The scariest thing about facing any barriers in life is keeping the fear bottled up inside. The best way to work through any obstacle in life is to talk about it and to know you are not alone.
That is what this blog is all about, opening up, sharing and walking the path accessibility.
There is something about this time of the year
that makes me sit down and reflect. I guess maybe it is because we are getting
close to closing the book on one and preparing to start another; or maybe it is
the Christmas and Holiday spirit that spreads its way throughout my veins. Whether
it is both or something else, my mind travels to the past days, weeks, months.
Having written and published a book on
growing up and living with a brain injury and trying to promote it (although
promote for me is a loose term) as well as selling at various book fairs, is
quite a bit different than writing a blog or magazine article, or even
delivering a presentation. It is a one on one, more intimate setting, where I
talk a little about my journey. Opening up and disclosing, whether to someone I
already know or a stranger, (though talking to someone I know personally can
sometimes be more difficult) still at times shortens my breath and quickens my
heartbeat. I tend to relax as I am asked questions and explain, but not always.
There are occasions I am overwhelmed, and whether it is innocence or arrogance,
I am sometimes stumped at the questions or thoughts of what brain injury is.
All I want is for brain injury to be
accepted and understood, not stigmatized or misconceived.
All I want is for me to be accepted and
understood. I think I am; I know I am; am I?
And this when the travels of thought go
beyond me and onto family, friends…. life.
Through my work in non-profit I hear so
many stories of compassion and giving. We should be a compassionate and giving,
as well as inclusive society, but are we?
I feel like I have given a lot of myself
over the year; yet I never feel like I have given enough.
We all need bigger hearts and bigger
pockets. There are so many who could use our support.
happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew
three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through,
and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!”
I don’t want to necessarily compare people
to the Grinch, and “Christmas” could easily be replaced with “Life”, but I
think Dr. Suess had something there.
I sometimes think this world uses too much
and loves too little. I feel it within. Society is in too much of a hurry, and the broken,
troubled, challenged and scared, get left behind, walked over… or even just ignored.
These patterns need to change and I don’t even know where or how to start? I
don’t even know if I should start or if I have the confidence to start; but I
can try... all I can do is try.
Is this silly of me? Is this a silly thing
to want bigger hearts and bigger pockets? Is it silly to be reflecting on life this way? On everything and everyone and not just on me? Is it unreasonable to ask for things,
people, to slow down and get along?
We should all be loved; we should all be
accepted. (Well, you know, unless you’re just a meany up to no good… but maybe
even then. Is that crazy talk?)
I want to erase loneliness; I don't want anyone to feel that there is nothing left and no reason.
My reflections come back to me in the
moment and I am dumbstruck of what to do. Maybe write another Cheque or stick
some cash into a Salvation Army kettle; lend verbal or emotional support; go
to a food bank and help stalk selves; deliver presents or food hampers. Hmm…
there is just so much that we can all get involved and work together.
While I cannot be physically present with
so many, my heart goes out to them all. My words are for everyone, in this post
and in others; from social media and in person. My sincerest love, best wishes, empathy and
compassion go out to all family, friends, the less fortunate and in need; to those fighting with an illness and those caregivers affected by it.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" But it is not Snow White's wicked queen saying this, it is me.
Almost every morning when I wake up, weekday or weekend, I drag myself out of bed into the bathroom to gaze upon my reflection in the framed rectangle glass that hangs on the wall above my sink. It is a cabinet I had to move up a few inches for my tall six foot five inch self to be able to properly look into as this bathroom was not always mine and therefore not everything was originally installed for a guy like me.
More often than not I don't see a smile beaming back at me but instead tired eyes that scream a combination of "what's the point?" and "go back to bed!" But instead I ignore those words and look at the crevices and shadows and lines and I think about all of the struggles, challenges, accomplishments and victories I've had. I see all of those tears, the ones I shared and the ones I kept to myself. I see all of the laughter and feel good moments, again, the ones I shared and those I kept to myself. The mirror shows me scars and rejuvenation. My battles are, and have been, so different, but maybe a little similar, to what others go through. The mirror shows me that I am not alone.
I exam the shape of my nose and go over the outline of my mouth, down to my chin, around my ears, and up to my shaved head. "Not a bad looking dude; why am I single?" And I remember my choices and my experiences. Good and bad, it was all worth it I think. And I can handle the hurtles that lay ahead. I can face the challenges, like I always have, head on. Okay, maybe a little hesitation and thoughts of running for cover. But I would always move forward, for better or worse, regardless of inner whining.
