Sunday, May 27, 2012

And so,..... I Write.

I really enjoy writing and I have for quite some time, but my reason is perhaps maybe a little different than you may think.

I wrote a story sometime ago about a young girl named Chloe Anderson, and her tale, Chronicles of a Girl,  turned into one novel, then two, and now I am working on the third. It is a creative fiction and the first two have been published. I've sold a few books and I have received some favorable feedback. I've been featured with my book in the local paper and on a local television show. I had a book launch and I've attended a few book fairs.
Like most published Authors out there, I'm sure, I think it would be totally awesome to see my book as a best seller and for it to be in demand. I'd love to be successful enough to become a professional full time writer and for that to be my job that pays the bills.
But, I write for so much more than that.

I love creating characters and developing them, creating plot twists and even interesting, or different, worlds. I like the idea of writing something that may make little sense but than later presents that Wow or Aha moment!
But, I write for so much more than that.

I started writing this blog a few years back after I wrote a dissertation piece on myself titled "Breaking Down Barriers & Walking the Path of Accessibility". A former colleague and friend whom I respect and admire convinced me that this writing style of mine was motivational and inspirational and she told me to keep it going. She got me hooked on creating a blog (not that it took much to get me hooked on writing) and I enjoy keeping up and sharing my work.
But, I write for so much more than that.

Short stories and articles have been published. I haven't made a whole lot of money off of any of it, but it is great to be recognized and see my name in print.
But, I write for so much more than that.

My last blog post I wrote about my monumental event in turning the big Four-Oh. I started out the post with a definition from wikipedia of my horoscope sign, Taurus. One of the lines said: Taureans are most happy when being creative. I highly conquer. (At least for me)
But, I write for so much more than that.

I even write for more than the knowledge that I'm accomplishing things that will be left behind for other generations to see.... perhaps a legacy. (snicker)

I write because it allows me to do something I find very difficult; communicate. I wouldn't say it is something "I can't do" without writing, that wouldn't be true; but I would be somewhat lost in life. One of the ways people get through life is by communicating. I think it is probably one of, if not the, main ingredients.

I have a few personal challenges that I have to deal with while trying to get through life, including a learning disability. But any challenge I face stems from my ABI; acquired brain injury. There are basically four categories of brain injury: mild, moderate, severe, very serve. Mild would be something like a concussion that one tends to recover from after a period of months, to very severe where an individual can no longer function properly in everyday life and would require 24 hour support. Me, I am somewhere in between moderate to severe; able to function from day to day, but faced with some challenges. My biggest challenge, communication.

According to the OBIA, (Ontario Brain Injury Association) 80 - 100% of individuals living will ABI are inflicted with some sort of communication disorder. 

Like brain injuries itself, the disorder ranges from mild to very severe. My mom, for example, struggles with the disorder known as Aphasia; this can be an extreme speech disorder. I'm not that bad, but I do have difficulties at times. Words can get lost in my head as I'm speaking. I struggle on occasion to make a point, if I get there at all. I lose track of conversations, most often if I'm in a group of two or more people. For this reason I usually remain quiet so I can focus on keeping up. I also tend to shy away from social settings where I have to deal with a crowd. I need time to think about what has been said, and then how I'm going to respond.
Because this disability of mine is none visible and I don't really let on to people that I'm struggling, I tend to get labelled as awkward. In fact, I've been told that my silence can make people feel awkward. I can see people becoming impatient when I can't make a point. I've been at the butt end of sarcasm or jokes, where someone will say, "Gee Mark, thanks for your contribution and all that you had to say", when I never said anything. And this has, on occasion, come from sources that know I have difficulties; which is the main problem, because people tend to forget about what they cannot see or completely understand.
On the rare occasion I can also speak and say too much. I become narrow focused on a subject and start rambling. And on these rare occasions, I've been told I'm saying too much or interrupting others (which I don't mean to do) and to stop. And I'm pretty certain my inadequate speech has been the cause to some lost relationships.

