Snapshot – 08/31/2019

I’ve decided to give a Snapshot another go, win some slight changes in wording – from “hopeful” to “want and believe”.

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I’m happy…I made friends with a wonderful, genuine, hilarious and intelligent person L, who months ago shared her Netflix subscription with me and that I watched a documentary tonight that has shifted and restored a more positive and productive mindframe, that isn’t afraid to continue to dream big.

I’m thankful… I was able to spend many hours with my girls today. I did feel unwell this afternoon, but am so grateful to have been able to take them rock climbing, grab bagels, engage in imaginative play with them while I laid in my bed, and work on a puzzle together. I’m also thankful for a skilled and knowledgeable massage therapist who finds and releases muscle tension and genuinely cares about my health and educates me on how to live healthier.

I want and believe that…despite this current concussion situation, in the future  I will lead a joyful and fulfilling life, with daughters who know I love and respect them, and with a husband who feelsp encouraged and supported by me. I will walk my girls to school feeling healthy and able. I will have the energy to support  friends, family, and those who need love and encouragement. I will help others realize their dreams and fullest potential.

The Grey

The last few weeks have been difficult. I detailed things more in an email update to friends and family, but overall being surprised by processing difficulties that come up and my inability to care for my kids and the resulting feelings we all have from that (and responsibilities put on others) have been the hardest.

I have an excellent counsellor who is helping me to walk this journey and make sense of things. Today we had a great break through where she helped me discover the hundreds of ways I tend to criticize or blame myself for things. If I do something good then I criticize myself for not being able to do more, if I can’t do something I criticize myself for not having tried hard enough.

When she asked why that might be I gave an answer that made sense at the time, but as I reflect more I think the reason I’ve found blame was because to see where I really am and the struggles that I have is hard. And subconsciously I’ve found it so hard to accept that this pervasive issue and timing of the recovery is truly out of my control, that I’ve found it easier to subconsciously and unintentionally rationalize (irrationally) why things are the way they are.

It’s bizarrely easier for me to explain that I can’t understand a straightforward letter because I’m trying to pretend and take an easy road (???), than to face the facts that right now there are too many things in that simple letter for me to process and make sense of and that I actually do need someone to explain it to me.

I’ve been stressed consistently throughout this ordeal that “experts” will assess that I’m well enough to return to work before I’m ready. And this fears me for several reasons.

1. If I say I’m not ready and they say I am, then that must mean (a) I’m a freeloading liar (b) they don’t believe the struggle is real.

2. If I go back to work and things are too overwhelming I can see myself criticizing myself further which can lead to another downward spiral.

What I’ve come to realize is that there’s an option 3. To continue to live and speak my experience and truth. If a call is made that I don’t believe is correct, to challenge it. If it still goes ahead maybe things could be ok. If things aren’t ok then I apply to go back on disability. If that is denied then I quit my job and find a new job when I’m recovered and ready. My job and coworkers are important to me, but they don’t define me. Whether I’m able to or when I’m able to return to work is not going to be the most important fact about my life. It will be a fact that is relevant for a period of time, and after that, my story continues.

It reminds me that there is a possibility that this incident/situation could be a career changer. And even though that can feel very scary, it does not mean I am any less of a person than I was before.

I can’t change how this recovery progresses, but I can step back and reflect on my opinions of what my truths are (e.g. I must go back to work in this job) and what other options or creative solutions there are.

Don’t get me wrong – I wish nothing more than to be better and have my normal life back (including going back to work) – but I’ve realized that recently my options/views have been very polarized and black and white. It’s time to focus on the grey and settling, getting comfy, and accepting living in the grey.

I got comfy once before in the grey and somehow slipped out of it without realizing… but it’s time to get back in.

 

Snapshots- 7/21/2019

I am grateful for… alternate routes. In the past I’ve been very grateful that work is a short 5 minute commute away. These days it is heartbreaking every time I pass campus – wishing I was there, wondering what’s going on, guilty for inconveniencing others. I’ve driven by numerous times in the past few months, but last week when I discovered I would be driving by it twice a day to drop off/pick up Jo from a day camp down the road, I decided that for now it would be better to take an alternate route on a parallel road, and i’m thankful to have options.

I’m grateful for one of my mentors Jamie, who I met over a decade ago, and that we randomly reconnected earlier this year and how his role as a coach/parent of sporty kids has allowed him to impart some wisdom/understanding of this situation.

I am grateful Clara’s made some strides this weekend with the toilet training. It has been a focus over the past year and more so in early 2019 until things got a bit hairy – now I’m feeling less anxious about her upcoming start to school.

I am grateful Clara is excited to go to school and often will fuss “but I want to go to school!!!”, not understanding the concept of summer break. (Though is rather her not fuss about it for 20 minutes…but I’ll take her eagerness!)

I am grateful for a delicious bbq dinner in our backyard tonight – just the four of us. The weather was perfect – warm with a breeze and surprisingly not too many uninvited flies. Josephine, in particular, relished in her meal with many “Mmmm’s” and moments sitting back in her chair with her eyes closed and a smile on her face. I hope that never changes for her. I wore my sunglasses and hat and thought about how I look forward to when the photosensitivity lessens and I’m less of a “vampire”. 🙂

I am grateful for a day of rest. I have been fighting a cold and stomach bug this week, and when I woke up this morning with a strong headache it seemed wisest to stay at home and rest. I’m glad that was an option.

