make small changes… and I have decided to set myself the target of making one small challenge for change each month. So far it is going well….and if I keep this up for the whole twelve months, this will be a challenging – and interesting – year for me…

    I wish you an interesting year too and I look forward to seeing what it brings us both.


    Comment by Christa — January 24, 2011 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

    • Sounds like you’re doing great, Christa. Well done!! I like the target of one change a month. I might try that. :))

      Comment by karaswanson — January 25, 2011 @ 1:03 am | Reply

  2. Thanks Kara, as usual your words make me think, and that is the first step towards action, but I don’t know where I’m going…….lol Oh, and after years of bad and worse psychiatric meds, I have gained weight only to let that non-tbi self lose it and change meds. I’m finally on meds that I’m comfortable with and I am more at ease with my tbi self.

    Comment by Mike Altman — January 24, 2011 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

    • Hey Mike, Sounds like you kept making adjustments until you found something that worked for you. That is the secret to any change, brain injury or not. Awesome!

      Comment by karaswanson — January 25, 2011 @ 1:05 am | Reply

  3. One of my speech pathology gurus (am I really that nerdy that I have those?) is my guru because he says “Sometimes the pain of change is more than the pain of staying the same.” He doesn’t excuse inaction, but he responds to it with that mindset. Maybe you aren’t practicing your annoying speech therapy exercises and changing the way you talk because facing it and admitting it and lurching forward to do it is too unfamiliar and daunting and heck, why should you have to because no one else seems to have to? Maybe the humiliation of having a communication impairment that you can somehow pretend to hide is slightly less humiliating than taking action because that would mean admitting speech is hard. It’s only normal. Who doesn’t do it sometimes, really? It’s not an issue of motivation or desire to change. It can be an issue of pain. And I’ve been staring at the computer too long and now have a pain in the back of my head. So time to say bye. Thank you for this post, Kara!

    Comment by Cheryl — January 26, 2011 @ 11:26 pm | Reply

    • I would agree that sometimes just the pain of admitting we need to change something is a great deterrent for putting it off. Yes, we’ve all done it, surely. For me, it was important to know that, even with words that sometimes get messed up, missed and mangled, I knew that the people who love me loved me whether or not that change was successful. And that made all the difference. Find those people and then the rest of everything is gravy. I’m always cheering for you.

      Comment by karaswanson — January 27, 2011 @ 12:39 am | Reply

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