After nearly 50 years of tying my shoes in a way that makes the laces stick out in weird ways, I’ve finally started tying them in a way that makes them neatly lie flat across my shoes.
I’ve been bothered by my “askew” shoestrings for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid and first learned to tie them, I was happy I’d just figured out how to tie them. But the way they lay — all scrunched up and crooked — really bothered me.
I told my dad once, and he said I could tie them differently, by looping the shoelaces around in the opposite direction. At the time, it was too much for me to wrap my head around. It didn’t make sense to me. Plus, I’d only mastered the motion (and muscle memory) of tying them properly in the one way I knew how.
And I was afraid I’d lose the tenuous skill I’d already learned.
Years later — nearly 50 years, to be more accurate — I’ve finally decided to tie them in the way that makes the loops lie flat across my shoes. They’re less likely to trip me up, that way. And I like how they feel better than the old way.
I’ve been doing this regularly, for the past couple of weeks — making the concerted effort to tie them in the way that makes them neat and tidy.
But you know what? I keep going back to the old ways. Back to the old habit of tying them in a way that’s really second-nature to me, after doing it that exact way for all these years.
And that’s taught me, yet again, about how and why TBI / concussion can be so difficult to recover from. The “wiring” that you’ve trained to use in a certain way — habits of thought and action, movements of your body, ways you think about things, routines of sleeping and waking — may have changed in ways you cannot see, but it’s all switched around, so you have to find new ways of doing things that you’re used to doing in one certain way… since forever.
And no matter how well you train yourself to do things the new way, no matter how much conditioning you have, no matter how well you like the new way, no matter how badly the old way has been disrupted, your brain and your body are still going to try to do things the old ways, the ways that they think they still know how to do.
They don’t, of course… or maybe they need to be intensely retrained. But they don’t realize it. And that’s one of the hallmarks of TBI: not knowing what’s messed up, until it’s too late (and then, sometimes not even realizing it yourself).
No matter how convinced I am of the new way of tying my shoelaces… no matter how much I may like the new way of doing things… no matter how much I used to hate the old way of doing things… that’s what my brain and body and muscle memory are used to. It’s what they feel comfortable doing. Even if it doesn’t work.
So, I have to keep after it. Like all of us who are dealing with somewhat broken brains / disrupted wiring. Our systems will go for the way that they think is easiest and what’s most familiar. They just don’t know it won’t work out.
And that’s what we have to keep learning and relearning and readjusting to, over and over again. No matter how long ago the injury happened.
It takes a ton more work and effort and attention and focus and determination to recover — even from a “mild” traumatic brain injury. That’s what most people don’t understand… but every long-term survivor knows, all too well.
Be that as it may… Onward…