Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

October 3, 2012

Let’s Get That Ball Back (Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap)

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 12:36 am

It’s been thirty years since I played volleyball but I can still hear the fans in the stands during matches yelling, “Let’s get that ball back!” followed by six claps.   Makes me smile.

If you are a fan of American football, there is nothing worse than being tied or behind in the waning minutes of a game and the other team is marching down the field.  Your defense keeps giving up first downs and the clock keeps ticking.

You keep thinking to yourself, “Just get that ball back.”

You just want to have some hope.   You just want a chance.

I believe with all my heart that, when we survived our traumatic brain injuries, the hope was given, not taken.

We didn’t lose hope.  We got the ball back.

With a month before our Presidential election in the United States, much is made about jobs and joblessness, unemployment rates and stories of people out of work for months, even years.

It’s time to get the ball back.

I saw a commercial last night that said there are more than three million available jobs in the U.S. and yet the unemployment numbers continue to soar.   Why?

Because we need different skills.

There is such a clear parallel to me between the brain injured and long-unemployed in terms of how our perspectives affect us going forward.   Or not going forward, often.   We are so used to one thing.  One skill set.  One category.  One label.   When there are no jobs in our field or when we can no longer do what we once did, we consider ourselves on the sidelines hoping to get another chance.

We already have it.

We already have the ball.

I watched a movie the other night where the husband had been out of work for a year and they were barely hanging on.   A job opening came up and he refused to pursue it because he considered it beneath him.   Because the skill set was rusty and packed away since college.  Because he was used to a certain level of income, respect, status.

He refused to see that his wife was working two jobs that were “below” her level of education.   He refused to see that a little help, any help, would be better than nothing at all.

He refused to see that the ball was in his hands.


In order for a car to operate, the ignition has to work and the engine has to work and the tires have to work and the steering wheel has to work.

It doesn’t matter if you are the prettiest serpintine belt on a car sitting rusting in the junk yard.

The bottom line is that everything has to get done and, if we believe that and understand that and embrace that, there are no jobs beneath anyone.

In an economy where so many are struggling, why are there three million jobs unfilled?   If all this election noise and buzz and promise and accusation are about the lack of jobs, how can there be 3 million jobs available?

Someone once taught me that, if I keep banging my head against the same wall, I have to change direction.   Simple as that.

Whether we are brain injured or unemployed, what good is a job that we cannot do any longer?  What good is a job that does no longer exist?

At last count, I’ve had five jobs this year.  Each different.  Each designed around my unique circumstances, abilities and interests.

They all serve me.  They all benefit me.  They all need to get done.  They all validate me.  They all reward me.

If ever there was a moment in our lifetimes, it is now that we must understand that there is nothing and no one below us.  There is nothing too meager or dismal, petty or menial to do.

When we understand that everything must get done in order for a world, a nation, a society, a community, a neighborhood, a family…to succeed, then we have the ability to accept gratefully the hope that surviving our injuries and getting up each morning provides.

We have the ball back.

It’s up to us to score.

When everything must get done, let us be grateful for any part of it that we can do.   For any contribution that we can make to our families, our communities, this world we live in.

Let’s awaken our brains and flex our muscles and delight our families and surprise our friends.  Let’s fill those three million job vacancies.    Let’s fill them with skills we have the ability to learn.  Let’s fill them with the open minds and welcoming hearts of the hungry.   The hungry for meaning and fulfillment and the feeling of importance.

At some point we have to stop waiting to be saved.  Waiting to be healed.  Waiting to be taken care of.  Waiting to be given to.  Waiting to return to better times.

The months keep flying by.

My niece and nephew are playing soccer and baseball now.  They have also played football and gymnastics and swimming and dance.

Like my five jobs, they may continue to try everything.  Do everything.   Join everything.

Or they might find something they are particularly good at and stick with that.

The point is, they have the ball.   They are embracing new and trying new and they are a lesson for all of us to remember when we were willing to be pliable, amenable and willing.

Every morning we wake up we get that ball back.  Every morning.  It’s up to us to find a way to march down the field.   We can run, we can pass, we can kick…there are a lot of ways to score.  But we have to realize we ARE the offense.  We ARE the ones who make the calls and no one else can score for us.

Let’s get that ball back, clap clap clap clap clap clap.   Time to put on the helmet and snap that chin strap.

See you in the morning.

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