The mirror shows me strength and opportunity.
The mirror helps me see and remember the blessings of loved ones.
The mirror offers reflections of guidance and wisdom.
It shows me pain and cruelty and how to face that fear.
The mirror me understand.
But what now? Go get dressed and brush my teeth and move forward. That is when I realize that I know the answer, well, I think I do anyway. The answer to the question "mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" It is me; it is you; it is all of us;.... at least if we want it to be. Because it is my choice. This is when my reflection begins to slightly offer a smile in return, and I can continue through the day.
When I was the age of seven I returned to school after missing a year because of an illness that would shadow me my entire life. I didn't understand a lot about my surroundings as I entered the first grade and I don't remember much, but one of the few things that stands out for me is this girl, who for whatever reason, took to being not only a classmate, but a friend and a guide.
She partnered with me on class assignments, she stuck by my side trying to erase any feelings of awkwardness and the feeling of being alone, and she tied my shoelaces; literally. Anytime they came undone she would bend down and tie them up, saying "it's alright". This girl disappeared from my life after that year, moving away and leaving to another school; and even though some of the safety and comfort feelings I received from this first grader left with her, most of them remained and stuck with me.
I am proud of all that I have overcome and the things I have learned over the years, but I know that her presence for that little amount of time in my life made a difference because a little more than thirty-six years later and I still remember. Whenever I feel lost or alone, confused or misunderstood by others, I look down, and I remember shoelaces.
I learned at an early age, even if it took me a while to fully grasp, that even though things may come undone and bring us down, things can always be fixed and we can look up and move forward again. Whether we do it for ourselves or get a little help.
My shoelace cutie is somewhere out there, but whether or not she ever reappears in my life at some point, a part of her presence will always be felt. I am reminded of her every time I see an act of goodwill from one person to another, every time I see a helping hand bring someone up, every time I see a grown smile from self-accomplishment to overcoming a barrier.
I suppose you could say 'shoelaces' are the reason giving back and helping out has become a part of who I am and what have a passion for. 'Shoelaces' are the reason for my positive attitude, the outlook toward a silver lining regardless of circumstance.
We are all capable of tying our own shoelaces, even when times are tough, that I believe. But there is always someone willing to help us out, this I am certain of this as well.
Shoelaces and friendship and living life; a lesson I will never forget.
It goes by so quickly and yet there are moments when it feels as though it drags on. Time, I suppose, is life. We have too much time, we don't have enough time.
At the age of six time stood still for my parents as I lay in a coma, struck with a viral infection that took away my time; but it was a gift, perhaps my strength and will for life, that gave me more. High School and many other occasions when I faced challenges, I felt the clock ticking backwards, but than I felt that the thirteen years I had with my dad were not enough and sped by too quickly.
There are moments in life when time almost comes to a halt and it can feel as if slow motion has taken over. For whatever reason it is the painful moments that are drawn out when the good times snap by, as if in fast forward mode. The fact that society in general seems to be in this undetermined rush for something, for nothing, doesn't help. What is the hurry? Slow it down; can we slow it down? Pay attention to that pretty face; think about the words that are spoken amongst friends; feel the laughter as if it were a hug.
One of the best three day vacations to my friends cottage went by in a flash where as those hours spent sitting in that chair beside my mom in her hospital bed could have been years. But everyday is twenty four hours, there are seven days in week, three hundred and sixty-five days in a year. (unless it is a leap year) How does time bend than like it does? Perhaps it is our emotion. It controls that first kiss moment as well as that long drawn out tear filled heart ache of losing a loved one.
Some people say that their best time, or times, have already come and gone. Maybe it was during their teenage years, in their thirties or forties. For me, I'm still waiting and looking forward.
Time, it is a devilish thing, but so very precious.
Cherish it all I say, whether it comes by you fast or slow.
"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." Mark Twain
I would never say my life did not serve a purpose throughout my childhood, teenage years and a bit beyond; I just never really thought about it. My life was pretty much consumed with trying to understand things and getting through. Get through public school, graduate high school, figure out the whole friendship angle... never mind the girlfriend thing.
