Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

October 20, 2018

Defined By Your Elbow?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:19 am

When you look at your body, your mind and your life, would you say you are defined by your elbow?  By an unusual ankle?  How about your spleen?  Anything remarkable about that spleen?

There are certainly people who are defined by small parts of them which have made huge impacts.   There are people who are defined by their extraordinary voices, pitchers and quarterbacks with rocket arms, dancers and boxers defined by quick and incredible feet…

A lot of times we, ourselves, define people narrowly.  We picture them and just one image comes to mind:  Tiger Woods in his Championship Sunday red shirts and black slacks or Whitney Houston rocking that National Anthem.  Michael Jackson doing the Moon Walk.

We sum them up.  We condense their whole.

Too often, we, ourselves, end up being defined by our brain injuries.   We join those who have suffered catastrophic events in their lives and we summarize them as they were this or they were that until X happened…

We do that to ourselves, too.

Part of the great goal in recovering successfully from these injuries has to do with that old spleen of ours.  That odd kidney.  That one elbow.

It is to force the definition more broadly.

If we look at a person and only see their amazing voice, their incredible arm, their lightning-fast feet, their blazing serve, then we tend to write them off when those superior tools fade and when they are cast aside by the next new singer, golfer, boxer, dancer.

But there is so much more.

Those people have parents and siblings, spouses and children.  They have homes and pets and neighbors and interests.  They celebrate birthdays and question their futures and fear their next chapters and dread their failings.

We are all so much more than one elbow.  One kidney.  One event in our lives.

Most people will experience a discreet event when their lives took a major turn.  A divorce, a spouse dying, a hurricane that ravaged their town and splintered their home…

And yes, suffered a brain injury.

Our goal, as we move ourselves to and through a successful recovery, has to do with defining ourselves and our lives as a set of parts.  Like a body.  A collection of things that happened to us and made us who we are going forward.

A story of life.

It helps to take some time, here and there, to remind ourselves how we are so much more than just these injuries.  How can you define yourself in ten different ways?

I am a spouse, I am a homeowner, I am a writer, I am a sports announcer, I am an audio narrator, I am a University of Michigan football nut, I am Swedish, I am an Aunt, I am a woman, I am a sexual abuse survivor, I am a recovered brain injury survivor…

What are you?

Many stars and artists learn, like we do, how much can fall apart when all that is prioritized is that one thing.  Our lives are like our bodies:  if we feed them only steak or we feed them only sugar cereal, they will fall apart at some point.

We have to nourish all the parts.

Recovering successfully after brain injury is a daunting project, yes.  It is consuming.  But you’ll find encouraging symptoms of successful recovery when you recognize how you need vegetables and fruits and desserts and chicken and bacon in your diet to please all aspects of you.  To feed and to nourish them.

If you can define yourself, right in this moment, as ten different things, encourage yourself to feed and to nourish them all as equally as you can.

Brain injury can only be the one priority for a while because, like a pitcher’s arm or a boxer’s hay-maker or a singer’s voice, the rest of a person’s life has to be rich enough to sustain that person.  It has to be large enough to absorb him or her…

When that voice goes or that arm fails or that brain injury stops healing.

What’s next?


October 16, 2018

Beyond the Red and the Blue

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 7:14 pm

When I was in high school, our colors were purple and gold.  We were the Vikings.   Our rival school back then was green and white.  They were the Warriors.  After I left high school, they combined the two schools and chose blue and silver.  They are now the Titans.

On Saturday it was our Home Coming and, because I am the public address announcer and because many from my class were returning to celebrate our 35th reunion, it was a special day.

I spent the day looking out for pockets of purple and gold, for the ones donning their green and white and, too, the younger ones in blue and silver.  Amid the huge crowd, there was a smattering of each color in every direction and it was a warm thrill to see everyone return (and a delight to see how many still fit in their letter jackets!).

As I left the stadium after a long day, I was so filled with the goodness of all of it.  Yes, we did look for the colors that will forever bind us, but it was in the sweet and nurturing ways of good.  It was a nod to a time when colors gathered us for so many better reasons than simply hating the other side.

Today it seems we are hopelessly divided between the red and the blue.  It no longer seems to matter what either side has to offer.  Nobody is listening.  Nobody even wants to have a conversation with someone from the other political party.  The lines are deep.  The crack in the foundation is wide.  The anger is white-hot.

I guess Saturday reminded me that we need to get out beyond just the red and the blue.  Maybe, in this climate, there isn’t a way closer just yet.  But Saturday reminded me that there has to be more.  More than just this.

Whether you were purple and gold Saturday or green and white or blue and silver, there was a lovely oneness to the atmosphere.  We were reminded that we all returned to the same place from which we had come.  We all returned home.

It was great not to think about politics that day.  It was great to jump back in to the warmer waters of sweet innocence.  To a time that, in this time, looked awfully right and tempting in its simplicity.

Maybe we all need to set down our reds and our blues more often.  To go out and find some other colors to remind us of other things.  Often better things.  It is autumn in Michigan and the leaves are at their peak.  I hope to go color-hunting soon.  Yellows, reds, oranges…

Red, white and blue used to be a noble set of colors to stand for, stand behind, join together beneath.  But, split up, and with only white as white-hot hatred, those colors have brought out the worst in us.

Saturday reminded me that it’s time to go pick raspberries and pumpkins.  Time to go see the leaves.  Time for cider mills and fresh donuts.

In order not to be so angry all the time, we actually have to live not so angry all the time.

Wishing you a wonderful season of beautiful colors.


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