Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

March 28, 2011

Three Thousand and Some Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:09 am

I saw a commercial the other day that stated the average person has 3,000 thoughts every day.   That really got my attention.   I decided to noodle on this for a bit.

OK, for me…I know right off the top that 27 of those thoughts are going to be about perfect brownies hot out of the oven.   That’s a given.   That leaves me with 2, 973 for the day.  I figure four, maybe five, will be spent wondering if Michigan’s football team is going to be able to fix their defense and find a kicker before next season.   An easy two will be devoted to what I am going to do with this bloody hair today.   Half a dozen may be contemplating meals when all I see in the fridge are natural peanut butter and coleslaw.  I’ll throw out an easy ten deciding on who should be kicked off of American Idol, on why male news and sports anchors dye their hair impossibly dark  and on whether I picked Butler in any of my March Madness brackets.

Now I’m down to 2,950.

What the heck are any of us thinking?

In this world of crazy technology, I wish there was an ap that logged our thoughts.  I’d be interested to see how many of mine begin with, “I forgive…”  and “I am grateful for….”  and “I am capable of….”

Is it half?  Are half of my thoughts on any given day positive and healthy and helping and progressive and appreciative?

How about yours?

If I believe that thoughts are things (I do), then maybe I don’t need an ap to log my thoughts.  I need only then look at the results of my life to find out how I’m spending my 3,000 thoughts each day.

Apparently, I need to start paying better attention to what my mind is telling my life to do.

Three thousand thoughts.   Three thousand.  Think about that.

Now 2,999.   Gotcha.

A couple of years ago I began to start each day writing affirmations about my life.  I had combined elements of The Secret and a book my friend Christine had sent me called The Artist’s Way.    Before I even had coffee in the morning, I would sit down and write two full pages of statements.   I would take what I wanted and phrase them as if they already were happening and had happened.

I would say, “I am healthy.  I can’t wait to get to the gym.  I love working out.  I am losing weight because I am eating well and going to the gym every day.  My heart is healthy.  My body is trim and fit.”

On and on I would write.   Statement after statement.   And damned if I didn’t find myself going to the gym every day and enjoying my workouts.   It  worked.

Right up until I stopped writing the pages.  Stopped spending my thoughts on the things I needed to send my life in the direction I wanted.

At the beginning of this year, I started writing them again.   Part of them had to do with my financial status and I wrote several versions of the same theme:   Jobs keep coming in.  Money is pouring in.  I have more than enough money to take care of  x, y and z…

I’ve had three new jobs this year already.

What are we spending our 3,000 thoughts each day thinking?

If I spend twenty thoughts telling my brain that I am fit and slim and healthy and I love working out and I can’t wait to get to the gym, but I spend a hundred later on throughout the day lamenting my double chin and my side view in the mirror and how pitifully-few pushups I can only do now, what do you think wins?

If I get up in the morning and tell myself once that my brain injury does not impede my success but then I spend the rest of the day cursing my limitations, that poor little lonely happy thought in the morning doesn’t stand a chance.

In such a tight economy, maybe we all need to put our thoughts on a budget as well.   Find out where we’re spending our 3,000 thoughts each day…

I’ve decided I’m going to make a list, print it off and put it  in front of my keyboard each morning where I’ll see it before I race to my morning emails.

I’m going to write five separate statements that each morning I will complete in my head:

Five beginning with, “I am grateful for…..”

Five beginning with, “I forgive….”

Five beginning with, “Today I’m going to improve my health by…”

And five beginning with, “I love my life because….”

Wanna join?

Our thoughts sit behind the wheel.  They choose the turns in the ride of our lives.   They drive the car.

When you read the news or watch what’s going on in the world, there’s no mystery about how many people spend so many of their 3,000 thoughts on hate, jealousy, prejudice, anger, regret, and mean-spiritedness.    Their results don’t require any special ap either.

Maybe one single absent-minded “Love ya” as we’re rushing in opposite directions requires more of our 3,000.    Maybe we spend one thought telling those we love that we love them but we spend five or ten or a dozen showing them different.

If we have 3,000 thoughts in a day, how many do you think we should spend on the past?   In the present?  On the future?   If we cut them evenly, do you think we should spend a thousand thoughts each day on our past?   How many of us even have the time to spend a thousand thinking of the future?

And how many of us spend so much time regretting or preferring our past and wishing or hoping for a better future that we don’t spend enough of those 3,000 improving today?

I’m going to start paying better attention to the directions I’m giving my brain on where to turn and what exits to take in my life.   I’m going to start listening more closely to the voice inside my head that creates the results of my everyday.

