Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

January 1, 2017

The Pine Needles Hurt

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:22 am

Growing up, my family adhered to ages-old traditions of celebrating Swedish Christmas from December 13th through January 13th.  I never questioned it.  That’s who we were and that’s how it was.  We celebrated life and love and loved ones around those trees.  My Mom carefully placed the hundred-year-old ornaments from Sweden near the top where the kids and enthusiastic cats “hunting in the wild” of our tree branches couldn’t reach.  There were more than a few birthdays of mine on the 15th of January that included a Christmas tree.

As you can imagine, though, by that second week in January, our poor tree was dropping its needles and long-suffering after a month of standing tall and strong in a house with the furnace on and a fire going.

By the time we managed to drag that poor tree out each year, it was so painful to touch those branches and, oh, how they scratched!  The needles fell like rain and we were still getting poked by the occasional rogue needle, stubborn in the carpet, long into Spring.

My parents are gone now and, when I moved into my condo, friends gifted me a lovely lit tree that I pull out each Christmas and plug in and enjoy just the same.

It doesn’t hurt.

I still honor my parents and our heritage in personal ways, in my heart, from the beginning of Swedish Christmas until the last but it is so apparent to me that…

When we drag the past on for too long and into a future it was not meant for, it hides and it waits and it pokes and it hurts.

This New Year’s morning is mild.  Right smack dab in the middle of winter, we here in Michigan are enjoying beautiful sunshine and are looking forward to temps near 50 tomorrow.

It is a new year.  A new year!!!

I am giddy with this extraordinary gift given again-a new empty slate upon which I will create the next year of my life.

As we get older, it becomes so glaringly clear how precious time is.  Time.  Sweet time.

Some, I imagine, like George Michael and Carrie Fisher, thought there was so much more of it left.  Others, stricken with illness or dire prognoses, understand how it is now counted with a different perspective or in smaller measures of years, or in months, or even in breaths.


We are so often careless with this treasure.  We waste time.  We lose time.  We kill time.  We fill it with people we don’t love and in jobs we can’t stand and we note that years fly by unremarkably.  Sometimes without an earmark.  Without a difference.

Without extraordinary.

My wish for everyone this new year is always the same:  good health.  With good health, we are free and able to mold and shape and fill and celebrate our time.  Our particular time.

This go around, maybe we can figure out the parts of our lives that are like those poking pine needles and stop dragging them into a new year again and again when they are best left to the past:  relationships that worked better back then, traditions that fit better then, perspectives and beliefs and opinions that thrived in a world we don’t see outside our windows now.

Maybe it’s time to plug in and light up better solutions and better strategies so that we actually enjoy this gift we’ve given.  Our time.

It’s a new year.  It’s a clean calendar.  It’s a blank slate.  Most of us will return again a year from now and we will know if we chose to spend more of our precious time with people, in jobs and doing things we simply don’t like, love or want anymore.  If we chose to simply keep slogging, keep complaining, keep hating, keep dreading, keep dragging dead trees behind us…

Or did we choose, finally, to really hold that time up precious and close this year?  Did we choose, at every turn, to share it with people we love and enjoy?  Did we give parts of it to fun-seeking adventures, new learning opportunities, great relationship and neighborhood and planet and people-saving projects, and sweet moments of love and of healing and of grace?

Did we make time and find time and give time so that we actually enjoy our lives?

Let’s choose that.  :)))))


  1. Bravo

    Comment by Kathy Krzystowczyk — January 1, 2017 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  2. Pine needles, what a great metaphor. Thanks for posting such a needed reminder.

    Comment by Lynn McIntyre — January 1, 2017 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, you guys. :)))

      Comment by karaswanson — January 2, 2017 @ 8:45 am | Reply

  3. Oh wow… I never thought of it as dragging the past into the present this way… the visual is really enlightening! Thanks Kara and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Comment by Barb George — January 2, 2017 @ 11:30 am | Reply

    • Happy Happy New Year, Barb George!! :))

      Comment by karaswanson — January 3, 2017 @ 8:00 am | Reply

  4. Hello, my name is Jeremy. I’m a brain injury survivor and i was wondering if i could get some advice. I was amazed to see that you also had a wordpress, like I do and your posts are really great. I was wondering if there was anything you could recommend for getting inspiration? my blog is nevergiveup93site.wordpress.com. Thanks and have a great day!

    Comment by nevergiveup93blog — January 26, 2017 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

    • Well, Hi there, Jeremy! Thanks for writing 🙂 So sorry to hear of your brain injury. Excited for you that you have started a blog of your own. You asked me for a recommendation for getting inspiration…I was going to ask if you meant inspiration for your blog writing or for life in general but I realized the answer is the same. Inspiration, in any endeavor, comes from our desire to be moved. To be touched. Something that makes us stretch and grow. I have found that inspiration for anything is hard to find when I am in a tired rut. I find inspiration when I learn new things, when I try different activities, when I listen more than I talk…For me, I am always inspired to write when I listen to the late George Michaels’ album, Listen Without Prejudice. That has always inspired my writing. I’ve been inspired by messages in commercials, by something a friend says or by a movie I saw…I think the key is to look at life more with an open ear and open eyes and an open heart. To be willing to receive instead of always putting our opinions in front of everything, our judgments and our rigid rules. Sometimes all of our inspirations are just waiting out there. Waiting for us to receive their gifts. There are more inspirational stories, moments and interactions out there than even stars in the night sky. We have to seek movement. We have to be moved to write, to produce and to improve. Anything that moves us to tears, to contemplation, to reflection, to anger, to action…all these things are inspiration. Best wishes for your writing and for your continued recovery. I hope you’ll check back and let us know how it’s going for you. Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — January 28, 2017 @ 10:37 am | Reply

      • Thank you for taking the time to reply to me i appreciate it i look for word to being inspired by your words and by everything else out there!

        Comment by nevergiveup93blog — February 2, 2017 @ 2:32 pm

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