Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

February 28, 2016

Let’s All Be Cats

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:56 am

I drove down a road near my old family house the other day and, instinctively, I looked down a particular side street like I’ve done for forty-some years.  Same road.  Same side street.

Forty+ years ago I was in the backseat of a car driven by my dad and I looked down that side street and, amazingly, I saw a young girl riding a grey horse.  Right down the street.  Now, mind you, I am not 100 years old.  This was not before cars.  We didn’t live out in the country.  For a young girl who asked for a horse every Christmas, this was stupendiforous.  This was over the moon.  It was proof that girls like me got to ride horses in the middle of suburbia.

It was hope.

I have glanced down that street every passing since.  Hundreds of times over decades.  Always looking for that horse.

What does that have to do with us being cats?

Some might argue that, with all the weight I’ve gained since my injury and all the nice afternoon naps I’ve taken in the sun, I’ve already adopted being a cat for a long time now….

My point about the horse on that side street four decades ago is that it didn’t occur to me back then that THAT wasn’t the norm.   That maybe that young girl rode down that street once in her lifetime.  The rest was just a story I made up.

Lately I’ve heard from a bunch of TBI survivors who, after this year and that, continue to struggle with what once was.  With all that is missed and all that was lost.  Hard to move forward.  Hard to embrace forward.

They keep looking down that side street, too.  Only their glances are in the rear-view mirror…

We’ve all heard the saying about a cat having nine lives and, when one escapes a particularly dangerous event or situation, someone will say s/he has used up one of its lives.

Maybe our old lives are that horse on the side street.

If today’s medicines and Kale and all the Internet vitamins and healthy body plans are going to get us all to ninety, then I submit, just for today, that we have nine lives, too.

If each of our nine lives, the cats that we are, lasts a decade, then it only makes sense that each life be new and different.

I read somewhere once that we should change our hairstyles every five years.   That, in today’s world, the average person will hold fourteen jobs in their lifetime.  That fifty percent of people get divorced.

Lives are meant to change.  All nine of ours.

Look at what we were meant to learn and do in elementary school, in our pre-teen years, as teenagers, in our twenties…

Each decade, each one of our cat lives, served to guide us, enhance us, compliment us, humble us, steer us, wake us up, save us, send us…

And then we go get our hair cut.

We can look at our decades and they have school.  Odd jobs, maybe.  This partner.  That spouse.  This apartment, that starter house.  Kids.   That one hamster and those two dogs.  Those favorite neighbors.  That great backyard.  That terrific boss.  That terrible mustache.  That fabulous car.  That lousy break-up.  Left that house.  Left that relationship.  Shaved the mustache.  Grew a goatee.  Sent the kids to college.  Down-sized to a condo.  Hook-up with an old flame that one night.  Company moved you out of state.  Dyed the hair red.  Got rid of that black lacquer bedroom set.  Adopted a cat.  Lost everything when the economy crashed.  Back to school.  Doctor said to lose weight.  Wife’s parents’ died.  Your parents moved in with you.   Kids moved back in with you.  Daughter pregnant.

And yes, brain injury.

In a hundred ways, for a thousand days, our lives have changed.  Everything does.

Each decade of our lives is different.  It’s supposed to be.

We take the good, when it’s ours to take.  Ours to choose.  It hurts the most when we wanted something or someone to stay.

Yet still time keeps on ticking.

That grey horse was not how everything was.  It was a special moment.  A gift, maybe.  A delight along the way.

How many of those nine lives do I have left?  Do you?

We have to look forward.  The grey horse is long gone and one day I promise myself I will drive that road and not look down that side street.

What life are you on?  Do you need a new hair style?  Do you need to take the great memory of that horse but realize it’s not going to be there again?

There’s no sense looking down that side street for something I know is never going to be there again.  It takes my eyes off the road when I am in the driver’s seat now.

Look ahead.  Keep forward.  Remember that horse and smile as you pass on by.  We are cats, remember.  We have many miles to run.

And maybe a perfect nap awaits in the afternoon sunshine.






  1. Great post, Kara. Made me walk down my own memory lane of haircuts, homes in which I lived, cluster* relationships, pets I’ve had. I think you and I are pretty lucky. Our TBI’s have made us more grateful for the now. I like my life now and am so thankful for all I have, all the wonderful people and pets in it. Life just is. Maybe we do have our own set of nine lives. I am embracing this one right now and will embrace the next. Walk on.

    Comment by Lynn — February 28, 2016 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

    • I love that you like your life now, Lynn. You have sooo created an environment in which you can thrive. That’s all any of us can do. Tinker and tuck and trim a new life that works and sings and succeeds for each of us. Well done, my friend!!! 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — February 29, 2016 @ 7:09 am | Reply

  2. Wow, Kara… I love this analogy. It really has shifted my perspective and given me a new way to look at things that feels more positive and hopeful – it even makes me curious and excited about what may be next. And in my remaining lives! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing with us!

    Comment by Kathie M. — February 28, 2016 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

    • Wow, Kathie M., this is the first thing I’m reading this morning and, rather than news headlines of shootings and murders last night, your words have awakened my sleepy Monday morning with a hug and a kiss. Thank you for that. I’m so glad the blog helped. And your words helped me back. Like your email sign off….peace and kindness to you, too :)))) Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — February 29, 2016 @ 7:07 am | Reply

  3. With a brain injury everything old is new again, right?

    Comment by TBI Insider — February 29, 2016 @ 12:25 am | Reply

    • Well, I’d agree that we have the opportunity to look at everything with a fresh perspective that can serve us as a gift as we move forward. An up-close and personal understanding that life really is short and that we have to sort through and find the gifts and gems, even in what sometimes appears to be less than great fortune. It’s all up to us how we receive and utilize all of our life’s experiences. We can wear them as anchors or use them for fuel. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — February 29, 2016 @ 7:14 am | Reply

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