Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

January 26, 2019

What is the past, really?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:04 pm

For so many of us with brain injury, the past is this magical, mystical perfect that we keep and treasure and allow to haunt us.   It is that wonderful time in our lives, pre-injury, when the future seemed bright and the days were full of promise.  Tomorrow seemed to go on forever and we believed that our futures held only better, no matter what they would prove to be.

They were certain to gift with endless days of love and success and pudding and giggles.

Although our paths are drastically different than those without brain injury, we are not nearly rare in our keeping of the past.  For anyone whose life didn’t quite work out how they’d hoped, that feeling of childhood and of a carefree-before-now too often saddens.  Too often is missed.

To me the past is, seemingly, another life.  A different time.  One with vibrant abilities and dogs and a climbing career.  One with parents and others who I miss now.

But the loss of those yesteryears does not make me angry.  I don’t feel cheated.  I am simply grateful to have enjoyed them when, for so many others, they did not know the more-common happiness of carefree youth.

I did.

For me, the past unfolds like chapters in an amazing book.  Maybe that is the writer in me….But it has helped me to move on after all of my hardships and disappointments to look at life this way.

Maybe it could help you too?

For the so many of us who struggle to find answers as to why we were so cruelly sentenced by such a horrific injury, I look to the past to soothe and to ease, not to taunt and to haunt.

In the past lies the answer to many and any of our questions, whether we have a brain injury or not.  It tells us how we got here, wherever we are in life.  For the countless who are unhappy and who are struggling, the past tells us why.   A simple gift but one that we often overlook.

The past tells us how we ended up brain injured.  It tells us how we ended up married to some abuser.  It tells us how we ended up homeless or addicted or in prison or, more hopefully, how we ended up satisfied, successful, in love or enjoying families or jobs that we adore.

The past is not meant to torture.  It is meant to gift us with information, with knowing, with perspective.  Enough to invest….

In our futures.

We can love our pasts  but it’s so important that we don’t allow ourselves to prefer them.  That is our challenge.  That is the gauntlet thrown down before us.

Because, if we prefer our pasts, we stop hoping for better futures.  We stop writing new chapters.  We stop improving and evolving and making new.

Life might not end then.  But living sure does.

Chapters are meant to end.  New chapters are meant to start.  We are not meant to be who we were at nine, at eighteen, at twenty-seven.  Brain injuries come.  Parents go.  Kids arrive.  Spouses leave.   Jobs start.  Projects finish.  Hopes start.  Dreams die.

I don’t pity those of us with brain injury.   I have seen uncountable numbers of you, of us, take these monster injuries and create happy, wonderful lives.  Successful ones.  Kinder ones.  Generous ones.  Ones to admire.

Everyone carries moments from their pasts whether they are injuries, diseases, children, spouses, prison sentences, regrets, mistakes…

The secret is simply to invest our pasts.  Deposit the lessons learned from them into our futures.  To take them and use them as informative and gift-giving and life-saving.  To make us better.  To make us kinder and more compassionate and peaceful.

To make us better human beings.

A good writer will always do research.   S/he will always take what there is to know and create from that.  Make new from that.

That is our mandate.  Our mission.  To take what we know and create from that.  Make new from that.

When we do that, we will thank the past for its gifts as we write exciting new chapters in our lives.

January 6, 2019

The Key To Change Is Replacement

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 1:39 pm

I was thinking yesterday that, wow, I really have evolved when it comes to media and how I use it.  I was binge-watching a Netflix Original Series via Roku and I had to laugh at myself because I’ve never really been on the cutting edge of anything when it comes to media.

Binge-watching my show last night came on a streaming carrier.  Before that there was recording and DVR-ing and Blue Ray watching.  Before that there was just cable and running to the corner to score new releases of videos to watch for the weekend.  Before that was (and, yes, I’m old enough to remember) the introduction of the remote control.  Even before that, there was actually getting up and going up to the TV and manually turning the channel for the six or nine stations we received.

Very few of us now are still manually changing channels on some old tube TV and watching a dozen air channels.   Very few of us are still watching videos that slide into DVD players.   Even though there have been challenges along the way with new technology and trying to navigate through all the new-tech options and trying to afford all the new tech toys that keep emerging, most of us have found new ways we can actually manage and afford and enjoy.   We are comfortably standing on one of the many steps between first and latest.

Similarly, phones have evolved in such dramatic ways that it’s hard to really appreciate just how far we have come in such a short time.  Thirty years ago we were excited to have big clunky answering machines and we were delighted when Caller ID came along.  We cheered mobile phones and, eventually, cell phones.  From flip-phones to Qwerty keyboards to smart phones.  From one centralized wall  or corded phone to phones in our ears and on our wrists.

Why aren’t more people sitting at home still manually changing their twelve air channels and rotary-dialing their loved ones on land lines?

Because the changes created better.  Because they made life easier.   Because we were able to enjoy more options.  Because it was fun.

Nobody can force anyone to join in the new age of technology.  It’s nobody’s business if we choose to refuse all the new options and to keep watching our familiar shows that first-aired forty and fifty years ago in black and white.   It’s nobody’s business if we prefer an old fold-open map or an actual Yellow Pages or a camera that still uses film.

But we have to understand then….We have to accept then….

That we won’t hear from many of our loved ones who communicate only via texting and who don’t even answer or talk on their phones any longer.  That we will miss a lot of our loved ones’ lives who communicate and share their lives only on Facebook, Twitter or with email.

We can’t blame them for choosing tomorrow.  We can’t expect that they will.

When we face the hard recoveries of brain injury or of any of life’s most challenging trials, the key to embracing change is to find better and more enjoyable and make-life-easier replacements.    The replacements are the key.

Nobody would have chosen to replace rotary dial phones with two Dixie Cups and a string between them.

In this New Year, in this next year of your recovery process, I wish for you doors that open.  Views that widen.  Color that sharpens.  Sounds that clear.

No one is asking us to give up our rotary phones and then, the next day, take the helm as the CEO of Apple.

But maybe this new year doesn’t have to be the same as all of the parts of so many past years that have hurt.   Meds change.  Strategies change.  Incentives change.  Perspectives change.   When so many of us have convinced ourselves that we are this or that we are that, perhaps this new year will prove us wrong.  Surprise and delight us.  Perhaps it will reveal a brain that has healed some, a new way of easing, a few strategies that don’t feel so awful to embrace.   Maybe we can open ourselves up to new reasons for trying again and trying new.

If we can turn on our TVs and find three hundred choices of what show to watch, maybe we can consider the possibility that there are a hundred times more than that of people to meet, things to learn, ways to try, moments to share, music to hear, things to see, options to consider and tomorrows to shape.

Happy New Year, everyone.  Love you.  Kara  🙂



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