At some point in rebuilding our lives we begin to focus on the silver lining stuff. Those things for which we are grateful. The perceived good amongst the perceived bad. It was tough for me to suddenly lose that person I knew myself to be. The person with those abilities and habits that now I was void of. But it was necessary for me to redirect my focus from loss to ‘what’s good about my world?’ so I could move on wherever life’s road was taking me. It was going to take me anyway, I might as well get to a space where I could enjoy the process that is my life journey.
Sometimes we have to direct our thoughts to gratitude. I had to remind myself to visit gratitude often to build the habit otherwise I would stay in the thought groove of loss and misery, carving it deeper with each repetitive thought. It could be valuable to at least one reader to realize, people with brain damage have a unique opportunity to rebuild themselves, sometimes everything about them. It’s a massive undertaking to be sure. And its something 2 million + people in the united States (annually) have an opportunity to do. Non brain injured people clamor to Thought Leaders to change bits and pieces, but we get to change the whole canvas of our existence, or at least most of it. I see it as a similar journey to the regular Joe, just one of major magnitude for myself as someone who experienced more of a (suddenly) blank slate.
Some things change, some things stay the same
My concern for my children’s well being remained intact. One thing that didn’t change with brain damage. They were 6 and 9 years old at the time of my injury. I marveled at how I was too damaged to work, yet alive enough to physically be there for my growing kids. I worried about being too damaged to parent and fearful they would be taken away from me. My counselor asked often about the children and how we were getting along. He assured me the kids would not be taken away. They were my big motivation. My WHY? They were the reason I gave myself to live, even through the excruciating times. As time went on I developed a list of other reasons to live. One stirring my scientific curiosity; I wanted to know if Twinkies really do have a 20 year shelf life. They’ve been encased for 13 years and they still look great. Only 7 years left to find out!
In the years since my accident I’ve been privileged enough to study several thought leaders. Many of which stress the need for the big WHY, the motivation that is going to pull you through to your goal. At times my goal was to simply keep breathing because that meant I could live another day to see my kids’ wiley smiles, witness their rambunctious movement through childhood, and their creative ways to deal with challenges and follow their interests. I got to see my oldest after he climbed the tree in the back yard. I got to feel the sharp sting of air fill my lungs and the adrenaline kick in when his calls to get my attention took my eyes to the top of the tree in our back yard. He was three stories up. Two stories higher than the height of our house. My panicked pleas for him to be careful gave way to his delighted laughter.
At times I’ve started from my breath and went on from there
I love learning, always have. It was nurtured by my grandmother the summer I stayed with her. I was 11. She took me to the library and signed me up for my first library card then let me know I could checkout anything I wanted. I was a kid in a candy store. My vise for books and learning was born.
With brain injury came a new way to look at my love of learning. When I realized I had already read that page, learned that tap dancing step, played that guitar chord… but had no recall, I chose to focus on my love of learning…and relearning… and relearning. I found comfort in finding things about myself that were the same after the accident, like learning, and expounding upon it. Now, instead of being a life time learner, I could also say I am a life time re-learner. In the early days I thought this brain injury thing was a temporary blip and I worked diligently to get my brain function back. In those early days I required myself to heal and get back to corporate America and computer software, the job and the company I loved so much. Not to mention I had my value tied to my job title and the increasing numbers on the paycheck.
…And then I read something about the possibility of healing ~ as not going back to where we were, but starting from where we are at and moving forward from there. That sank my sails but also gave me an opportunity at living a full life, albeit perhaps one that was way different in experience and in abilities.
Over the years I’ve marveled at the human body and at life. I found myself saying, “Life wants to live” when I couldn’t explain why something happened or someone continued to breath when it seemed they shouldn’t. It was one way I could make sense as to why people can go through such a change as they do with an injury or an illness and keep on ticking. I observed the tremendous strength in that unseen space where life force (for lack of better word) must live. There seems to be an unseen force that does its best to find a way, and when it does, we are pulled through the tragedy and physically continue on.
In the years since the accident I have found many people, places, things and experiences to be grateful for. My silver linings runneth over. Children grown into adults, developing interests, having a home, a garden, a greenhouse, travel, the love of my life, a dog, great friends, surrounded by caring and thoughtful people, feeling inspired and being an inspiration for others, experiencing joy, peace, love, contentment. Writing and publishing a book (with more in the works), speaking, writing this blog… and so much more.
The big question and the reason I write this blog, How does tbi affect my life?
There are many answers to this question. Today, with the topic of silver linings…
It gave me a spring board from which to build another life, to create (and continue to create) that person I choose to be. It gave me a topic to write about. It fueled a variety of experiences. It made me even more compassionate, gave me a slower pace, and things to contemplate. It encouraged acceptance. It exposed my vulnerabilities. It gave me another perspective to see from and experience the world. It opened me up and let the light shine through.
Your lifestyle is your journey ~ Enjoy!