But there came a point, I cannot recall exactly when, that I knew there had to be something more for me. Yes, I enjoyed the creative arts as well as spending time with family and the few friends I had, but something inside gnawed at me and said that these things were not quite it.
My last year of Collage I spent one day a week volunteering at a school my mom taught kindergarten at. (This was before her accident and when she was still working) Spending time helping out with those kids, I felt something click inside of me. But it still took a while to understand.
It was after my mom's accident, combined with the revelation of my brain injury and understanding of why I faced and felt so many challenges, that I discovered something I kind of knew was always there. It was a strong will and a passion to help others; to give back; to become socially responsible. I had a knack for listening and understanding. I wore my heart on my sleeve and brought an open mind into any given situation with any individual.
And so the giving began......
And the giving continues......
Although I am quite proud of all the things I have done and still do, I am not going to share any of it here. Why? Because it is not really the point. All of us, as right minded, good intentioned individuals, have a purpose. Different, yes. Some may be big, some small....... they're actually all big even if you can't see it yourself, someone can. And that is the point, we all have purpose; whether you realize what it is or not. We need to listen to that small voice that fights for inspiration. We are all important, we just need to know it.
Maybe you have already made the discovery, but for some , I believe the search still goes on. We know it when we know it and I think purpose sometimes comes to us when, and in ways, we least expect.
It is difficult to remember what my perspective on life was in my earliest years other than happiness and amazement at everything new (like most young children I suppose), but I can tell you that since my hospital stay in 1978 at the age of six and then into my teenage years, and all throughout high school, it was Survival. Survive the confusion; Survive the chaos; Survive the frustration; Survive the classroom lectures and tests. Aside from this though, I must admit that my life was also full of many great times with some pretty awesome friends, plenty of memories to carry with me that make me smile. But still, Survival was how I saw everything.
"How can I get through this and do well?"
That question, for me, applied to school classes, friendships, home life. I loved life and everything about it, but I didn't understand.
There were few times that this perspective changed to fear; fear of losing; missing out; being alone and misunderstood. This perspective was shared by want; wanting to fit in; wanting for people to think I was cool even though I knew that what I said (when I said something) and what I did, was not.
In college, my early twenties, is when my perspective changed once again, and it brought back confusion. Survival confusion, like before? Yes. But more off balancing. The questions in my mind were
"Was I crazy or was this world crazy?"
"Learning Disability, what?"
And a few years later, "Brain Injury, what?"
Coming to an understanding after so many years of what I was living with first brought about a perspective of anger (Toward the doctors? toward my family?) Anger was placed on everything in my life. But soon that anger was replaced by a serenity; and I realized that this was perspective I maybe should of had all along.
"Did my misplaced perspectives keep me from seeing and feeling?"
Perhaps it was all of those different feelings and outlooks that got me to this place. Confusion, frustration, anger.... the challenge of surviving, was and continues to be all still there; but it is not all consuming. The light is beaming through the trees. The fog has lifted. Because of knowledge gained, because of self awareness, because of compassion, I can live in peace and see the beauty.
The draining heartache that society can be still often throws a shadow over things, but I have found ways in which to keep myself from falling. As difficult as things may be, as much as life can suck from time to time, I have realized I am Survivor in so ways; and that the prevailing darkness that occasionally skews my perspective, can itself be overshadowed.... by me.
We can all change our perspectives to keep the darkness away..... this is what I think; this is what I hope.
Having stood there on that very hot and humid day I closed my eyes and
felt the wind blow against the back of my tall and skinny frame. This breeze
surrounded me and for a moment there was nothing else that has ever felt so
good; so pleasant. Throughout my life I have occasionally experienced feelings of bliss,
love, ease and/or comfort. Happiness is brought about during these moments; a
beautiful sensation of being able to just breath and let go of all the
heartache, pain, stress and exhaustion that this life can bring.
In my mind I recall sitting on the hill in the community in which I grew up and
feeling a similar breeze; it is a memory I carry. Though the sensation of the
breeze is only a pleasant thought I’ve added; but the memory gives me the
feeling just the same. It is the feeling of not just the breeze, but to be
able, or allowed, to let go, to be... just a boy.
Not the six year old boy who sustained a brain injury that he was
sentenced to carry for life, not the boy who developed a learning disability,
nor the struggles or the setbacks that littered his path. No, none of those
things; just a boy; a boy of happiness and innocence and joy. I don’t care for hot and humid days. I don’t need to return to that hill.
