Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

May 26, 2011

Really, What Else Is There?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 7:23 am

In the wake of the horrific and devastating tornado that ripped through Joplin, MO this week, there has surfaced a homemade video capturing the crazy-frightening moments survived by a group of people huddled together in a darkened store.   There is very little visual account, but the audio is breath-taking.

As I craned close to my computer speakers, I closed my eyes, listening to the raw and real emotions as the roar of the tornado engulfed them.   You can hear windows break and debris flying as the group realized that, indeed, this could be the last moments of their lives.

Humid.  Dark.  Bodies stumbling over one another.  The smell of fear.  The sounds of panic.  Huddling close and small, trying to hide from the looming monster.  Please, Please don’t take us!!!

And in what could have been the final breaths they took, the final thoughts they entertained, the final words they spoke, EVER-what I DID NOT HEAR was:

I’m too busy to meet you for lunch, dinner or a cup of coffee…I’m too tired to dance, take a walk after dinner, have sex, or play with the kids…I’ll do that next month, next summer, next winter, when the kids head off to college…   


I don’t like you because you’re fat, poor, rich, ugly, beautiful, disabled, White, Black, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, or an Ohio State Buckeye fan…


I’m glad I didn’t go on more vacations with my family…I’m glad I worked 80 hours a week…I’m glad I held that grudge against so and so all these years…I’m glad I didn’t go visit my mom/dad in the nursing home more…I’m glad I didn’t spend more time with my kids…I’m glad I passed on all those invitations to meet friends and see family…I’m glad I didn’t act on my beliefs, follow my dreams, overcome my fears, seize the moments, enjoy the simple things in life…


I can’t do X, Y or Z because I have a brain injury (or a thousand other conditions), because I’m too fat, because there’s no time, because I’m not pretty/handsome enough, because I’m not good enough, because I’m not smart enough, because there’s no money, because I may fail, because they may not like me, because she/he might say no, because they might laugh at me, because it’s not the way it used to be, because there’s always tomorrow….

When they realized that there is NOT always tomorrow…When they realized that, OMG!!!!  This could be IT!  That, all of a sudden, their stories could be over.  Their sands run out….

That all the things they wished they could try, do, accomplish…All the things they put off, denied, avoided…All the words they refused to say, failed to say, spewed in anger, spite or jealousy…

When they realized that this moment, right here, was the last they would hold…That they were now reduced to a handful of moments, of precious precious moments, in an entire lifetime… 


I love all of you.  I love you guys.  I love you. 

May 19, 2011

Up The Road The Skies Are Clearing

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 1:01 am

I’m excited to be invited to publish my blog entries in the Grosse Pointe edition of the cool online newspaper, Patch.   The people at Patch are so warm and welcoming.  Very determined to bring clean, valid reporting to their readers.  I’m proud to join their team.  It is my goal to contribute a brain injury blog that helps survivors and their support people navigate the new roads they now find themselves traveling.

I have been blogging now for three years.  Usually when I create a new blog entry, it is the plated version of  a theme whose ingredients have been simmering for days, even weeks, in my head.   I try to make myself open and aware of common and repeating messages telling me they’re waiting to be noodled over.  Needing to be organized.   Hoping to be shared.

Lately I’ve found myself returned and returning to the beginning of my recovery from the traumatic brain injury I sustained in 1996.   Several times recently, in various ways.   Some gently prod, whispering in the quiet.  Others poke and pinch, screaming their blind curses.

Because I’ll be presenting to a brain injury group in a couple of weeks, I quick-paged through my book for the first time in quite a while.  Several new survivors have contacted me these last weeks with their early struggles of recovery.  And, finally, I gladly accepted the invitation to bring my brain injury blog to Patch.

As I read through early chapters from my book, I was reminded, certainly, of how long the journey and how utterly painful, wrenching and life-changing.   But I was also reminded of how long the journey and how utterly joyful and successful, rewarding and life-changing.

New survivors vent and lament their newfound barricades, preventing easy travels along familiar streets.  Instead they continue to encounter detours and delays, frustrations and heart-breaks.

My message to those individuals new to brain injury, whether they are injured themselves or are supporting a friend or family member, is one that readers of my WordPress blog and attendees at the conferences where I speak have long heard:   Up The Road The Skies Are Clearing.

From here, fifteen years up the road, I shout back and report that the storm clouds DO move past.   The darkness lifts.   The sun makes its way through the clouds once again.  The bitter winds of winter turn to gentle warm breezes dancing through the curtains once more.

For most of us, the greatest challenge after brain injury is to embrace change.   Change no one wanted, no one sought, no one invited.   Change that doesn’t tiptoe or graciously, tenderly caress.   But, instead, change that barges and charges, ripping through our lives as tornadoes do.   Cursing clumsily and smelling and rotten and rude.

It is my firm belief that we CAN change, can recover, can create new lives that work and succeed.   Lives we can be proud of.   For we have changed and adapted countless times in our lives.   We’ve started over.   We’ve learned new skills.  We’ve lost and we’ve taken what we still have and moved on.  We’ve found new love after heart-break.   We’ve found new jobs after layoffs…

From elementary school to middle school.   From high school to college.   Getting into the work force.   Inviting in roommates and partners and spouses and children and parents.  

Change does not pick on the brain injured alone.  We are not special in our plight.  The need for change is no new symptom kept for those of us now differently-abled.  

Change finds everyone.   Change shows up every day at every doorstep and asks for entry.  It wears the coats of a hundred diseases, a thousand conditions, a million stories.

Even as I write this, the lilacs glow in the quiet of night.  The apple blossom and cherry blossom trees flutter in the cool breeze.  Tulips soar and Blue Jays return and it is Spring again. 

Another winter we’ve beaten.   Another winter survived.  Another winter behind us.

It is Spring again.

To the brain injury survivors who stumble across me on WordPress or who now find me on Patch,  I welcome you and your supporters to a community that cheers your every painful step toward a new, fabulous life.   We happen to think YOU ROCK!

We won’t return to the darkness.   We won’t climb back into that hole.  But I swear we’ll keep calling from the light.   Begging you forward.   Reaching out hands and hugs and promising you that, yes, Up The Road The Skies Are Clearing. 

It’s Spring again.  The winter, again, behind us.   You can do this.   I’m cheering for you!

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