Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

August 5, 2017

How, Exactly, Do I Do This Thing?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:34 am

In several blogs, and all throughout the 20th Anniversary Edition of my book, I talk about living a grateful life and I explain some of the ways I enlisted to get me here.

I end up hearing, then, from people who are struggling and trying to find better ways to cope with their injury and, basically, don’t feel that living a grateful life is in their capability.  They imagine the task too great, given all of their challenges.  They remind me how, all around them, they find screaming elements that they aren’t very grateful for.

I am not oblivious to this.  I know that, over the last 20+ years, this bugger injury has made its way into just about every deep corner of my life.  Each day, like so many of you, I have considerations to make and coping strategies to employ and it really does seem like it is never-ending.

And yet I really do live a grateful life.  One that is lighter and filled with hope.

What I hear is that people don’t know how to start living a grateful life because they are overwhelmed with the size of the mountain.  The task seems so big when there is so much, all around them, that they simply ARE NOT grateful for.


Because it’s so much a part of me and so ingrained in my everyday, I sometimes miss the exercises I do all throughout my waking time.  I caught myself doing it again last night and I thought, hey, this might be small enough to share.  It might seem just easy enough for those of you really struggling to try.

It’s worth a shot.

The biggest challenge is often talking about the throw pillows when you have an elephant in the room.  Yes?  Sometimes, for so many of us, brain injury absolutely consumes our lives and gobbles them all up and it’s hard to find space and air for anything else.

What I’ve done for many years now helps to remind me that, although brain injury is bad enough, there are absolutely a lot of other things that could have or still could go wrong.  Knowing this allows me to feel genuinely grateful.  It is a step in the right direction.

I watch TV.  And, for a long time, commercials were for running to flip my laundry or run to the bathroom or text someone or grab another something to eat.

When I stayed planted throughout the commercials, I started doing something that has assisted my daily commitment to living a grateful life.  It works for me and it is easy to do.

I really believe that thoughts are things and so, when I hear people say things like, “I’m the unluckiest person in the world” or “only bad things happen to me” or “everything bad happens to us”….I cringe.  It literally scares me.  I think, oh God, don’t say that!!!

If thoughts are things and if our lives and our happiness are the crops that grow from our thoughts, then we have to really tend our thoughts.  That’s where the commercials come in.

Whenever the commercials start, so do I.  I’ll see that one about the guy who is blind and he’s talking about his blindness.  I say to myself,  “I am not blind.  I have excellent vision.”  When I see the commercial about sick kids, I say to myself, “My niece and nephew are healthy and able and high-performing and high-functioning.”  When I see commercials about hearing aids or bladder protection or meds for back pain or braces for knee pain, I remind myself, “I hear well.  I have a healthy bladder and my back feels great and my knees are healthy.”

I do this all the time.  Literally every night while I’m watching TV.

Those reminding and positive statements to myself seep into the places where maybe I could, instead, fill them with bad thoughts about what I can’t do and what damage has been done.   They are good, solid reminders of how many things work well and how blessed and fortunate I am to have so many great things working on me and for me.  I have gotten to the point where I do them without thinking now.  I see the commercial and I tell myself the good part.

It lifts me.  Silly as it may be, it equals out the darker thoughts.  It is a measure of good.  Just one of the exercises I do every day but one that is easy to share and easy to take up.  No push-ups required.  Ha.   It just strengthens the fabrics which heroically hold us together and keep us able and achieving.  It’s part of the good when there is always the temptation to give into the bad.

It’s worth a try.  🙂


  1. Nice post. I get that some people have a hard time getting to a grateful life. I lost almost everything because of my TBI. People would say “you’re lucky to be alive” or just “gosh, you’re lucky.” My brain injury was bad, I was in a coma for quite some time. BUT, I am lucky. Yes, it ended up costing me my job, home, my ten year relationship and my pets, but I am lucky. I lived when there was a time when doctors weren’t sure if I would. We need just look at our brain injury community and see just how many died from their injury. It took me time to get to this point, but I am grateful to still be alive, despite the daily struggles. Believe it or not and this is coming from me, a TBI survivor who had my injury some 22 years ago, there does come a time when you feel grateful to have just made it threw it and then truly see all the blessings you still have in your life.

    Comment by Lynn — August 5, 2017 @ 11:33 am | Reply

    • Rock on, Lynn. You sure are a success story with how far you’ve come. Any “normal” person would be fortunate to have your smarts and compassionate spirit. Truth.

      Comment by karaswanson — August 6, 2017 @ 8:40 am | Reply

  2. Thank you Kara. I can’t wait to try this. I like the way you think.

    Comment by George — August 5, 2017 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

    • And I love your willing, playful spirit, George. Thanks for writing :))))

      Comment by karaswanson — August 6, 2017 @ 8:44 am | Reply

  3. Hi there Kara. Great post as always. Sometimes I think we are quite in sync. I had just finished this poem after a “rough patch” when your post arrived. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it with you and your readers. I’ve called it “No Surprise”.

    Can not listen
    Can not read
    Can not concentrate
    Can hardly breathe

    Thoughts exploding
    Out of control
    Into the abyss
    That deep dark hole

    Tumbling falling
    All at sea
    Want to throw up
    Please set me free

    Dark deep darkness
    Swallows me whole
    Time passes, releases me
    From its hold

    A glimmer of thought
    A presence of mind
    A bit of awareness
    All welcoming signs

    Slowly carefully
    I begin to climb
    From that deep abyss
    To leave it behind

    Dark to grey
    Grey to light
    Slowly emerging
    Fatigued from the fight

    Victor am I
    Yet again
    Fully aware
    It is yet to be slain

    To you the abyss
    So sneaky and quick
    When will you learn
    I will never quit

    I’m stronger than you
    Grateful to be alive
    Life is worth living
    Let that be no surprise

    Live, love, laugh.

    Comment by Kym Taylor — August 6, 2017 @ 1:22 am | Reply

    • Kym, that’s beautiful! Thank you for sharing that. It is now circling the globe, even as we speak. Enjoy that. 🙂 You are right-you ARE stronger than this bugger. Gorgeous poem. Thank you. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — August 6, 2017 @ 8:42 am | Reply

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