Getting There

The road most traveled

Of all the challenges that burn me, time and again, getting started on what I’m supposed to do, is by far the most persistent, and the most problematic. In fact, even as I type this, I’m not starting what I’m supposed to be doing tonight.

Rebellion. Resistance.

I want my time to myself. I want my life back. I don’t want to have to devote my time and energy to other people’s business. I want to have my own thing going.

Resistance. Rebellion.

I don’t want to have to do laundry. I don’t want to have to work late. I don’t want to have to register my car before the end of the month. I don’t want to have to watch what I eat.

I want to sit around and eat pie and drink coffee and watch Seven Samurai over and over and over, till I know all the words by heart – in Japanese.

I don’t waaaaaanna have to answer to anyone else, anytime, anywhere, any-how. Boo f*ckin’ hoo.

Thing is, people pay me to part with my time and my autonomy. They pay me to do things for them that they can’t do for themselves. They compensate me for my sacrifices, and they make me a part of their little tribe, in exchange for my almost-mad eagerness to dive in, pitch in, and Make It Better.

I once heard that Lady Gaga sometimes wakes up in the morning and she doesn’t know how she can get out of bed. Then she thinks, “But I’m Lady Gaga!” and lo and behold, she’s UP.

Get up, Trinity. Get UP.

Now, I’m no Lady Gaga (what a sight that would be). And that Trinity chick would probably snap me in two if she came across me in the Matrix. But I get what they’re saying. We create these personas of ourselves. And we become their agents, their servants. We become the minions of our invented selves. And that’s alright. We all do it. No shame in that — unless, of course, you craft a truly shameful persona for yourself (Jared Loughner comes to mind).

We all have our schtick. We all have some personality we project into the world — a collection of habits and characteristics that suit us and work, on a certain level.We become Survivors. We make ourselves Victims. We become Rebels. We turn ourselves into Martyrs. We serve the gods of the facades we parade before us in the world, as though that were truly US.

The other night I stumbled upon a PBS special about the Stonewall Uprising in New York City — the start of the modern gay rights movement in 1969. One more thing to be grateful for: that I was not a homosexual male living in the 1960’s, when police officers were making appearances at schools, warning children away from “choosing a homosexual lifestyle” because WE WILL FIND YOU. YOU CANNOT HIDE. WE WILL FIND YOU.

Lord, but it must have sucked, to sit in a classroom in school, having this bespectacled, pompous, white, heterosexual male preaching at you about how you should not “choose” something you already knew you were… and had known since you were, oh, about six… and looking forward to a life of hounding and serial incarcerations.

How happy I am to live when we live… in this Very Different World.

But I cannot help but think about the effect that messages like “Don’t be a queer” and “We will get you” would have on someone’s persona… their perceived place in the world. I cannot help but think about the queers and Gypsies and Jews and kids born different, whom the Nazis singled out for extermination. I cannot help but think about the rape and incest and molestation survivors who have to piece together their lives from the shattered pieces of what was once whole. I cannot help but think about the left-handed “sinister” people of the once-upon-a-time world who were literally considered evil, if they were not right-handed. I cannot help but think about all the people who have been on the wrong side of “right” — whether by choice or biology or accident or fate — and what that wrong-ness made of their own personas.

I wonder if it made/makes them tougher, smarter, meaner… different than how they would be, if they were more like everyone else, without those unnameable or unspeakable hidden aspects of themselves.

I wonder if my history of TBIs and all that I’ve been through as a result — whether it was the names and the insults rained down on my head by an impatient, disgusted, verbally aggressive father… or my mother’s tight-lipped disapproval that simmered a long-suffering while, until she just couldn’t take my shit anymore and grabbed me in a vice grip, digging her claws into me to get me to “be-have“… or the kids who hounded me and made my life a living hell for the duration of 5th and 7th grades (different schools, same types of rat-bastard kids)… or all those people who loved me so much, until they found out that their imagined version of me wasn’t very real at all, and it was all my fault for letting them down..

What-ever. Bottom line is, this is my life. And despite all my whining, I do get to do what I want with it. I get to decide for myself how I carry myself in the world. I get to decide how I interact with others. I get to decide how I walk through life, if I smile and shrug, or if I start swinging. I get to say how much of my time I spend on what, knowing what the consequences will be — for good or ill.

I get to pick and choose how I handle things — if I bitch out the woman on the phone, who screwed up my car registration form, or if I stay cool and just explain that by the time the mail gets delivered to me with her corrected form enclosed, it will be too late for me to re-register my car in the lawful timeframe. It’s up to me, whether I blame her for the problem, or if I remember that I’m the one who waited till the very last friggin’ minute before contacting the insurance company for that blasted form.

My life. My choices. I get to choose where I want to go. And I’m getting there.

Time to get back to work.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

13 thoughts on “Getting There”

  1. Thank you for the realization that I am not the only one! Inspiration and motivation can be a huge struggle..especially early in the morning! I will be channeling my inner Gaga all day 😉

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  2. Thanks for this, BB. I’ve spent the past few days feeling somewhat sorry for myself and needed to be reminded that my life is really damn good. Enviable even.

    I simply need not to dwell on my accident. I had dinner with a friend the other night and she observed, “Stephen, accept the fact that you’re not dead.” Strange as it sounds, she was right. I have been focusing on the damage, not the fact that I survived. So, my memory is screwed up and I sometimes get to my studio and just look out the window all day. Or I don’t get there at all.

    I still get to be me, and live in Brooklyn making my living with my art. How much can that suck?

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  3. Hey Stephen –

    You’re most welcome.