I'm not trying to come across angry or in search of people to feel sorry for me. I'm just trying to point out why it is I like writing for so much more than those reasons listed above. Writing allows me to be expressive, to offer my opinion, to feel like I'm part of something. Whether it is writing a fictional story to eventually share with others or typing out an email to my co-workers to deliver news, I feel like I get to be part of everyday life. I write letters to friends and family to express my emotions, to say things and come up with the words my tongue cannot find.
When writing stories I can create dialogue and conversation and actions that I can keep up with. Knowing that I was capable of writing a novel of over 100,000 words was a true accomplishment! Writing helps me find a piece of my soul that I often feel is missing.
I have even found the ability to volunteer myself (which I love doing) by writing "love letters" through an organization called "The World Needs More Love Letters". To be able to combine my craft of writing with the pleasure of giving back is an amazing feeling!
I know that writing is a form of communication, but verbal speech will always be the more bigger, more accepted brother because it is more instantaneous; as well as being heard and seen. But that's okay. In fact, writing has given me the confidence to speak a little more. I still struggle through and stumble on occasion, and I don't always manage to say what I probably would if given the time to think and write into a document. But, like I said, it's okay. Writing has given me pride and a sense of belonging. It helps me get through life; it is my tool of hope. I'm sure we all have something that helps us get through..

I'll leave you with a few quotes that really touch me.
“I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God” ~ Helen Keller
"Writing is the act of reaching across the abyss of isolation to share and reflect." ~ Natalie Goldberg
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  ~ Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Journey of a Quiet & Friendly Bull-Giant

My journey has been full of potholes, life lessons, heartache and happiness. I don't expect perfection, and I don't think I really want it.

Defined by Wikipedia: Taurus () is the second astrological sign in the Zodiac, Astrologers classify Taurus as a negative or passive (introvert) sign. This gives the characteristics of being reflective, receptive to the ideas of others: typically, a 'thinker' rather than a 'doer'. But being of the earth-triplicity, Taurus is considered by astrologers to be a highly practical sign which is happiest when involved in some kind of creative process. Although generally considered easy-going and placid, as a fixed sign Taureans are likened to the bull in being slow to show anger, but capable of raging if pushed too far. And they take time to eventually act on their anger and basically when they (Taureans) do, be rattled, because there's no telling what they'll unleash upon you. It is also said Taureans enjoy basic 'creative comforts' and don't allow others to disturb them easily, but they don't forgive and forget easily. Joanna Watters (2003) defined a key phrase for this sign as "I possess", and summarizes its strengths and weaknesses: "The positive side to this fixity is a ferocious willpower and absolute loyalty to loved ones, although they need to guard against possessiveness".

I don't think these astrological signs define us, I've looked at some horoscopes of mine in the past and have read things that totally were not me, but they can also be pretty damn accurate in a lot of places.

I just recently turned the BIG Four-Oh. (40) I've been told it is an age when you start feeling older. It is actually quite true. While I don't necessarily feel any different than I did two weeks ago at the age of 39, I definitely feel older than when I was 28; both physically and mentally. But I like to look at my growth through life in a positive way, not a negative way. Some hard lessons have been taught to me and I've managed through. I treasure my moments past, present and future.
Even if we need to let out a gut wrenching cry once and a while, or a scream of frustration, we need to accept and look beyond the dark times, because I believe that if we don't we'll never truly learn to live in the light, happy ones.

I've learned that the steps we take through life should be delicate and paced, accompanied by observation. A good portion of the time people are not that way and life ends up being rushed, and rough, and unfair. Instead of living for wealth and consumption, we should be more focused on compassion, love and acceptance.

Family is the truest bond in my life, but it is not bound by blood.
It's not about how many friends you have, it's about the quality they bring to you.
Forget about the 'what if?' and concentrate on 'what's next?'
Don't confuse being alone with loneliness.
I believe in God and I go to church; but I am not religious.
I don't think 'Love' is shared often enough, but perhaps said too much.
I suffered something horrible at the age of six and I still carry around scars from it to this day; but I am not prevented from living or functioning in life.
My disability scares me in only that others might not be willing to accept or try to understand.

Possibly because of the challenges/barriers I face, or perhaps the quiet nature of my persona, many people don't get me. Well, I don't get many people either, and I'm fine with that. Not everything deserves to be held onto. Sometimes we got to just let things just be the way they are and not get too stressed over the way we think things should be. Unless we're talking about good vs evil or right vs wrong (in the true sense) there is no 'should be'; there is just 'is' and 'in between'

Have I learned the meaning to life? I don't know if there is ONE meaning to life; but I think if there is, the meaning to life might just be that there will always be more to learn about the meaning to life.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Disability.... Is it Really Such An Ugly Word??