Seems we have a lot to blame right now for everything.    We blame the economy, the government, the natural disasters,  the this and the that.   We blame spouses for not talking and children for not listening.  Sitting presidents for not standing, standing protesters for not sitting.   We blame our issues and our failures and our physical conditions on our parents, exes and a hundred outcomes that we feel comfortable saying “weren’t our fault”.   Unsympathetic employers, lousy neighbors, rotten in-laws…

Makes me think that a lot of the 3,000 thoughts a day could be better spent.

I’m going to see if I can’t turn my thinking economy around.   Bring it out of the red and into the black.   Deposit more of it into what I want to have happen  instead of what I actually see happening.

And then we’ll see where the ride takes me.    Need a lift?

March 11, 2011

What Does Your Scar Tissue Look Like?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 2:04 am

One of the most ridiculous things about brain injury is that it’s, for all intents and purposes, invisible.   I call it the Invisible Monster.

Many of us have no proof that we are injured because so many brain injuries occur without the courtesy of leaving an imprint on a CT or PET Scan.   The lack of something to look at, to pour over, to show to friends and loved ones, is often frustrating because people seem to prefer, even need, proof.

Insurance companies, employers, suspicious friends and family…Some start to look at you sideways and whisper behind your back because, as they are so happy to say, “You look great!”

What could possibly be wrong?

Not many of us have props.   I use a cane and, sometimes, a wheelchair.   But it’s not like I have a big old cast on my head.   It’s not all wrapped up in ACE bandages.   I don’t have any scars to show on my scalp.   Except for the too-frequent bad hair days, my head looks fine.

So, how do we convey to those in our lives we most need to believe, understand and accept us?   These people we want so badly, not to understand (that would require their own injury) but simply to try…..

What this is… What this means…What this feels like…   In the absence of proof, how do we paint a picture you might get of what it feels like when, in an instant, what we knew of normal will never show its face again?

Brain injury is the first moment you walk into a funeral home and see someone dear to your heart lying in a casket.   It is the daughter who gets pregnant at 15.    It is the addicted brother who is now homeless.   It is the best friend whose doctor calls and tells her she needs to come into the office to discuss her test results.   It is the neighbor who walks away from the home they’ve lived in for forty years.  

Brain injury is the first time you get your heart broken.  It is the spouse who tells you the affair didn’t mean anything.   It is the any time you’ve put a beloved pet down.   It is the call from a child who has just been arrested.   It is the moment a parent starts to forget things.  

It’s not so hard to understand the unseen when you have felt those same feelings.   The same loss, fear, dread…It’s like any bad news you received over the phone.   You didn’t have to see it to believe it and to feel its pain. 

And, for those of us with the pain, how long is it supposed to last?   If you can’t even see it, how are you supposed to know when it is over?  When are we done being hurt?

Rose Kennedy:

It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.

So, what does your scar tissue look like? 

What do you cover your pains with in order to go on?  To return to the well, the living, the soaring?  

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday who had burned herself pretty seriously and we were discussing our scars.  I was looking at my body, counting them, recalling them, returning to the moments that caused them.

The bike kickstand that split open my shin.   The thin line on my face from my cat’s claw.  That slide into second base.   That fall from the fence.  That slip of a carrot peeler…

Each fading from red to pink to white.   Each softening over time.

I imagine my brain is scarred.   But, in the absence of proof, of some battle-weary badge of honor to display, I know what the scar tissue looks like.   I know what I’ve used to cover my wounds.

My scar tissue is a great cup of coffee, a simple perfect brownie, a tender, juicy steak.   It is college football and Autumn leaves and cider mills.   It is cherry blossom trees in Spring and the smell of rain coming through the window in summer.  

My scar tissue is a dozen jobs I’ve done since my injury using abilities new and old.   It’s day trips and vacations and long drives along the water in a vehicle specially equipped for me.   It is doing the Twist in pajamas and watching movies in the middle of the night.  It is friends on-line and a phone call away.  

My scar tissue includes all these incredible young people in my life whose futures I can’t wait to witness and share.   It is the music friends play, the pictures they take, the stories they tell…

My scar tissue is falling in love.   Laughing so hard I’m crying.   It’s curling up on a winter’s night with one cat next to my head and the other one pushed against my leg. 

What is your scar tissue?   What does it look like?   Feel like?  Taste like?   

What have you chosen to cover your wounds, your pains, your Invisible Monster?

Your answer determines when your pain ends and when your life resumes.   

Cheering for you!


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