But I would like to take that breeze and bottle it, turn it into a blanket that
I can wear whenever and wherever I want and feel the need for. I know that this feeling is not what life is, and that is fine. I have
learned to live with and overcome a lot. My survival is not dependent on this
feeling, but I do wish it were more accessible. It is not, and I don’t know
why. Is life to blame? Is society to blame? Am I to blame? Am I missing
something? Bring on the heartache, pain, confusion, exhaustion. Bring on life’s
challenges and struggles. I’ve been dealing with these things since the age of
six. I have learned how to fight against them. Family and friends have helped me with this; they have helped me to
understand and grow. All I want is for the walls to come down, even if for just a moment, and
for the lucidity to blow on through. I don’t think there is anything wrong with
wanting that breezy feeling; that blanket. Just like I do not think that there
is anything wrong with wanting to occassionally return to a time or feeling
when I was just a boy.
I think I deserve that feeling.
I think we all deserve our own breezes and blankets.
Challenging Barriers & Walking the Path is a book about struggles,
growth, family, friends, tears, smiles, and… just a boy.
I know that the title sounds a bit off, but I think we can still be content in our lives even when feeling the occasional pangs of loneliness. No? Maybe it's just me.
I have a handful of friends and I am in no current intimate relationship. People have come and gone from my life and I have loved and lost, and all of these moments, I value. These moments may also continue to come and go, or maybe not. Perhaps this is it. Perhaps I have all that I need; and sometimes I think, all that I can handle.
Maintaining the house that I live in, going to my job, taking my dog for walks, writing, enjoying my family, sharing a drink with one of my few close friends, watching a good television program or movie; I am content with these things. Sometimes, dare I say with a smirk on my face, even happy. Do I get lonely? Sure. But I'm willing to bet not much more, if at all, than those who surround themselves with many more relations in comparison to me.
Life is not perfect and my life has been anything but. However, we could also say the opposite of that. I myself am not sure. I'd like to say that my life is perfect because it seems like the right way to look at things.... but I don't know. What I do know is that I am content, and often closer to happiness than sadness. I cherish the people in my life and my moments. I fondly look back on my past, (most times anyway) and I greatly, and anxiously, look forward to the future ahead.
I suppose that if you are standing right in front of someone, than yes, I guess technically you can see that person. But when you are looking, do you really see me? Are you listening to me? Are you really taking the time to try and understand me?
I'll admit that I am not the most revealing individual. I will admit too that sometimes my words may be a little confusing. I'm not a very talkative person all of the time.
I tend to often blame myself for not being understood for those very reasons.
But than again I think, wait, no, that is not necessarily right or true.
I do reveal snippets of information and I do choose to use my words wisely to say what I mean and what is important. I may be quiet but I do offer advise, support, maybe even a little imagination. So maybe, just maybe, if I am not understood it is not my fault. It is not my fault if you choose not to stop, slow down, and take the time to listen to my words. It is not my fault if you are too scared to believe in the challenges that I face.
I am not seeking pity, I am looking for an understanding and acknowledgement. Once that understanding is reached, then maybe you and I can find some kind of peace; maybe then we can stop and take a breath and see the value. Realizing that there is no competing; that no one challenge is bigger than another; that we are all on a level playing field and trying our best to get through this thing called life.
If you do not want to see or cannot accept my little snippets, I am not going to fight to reveal more; there is too much fighting and wasted effort on the small things. It is not my responsibility to make you understand.
But you should know this, I do try and I have accomplished things. My opinions do matter and my words are valued. My presence and my actions are appreciated. My experiences are meaningful, helpful and inspirational even. My love and compassion hold next to no bounds.
So it is a shame. It is a shame that the voiceless are overlooked, that the quiet or soft spoken are often misunderstood, and that assumptions are made. It is a shame if you do not stop and really look, because even if you may refuse to see me, I will always be here, trying, to see you.
I'm sure we have all played the game where you state the super power you would like to have most, and it can be challenging to say the least because their are some great powers to have. I often find myself stumped at this as my mind races through the X-Men movies or the Hero's television show.
The other night I had a dream that I had come to possess a power, and it was quite different from those discussed in conversation. My power was simply to make people happy.
Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy
It is not as easy as it may sound, making people happy. You can't really "make" someone feel... but I suppose that is where the super power comes into play. While handing out large sums of cash (that I don't have) would be pretty awesome, I think happiness truly comes from something else, some other place.
Life is simple; life is beautiful. The best of times are right here for us to grab onto. Unfortunately, even the best of us can tend to have difficulty with this. I myself can get lost in the clouds and begin seeing too much darkness. Maybe society as a whole is to blame for this. Perhaps we as individuals are just as much at fault, if not more. Who knows? I suppose this is why we all need a little help to make our way through; another hand to help guide us. But, there are times I can see clearly. Times that I wish I had that power; the power to give happiness and offer hope.
I want people to see what I see in those moments. When beautiful sunsets are happening all of the time, even at noon hour, if you look real heard. When serene is a blanket that covers our shoulders and shelters us from any and all chaos. When kaleidoscopes gently brush at the outer edges of our eyes and help us focus on the precious gifts that do in fact fill our lives.
If I had that power to bestow onto others, perhaps we wouldn't be having those conversations. Talking about having a super power to make our lives somehow better. We could just... be.
As a quiet, yet understanding individual, I can see the multi layers of being silent. It can be golden, tranquil, peaceful, serene; but also dark, mischievous and misapprehended. I have been chastised for being silent yet also applauded for holding my tongue and choosing my words wisely. Because of a disability I find verbal communication often difficult in group settings, or at times even one on one. It can, on the occasion, take me a bit longer to understand what is being said, which is kind of ironic because it is my silence that often has people misunderstanding me.
There are times a lot can be said with very little meaning whereas silence can sometimes mean more than words. The absence of sound can lead to awkward moments but it can also be quite comfortable. Most often, I think, the former is a result of fear or a feeling of insecurity. True enough the wordlessness of a person can mean that he or she is thinking no good thoughts and/or planning something misguided; but that really is something quite different... something wrong. Avoidance and secrecy may be considered silence, but it is more, it is trouble, and that can mean something that really is not silent at all.
Don't misinterpret what I am saying, communication amongst people is important, but there is a time when silence is too. Not speaking can lead to work getting done, ideas being created, emotions being fulfilled. Being able to close your eyes, breathe in and out, relax without words bogging down your mind.... that is the truest from of silence. Yet, we do not need to go that far to reach the peace I mentioned earlier.
As a writer I tend to like the absence of speech so that I can concentrate on what I am doing, though this can also apply to other aspects of my life as well.
Another side to quietude can also be about issues of isolation, depression and heartache; not dumbness or a lack of caring. It can seem to outside individuals that nothing is being said, but inside someone's head it is a whole different ballgame. That is why silence from one person should never be allowed to lead another to start making assumptions.
I think a little silence is healthy (a good quiet hug, even when hugging and accepting yourself, can heal) and it should balance with the words of a conversation; after all, life for the most part, is about balance.
So a little over three weeks ago we brought in a New Year, 2015, and a tradition that most people follow is that of making a resolution. Why?
I read somewhere that like 90% of New Year resolutions fail. So again, why?
I think that making a conscience decision to make a change, whatever that may be, to improve ones life is great! Moving forward, learning, changing, getting better, getting healthier, these things and more are all a part of life. Resolving to do these things can happen at any given time; so why December 31st/January 1st?
It is pressure. It's a new calendar year being changed so I guess people feel that they must change with it.
I used to make my New Years resolution along with family and friends, it was just what we all did. Soon it became kind of just became a gimmick, and then I stopped. I came to the conclusion that change, in any fashion, is a very personal thing. Trying something new, setting a goal and making improvement is very commendable but can involve struggles and challenges; and when made at the wrong time can also be unrealistic and perhaps a bit too ambitious.
New Year's eve and day are a great time to celebrate and/or relax, not a time to make life altering goals that you may be unsure about and are saying for the sake of... well, tradition. Whether it is a big or small or somewhere in between, change or improvement can really only happen when you are ready and when you know that you can get support when needed. There is nothing wrong with a little help because most often we cannot accomplish a whole lot completely on our own, anyone who thinks or says otherwise is fooling only themselves... well, maybe others. And that is the pressure that comes with the New Years resolution, that it needs to be done all on ones own because all eyes are watching.
Make your changes when you are ready and prepared, and know that mistakes can and are allowed to happen. Don't set out your goals according to the change of the calendar.