I’ve heard this a few times now over the years and surprisingly (although I am not 100% sure on this) the individuals I hear say this are ones who are non-disabled.
Disability is definitely a negative word, I’ll give you that, but not ugly. Not horrible, nor bad, nor sad. A person who has a disability is not wrong in any way and does not need to be fixed. The word says that that person is perhaps dealing with a discomfort(s) or challenge(s) toward every day life; but that is it.  In fact, I could even go as far as saying that someone with a disability is someone who has, and probably still is, displaying a pretty incredible amount of strength and patience.
Some of us that happen to be going through life with a disability, and I include myself on this list, offer many abilities, talents, knowledge and a hunger for life. People with disabilities also face similar stresses and frustrations and heartaches. Sometimes more stress, frustration and heartache, along with other issues, come in multiple doses. This is where the negativity of the word disability comes in. 

I suspect that the reason the word may take on an ugly connotation in mainstream society is because of the definition or definitions it is given.(because you can find slightly different ones everywhere)
The worst definition I ever read was this: Disability= "separated from or lack of talent, power, expertise, capability, skill, competence or aptitude.”

Most definitions you look up online or find in the infinite number of different dictionaries that get used are sometimes, on the surface, not all that bad. But when you really look at what you’re reading I think people are picking up, and sticking with, words such as: problem(s), impairment(s), difficult(y)(ies). With ALL of the different definitions it can also be very confusing, which does not help.

When it comes to the workplace particularly, but social circles as well, people with disabilities will continually be looked down upon if we keep thinking or saying that the word disability is ugly; it’s not. The word disability does not describe me, just as the word ability does not describe me. If there is one single word that describes me, I can assure you that it is neither one of those.

I would not be offended to hear you say: “Mark, you have a disability.” but “Mark, you’re a f#@k*ng idiot!” That, I would be offended by.
So don’t be afraid to say the word, there is no need for embarrassment. Don’t hide or dodge it either, it is what it is. I think we tend to make more out of something when there is no need. The word disability, perhaps, if a part of every day life, (non ugly) may truly bring us all around to an accepting and inclusive society.

Just remember, someone may have a disability, but it does not mean that the disability has them.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Myth of Recovery

It was a few months past my 6th birthday that I got sick and was hospitalized with a viral brain infection. I'm turning 40 years of age in just over a weeks time. I have come quite a long way since my childhood trauma; I re-learned things that were lost and I've gained numerous skills. But in almost 34 years now I can tell you that I have not recovered 100%.
Because of what I went through and the challenges I still face today, I think I've gained something that I wouldn't have if my life didn't take the turn it did at such a young age; but I also can't say that with complete certainty. The calmness and appreciation and insight I've learned may have nothing to do with what I went through. Maybe a life altering illness isn't needed at all for one to gain this calm serenity and understanding.
Who knows? Maybe I recovered to something better.
All I know is I still suffer setbacks in some areas from everyday life.

You may think of the word recovery as a return to a normal, healthy life after an illness. We get sick, we go to the doctors, they examine us, they operate or give us our medications or put us through therapy or exercise , and in a given amount of time, we recover.
But what do we recover to?
What is normal?
And if we don't recover in that given amount of time, are we doomed?

Recovery=the act of recovering from sickness, a shock, or a setback. Restoration to a former and better condition. The regaining of something lost.

I lay in a coma for two weeks before opening my eyes. I remained in the hospital for a few months and then transitioned home. I was constantly monitored and there were many therapy sessions to go through. In my 7th year I returned to school, held back a year of course and entered into one special education class. But before that happened the doctors and educational system said I couldn't function in a "regular" setting. I can't help but kind of laugh at that when I look at the graduate diplomas on my wall.

Months after working with mom regarding her accident resulting in a brain injury, I recall both her Physical & Speech therapist telling me that she had plateaued (leveled off or stopped) in her recovery. Since then she has improved so much and continues to do so. My moms therapists, and everyone else, were wonderful, don't get me wrong. But the key to recovery was never with them, it was with my mom.

There is no time frame for recovery. No standard. Recovery can take months, years, it may never fully happen, or may be instantaneous. Seeing Doctors and therapists and taking any prescribed medications is important in the battle with recovery, but I think the key is inner strength and patience. It happens when we are ready for it to happen.
Whether you are in a wheelchair, living with blindness, dealing with mental health issues or coping with ABI, (Acquired Brain Injury) the path of recovery is yours. There may be physical or cognitive impairments that hold you back to certain degrees, but overall, recovery is yours. It is not in a chart or outlined in a textbook. With regards to recovery no one should ever tell you that you can't or that it will never happen.