Here is a post I shared on Facebook. I thought it was worthy enough to share here too:
I have received a huge gift in the form of a brain injury. Since my fall in May, I have developed a deep understanding of folks with sensory integration disorder/autism. While I want to be in public and participate fully in life, loud noises, movements, strong lights, screens, reading and visual chaos cause sometimes debilitating pain, deep irritation, nausea and anxiety.
When I choose to be out and about for short periods of time, I must also plan for a long nap or quiet space afterward. Using tools such as noise cancelling headphones, prescription sunglasses, a brimmed hat and a weighted compression vest, make life more accessible but do not solve it all.
Simple things like checking Facebook or email have become pleasures I will no longer take for granted (for example, this post took three days and several naps to write).
Meditation, cranial sacral therapy, talk therapy, physical therapy and vision therapy have been a saving grace, teaching my brain to process outside stimuli without the trauma response.
The support of my family, friends, faith community and colleagues also play a key role in a healing journey I could never have imagined.
We all walk this world as a product of our past and current stories in bodies that have their own agenda. Before the gift of brain injury, I chose to judge myself and others based on outward appearance and an arbitrary set of standards for living, healing and interacting. Now I know judgement heals nothing. It is through compassion and acceptance of what is, that transformation occurs.
I share this experience not for pity or attention but in the hope of developing more compassion for ourselves and the people we meet each day.
My grandmother was a Methodist missionary in Alaska before it was a state. At 84 she was still up for adventure and asked for me to plan one that we could share together. We headed to Costa Rica from my dorm room in college and found ourselves in well loved Catholic church in downtown San Jose. My grandfather had died 10 years before and my heart was raw with my first major break up.
Together we lit little candles with long matches in honor of our loss. I had a deep sense that my grandmother honored my pain in the same way I honored her’s. Love is love. Loss is loss. Bringing light into the world helps.
Some people have hammocks. I don’t usually see people in them. One time I remember seeing our neighbor sitting in his hammock and thinking, “Ha, how odd that someone is actually using their hammock.”.
Three weeks into recovering from a concussion, I’ve been enjoying our hammock for the first time. There’s really not much else I can do. Reading is out of the question. Significant screen time makes my head pound even more. But sitting in the hammock? I can do that. I can watch the trees dance and hear the birds sing. I can see the Cottonwood pollen floating through the air like a soft snow on a summer’s day.
So here’s my advice to you. Don’t wait for a concussion to sit in a Hammock. They really are a wonderful invention, so under appreciated yet an incredible tool for learning how to enjoy the act of being.
I keep going to the physical therapist to get the adhesions broken down holding down the nerves in my leg each time the physical therapist breaks down some of the same adhesions he worked on last time.
As teachers and parents we are also held down in familiar patterns by adhesions. We often know it would be beneficial to approach fractions or bedtime routines in a new way. We succeed in trying something new. It is establishing that new pattern that gets painful.
My body is trying to heal but habits have been formed and starting a new pattern takes time, pain and courage.
Just when I thought I had been doing a pretty good job shedding my ego, another “growth opportunity ” tapped me on the shoulder this morning at 5:55.
Our beloved nine year old was chomping at the bit to make breakfast in bed for Mothers’ Day and she needed some help. Half asleep, I set up the Kitchen Aid that was mandatory for the most complicated waffle recipe known to humanity. “Would you mind starting the eggs?” She asked, as I was about to slink back into bed.
I didn’t have the heart to say “no” or remind her of my co-status as her mother alongside the woman still in bed.
She is just old enough to understand the significance of the day and just young enough to miss the nuance of Mothers’ Day with two moms.
I made enough eggs for both moms and grabbed a few waffles then plunked myself at the bottom of the bed where there was room.
I am not going to lie. There was a pity party in full swing happening in the space above my neck. But as the day progressed, one smile followed by a snuggle, then a hug reminded me that I did not become a mom to stand on a pedestal once a year. I signed up for this co-journey for the sheer privilege of witnessing the daily micro moments, both blissful and well intentioned.
When I was little I wanted little to do with my dad. He was wonderful and kind and knew just the way to do my hair for dance class, but I eagerly anticipated my mom’s return home. He loved me regardless. At the age of thirty, I finally figured out that I could love my dad through projects and road trips. It wasn’t the same kind of snuggly, chatty love I shared with my mom, but equally as profound.
My mind jumped to the thirty year wait ahead before Freya and I would have the relationship I longed for. I tried to model the same beautiful routines and relationship her birth mom Laura had developed, but I always felt as if I were falling short; time with me was the consolation prize.
There were no “how to books”. Tears dripped down my face as I prayed lonely prayers. My saving grace were the afternoons when I was the only parent home, slowly connecting, building trust, charting our own path.
Parenting is humbling, all of it. I set out with visions of idealic strolls through the park, sweet cuddles and cherub like grins. Then I was thrown into the role of non-bio Mom with an infant who only wanted my wife.
Contrary to my fears, Freya and I found our own kind of love while she was still small. It began as soon as I was able to let go of the image in my head of how our relationship “should be” by making huge baking messes in the kitchen and painting together in my studio. While her public admiration is usually reserved for my wife, our late night chats and back scratches are something that Freya and I share with a unique sweetness. Our love is different, but equally profound.
I have learned that sometimes love comes sweeping in, other times it builds to grand heights over time. Regardless of love’s pace, letting go of what a mother/child relationship “should be” in exchange for authentic connections will win every time. Sometimes, it will even result in a batch of cupcakes.
It is now four weeks after my appendix, ovary and Fallopian tube were removed along with the offending 16cm cyst. My belly is no longer purple and I can do things like drive and shower without pain. Unfortunately, a slow walk to drop off our six year old at school resulted in an emergency stop at a park bench in the middle of my walk and a two hour recovery in bed with lingering pain for the rest of the day.
My physical therapist friend saw me out and texted congratulations for such a feat. I replied with moans and this is what she said, “The middle of recovery it is the hardest to appreciate both how far you have come, and how much your body will continue to heal.”
At this moment I feel as though truer words have yet to be spoken.