It is four years today that I said goodbye to the life I knew.
I woke up at dawn, excited about the day, meditated, wrote, gardened, worked, and looked forward to an evening sailing lesson, never suspecting that after this day, my life would never be the same. No one knows when a traumatic brain injury will strike.
The journey has been intense. Long. Hard. Poignant.
At first, I thought I would heal this. After all, I was a healer. I had spent my life learning about every kind of healing method I could find. I was meant to heal this and teach others how. I could live with that. It gave me hope, and more importantly, it gave me purpose.
Four years later, the part of me that believes that has shrunk. It has become a little sliver of hope that occasionally surfaces.... and then crashes even harder with the next bad day. Hope has become an unhelpful roller coaster.
Now, I focus not so much on changing this (although it is not my nature to ever stop trying or give up), but I am more focused on how to live a full life, in the present moment, even when things are not as we would want them. Because isn't there always something we which was different?
Honestly, brain injury sucks. It is the hardest, scariest hell anyone can imagine.
But it doesn't help to be thinking that all day.
What helps is to find the gifts our challenges bring us. I have searched and searched for four years for the gifts I knew were somewhere in the rubble. I believe there is always a gift, sometimes they take a LONG time to find.
As my Fourth Birthday present to myself today, I am sharing my gifts.
Gift Number One: Slowing down.
I am a snail in an SUV world. As a snail, I am closer to the rhythms of nature, and the rhythms of my own body. A snail doesn't experience as many things, but it experiences each moment of life with more depth. It isn't racing off to the next experience.
Gift Number Two: Being in the present moment.
Having to work hard to be in my body and have it function, keeps me in a timeless place of right here and now. I am no longer multitasking or distracted and my relationships are richer for it. That is pretty cool.
Gift Number Three: Grace.
What I am finding by being present in the moment, is the gift of divine grace. When we stop approaching life trying to control it with expectations and goals, and just see what each moment brings, doors open. Things happen that could never have been predicted. They often turn out better than I could have thought up myself. The series of surreal events that my life has become would be hard for most people to believe. Life has become a fun adventure since getting out of the driver's seat.
Gift Number Four: Embracing Uniqueness & Being Self-Referential.
I have difficulty in crowds. I have difficulty reading. I have difficulty with noise or florescent lights. I avoid these things and more, and in doing so have become an island unto myself in the Lake of society. I am learning who I am without outside influences. I am forced to learn to accept being different. The truth is that I have always been "different" and tried to hide that. How many of us suppress our uniqueness and try to fit in? That is a scary thing for most of us. We fear losing love and approval. The truth is, others love us when we are loving ourselves, not when we are trying to be someone else.
Gift Number Five: Freedom from the Curse of Perfection.
As a life-long perfectionist from a family of perfectionists, I used to equate being lovable with being perfect. Yet perfection is an unattainable goal, and that constant drive takes us out of the present moment where peace and self-acceptance lie. Learning to accept all the parts of ourselves, the ones we like and the ones we don't like is the key to peace and wholeness. I can no longer even try to be perfect. Letting myself off the hook, there is the peace of surrender. I feel whole and complete in my brokenness, perhaps more than I have ever felt in my entire life.
Gift Number Six: Becoming my own best Cheerleader.
TBI is a LONG road. It isn't a marathon. It is a lifetime of back to back marathons. I won't survive if I am judging myself and beating myself up. I have trained my mind to be kind to myself, the way you would be to a four year old. After all, I am just four years old in a grown up body. I praise my brain all day. It is doing such a good job. On days like today. I can not tolerate light, noise or motion, and am in my room all day wearing dark glasses, I say "Good brain. You are doing so well. You are working so hard. You are doing your very best. I love you so much!" Repeat. Everyday. All day. Forever.
Gift Number Seven: Learning about love and kindness from people everyday.
I never knew how much a little bit of kindness could help someone in need. I never knew how many beautiful people step forward and rescue others. Wow. This just makes me cry. Y'all are beautiful you know. Thank you so much for the gift of you.
Happy Re-Birthday to Me!