    I know a lot of people who would love to trade places with you for just a day… even with the memory and “space” issues. Life loves to be lived — so let’s get as much of it as we can. Unfortunately, in the course of all the living, accidents can happen. That can really suck. But it certainly doesn’t have to ALL the time 😉

    Be well.
    BB

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  4. Reading some old entries. You really do tie it all together in a way like a road not taken.m These entries seem pretty optimistic of the days in which we live. But more importantly in the areas that are in your control- the decisions and choices to better your life and let the past go. Your entries make me feel real, The real reason that I read them. Good bye to the raven. Allen

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  5. This is one of your best written pieces from a washed up English teacher’s point of view. One who because of TBI’s took every moment possible to sit in a dark room or rest on an old cot. What a great job that was and how sad
    people get punished or miss on that extra encouragement and patience a sincere man deserved who just wanted to teach a bunch of hard-core very real kids and see them on while being the lucky recipient of spiritual nurrure that my bruised brain badly needed andvwas unable to get from unstructured settings.nKeep writing BB!

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  6. Thank you again, Allen. Yes, I will continue to write, for sure. I’m really sorry to hear about your experience – if only more people would get hard-core and very real… but for positive reasons, rather than being beaten up by life.

    Well, hang in there and keep at it. Joy tends to hide in unexpected places.

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  7. Again this last comment shows, maybe obvious to some, but such important insight. My friend who is no stranger to trauma, says “treasures in traumas”. Knowing how to get real may be a treasure for some? TBI left me unaware on so many levels for years. I was probably more fake than hard core as I could not accept or see what had happened to me. And by the time, I got some footing, I got hit with another TBI that put me back 10 years. Isolation is hard but it seems the only way for now. I can’t adapt because I don’t understand what I’m adapting to. I can’t emigrate because I can’t plan and organize much less execute. So I’m here trying to get oriented again as all the years pass. Your blog is so important because people can’t see TBI and personality changes and disregarding prior relationships is not much in the control of a TBI recipient. The difficult part is being assigned such blame when you are just trying to get by. Your little series on confabulation was greatt. I remember being as honest as I could be about my situation, then, being called a liar, and then beginning to confabulate more spontaniously. Like flinching as you are about being hit again.

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  8. Treasures are there, to be sure.I’d definitely be a different person than I am, if I’d never had all these TBIs.And the coping mechanisms I’ve developed, just to get through the day have been really useful in other situations. So,for that I am grateful. I’m not even sure if I’d ever need to develop these skills, if I didn’t have all sorts of “complications” I have to deal with on a regular basis.

    And while I’m thinking about it – before I forget – there is no shame in solitude. It’s the only way I get by. It’s really the only way that all my newly acquired skills have a chance to “sink in” with me — backing off from the rest of the world and just taking a break.

    Yes, that unawareness is a hallmark of TBI. It crops up in the most unexpected places for me. I have no idea, sometimes, how I’m supposed to be, or what I’m supposed to be doing. I take cues from others, but I don’t always understand why I should be bothering to do some things. I’m trying to think of an example, but it’s hard for me right now. Social cues are fortunately easy to keep up on, because people make it pretty clear, how they want you to act and respond to them. But it doesn’t make any sense to me, so I just keep up appearances and do a danged good impression of someone who knows what’s what.

    It’s easier to maintain that, if I keep to myself when I can. Which I do.

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  9. BB, Just read your blog on the importance of just moving. Today, I took my first little walk in days. The stress chemicals slowly getting the better of me. The TBI/PTSD has me unable to make decisions; so, I think the solitude is the best way. I do not understand what people are trying to communicate and do not want to respond in a wrong way. I’m not “overly-sensitive” it’s that I do not understand and that frustrates me. I believe TBI is a little easier when you at least look old and tired. I think that is where TBI is getting me to fast. And I’m Ok with that. It amazes me how people who actually care for stroke victoims will come home and start repeating the nonsense that their client or parent said and then criticize it. TBI caregivers, at times, although well-intentioned, understand the injury and its effects but forget to integrate that into the relation. My friend here was just telling me about a deer with a broken leg and how people cared so much and I got thinking about humans like our vets, who come home with life changing injuries and humans just walk by. Some do not realize it, especially the invisible injuries, and it is understandable, and maybe I’m included in that bunch. Do we humans stretch our compassion enough to try and really imagine the pain that another might have. We could all improve in this area.A blog on traumatic brain injury is a good start. It is the subjective experience that is the difficult part and the one that has cause me the most grief and pain over the years. Blurting out obnoxious comments or looking at my changed handwriting is something all can see. But it is the changing of a sense of self that cannot be explained. I remember people seeing that i had lost the light in my eye, and noticed wrong behaviors, but why don’t more people question? It is as if they assume that one has made wrong spiritual decisions thus the light going out. With such misunderstanding, how can anyone ever make attempts toward getting the light back on? When I talk like this people say that people need to pick up more personal responsibility in this world. And how can you not agree with that? But it may only be part of the story. And for the TBInjured person, it is just too easy to go along with it. Who really wants to see that they have been injured in such a way that they have lost the part of themselves that made them, a person. They point to a photo and say “see how happy you look”? And you’re thinking happy maybe but who is the “you” part and I’m talking both before and after photos. The vocal ones bother you. But it’s the quiet ones who you thought understood the healing process, when you find out they hadn’t a clue and had seen you in such a negative light, solitude is definitely best for some people. Then, the depression part erodes self-esteem that we really have to make attempts to love ourselves in spite of the messages that you have been given about yourself. Yet, there is reason to be grateful and I realize that on some level. I know that many people could not take the walk that I just took. Staying grateful. Alone Onward.

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