I am grateful Herb did groceries and ran errands today.

I enjoyed … doing some dollar store water painting with Clara yesterday. She has the cutest pout when she’s focused and concentrating.

I enjoyed spending some quality time with Herb this evening, and laughed when I half-jokingly asked about having a third (for the hundredth time) and, without missing a beat, he shook his head “no” with both an innocence and definitiveness to it.

I enjoyed our house more, seeing less clutter on the floors (after friend help and cleaner help).

I enjoyed catching up with Antonia and her family, and watching our kids play with each other – especially Elise and Josephine, who had many pictures taken together as babies (and many pictures taken again, 5-6 years later).

 

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I was feeling quite frustrated earlier at some struggles I was having with somewhat straightforward things. I decided to journal in hopes of  rechanneling that energy, leading to a more positive mind frame and restful sleep.

Snapshots – 7/15/2019

Today was a harder today. I followed up with two neurologists and was told I wasn’t accepted as a patient by one in Toronto, and haven’t heard back from the other in London. I spoke briefly with a potential local recovery psychologist that ended up not being a good fit (which also left me feeling a bit down), and the kids were extremely tired and fussy…and we went to see one of daddy’s very rare 6pm hockey games, which was a recipe for disaster with Clara. Oops! Tomorrow will be a very low key and down day.

I am grateful for… determining a psychologist was not a good fit prior to booking them and spending close to $300 (!) and hearing some news about the neurologist referrals so I can start looking into other options.

I am grateful for the privilege of being a mom (despite the tough times).

I am grateful for friends who reached out today – for Stephanie’s regular quickie calls, uplifting emails and pictures today from Dor, Evelyn, Lindsay, Patty, Ingrid and Uncle Rex; countless prayers, an offer to drive Jo to camp (but unfortunately by Don, a man, i.e. a Josephine-repellant, but still very thoughtful), a delicious fajita meal and quick & teary visit with Cara; and take out money from Stephanie – a way to show her love and support when she wants to make a meal but life busyness gets in the way. God truly has blessed and surrounded me with amazing, amazing people.

I am grateful that I am becoming more ok with being vulnerable about my requests for help, even if it includes picture requests.

I am grateful Josephine’s Day 1 at her camp this week went well and that when I asked her what was her favourite part she said “all of it”. I am grateful to have childcare for Clara, when things were looking dicey a few months ago.

I am grateful for discussions with Herb where we both talked about how hard this situation is and both understand that we want to be there more for each other. At this point I can’t be the supportive wife I want to be and he can’t be the supportive husband he wants to be because we are both maxed out – but we still want to be there for each other and still love each other … and when this is the reality of the situation, knowing we each wish we could do more is almost just as good as actually doing more.

I enjoyed … my first float therapy visit – I learned about it in passing from Cait’s blog several years ago – who knew it would be a therapy that would aid my concussion recovery? (apparently it’s medically recognized and recommended in the Netherlands for concussion recovery) It was an interesting first experience that I think would be even more healing with subsequent visits.

I enjoyed using the facilities at the float clinic – from their natural showering potions, their “vanity room” where I took my time to use the curling iron as a treat (which happens once every 4 or 5 years?), to my favourite chai tea in their lobby – it was nice to feel good.

While Clara was a real pain at the rink, it made me laugh when I tried to coax her from the “driving video game” into the rink and she said (in her 3 year old, professional salesperson voice) “Sorry Mom, I can’t! I’m practicing my driving … and practice makes perfect. I really have to go focus now.” Ughhh – so terrible yet so terribly cute, that one.

I enjoyed watching Jo cheer “Go green #16!!” for her dad. Too bad he didn’t see us there until he was almost in the change room! *Wuh wuh*

I appreciated that Jo knew today was a tough day and was thoughtful to think of going downstairs before getting ready for bed to handwash her lunch bag dishes and let me know she did it to try to help and make me happy, before grinning and skipping away. She is empathetic and takes such pride in being thoughtful and caring towards others and I’m happy to be on the receiving end of those gifts.

I enjoyed seeing Herb mid day and bringing him a coffee. Admittedly I had to see him because one of our car seats was left in Sarnia, so I needed to borrow one from his car…but it was nice to see him for a couple of minutes and saved me from visiting a 3rd store to find a replacement.

Our home tidiness slipped a bit today, but it was a busy day and it’s okay to give yourself a bit of grace.

Snapshots – 7/14/2019

I am grateful for … a clean house, thanks to Lori and Alice Ann. How lucky am I to have friends who think of and offer to clean your house when you’re away so you can come back feeling like you’re starting at square one, and not negative 20? It’s been helpful for me to attempt taking bite size pieces, because things  look and feel more manageable.
I’m grateful that I felt up to folding 1/2 a basket of laundry when I needed the basket (vs. my typical pouring it into another laundry basket to be piled up).
I’m grateful that Herb put the girls to bed and got groceries.
I’m grateful for ear plugs and eye masks (and Herb and the tv) that gave me a chance to have a 2 hour nap uninterrupted.
I’m grateful for a nice hot cup of tea that feels relaxing, indulgent and healthy all in one.
I’m grateful that so many share how hard they are praying or how we’re in their thoughts. People’s attention is one of the rarest commodities today, so to even be in someone’s thoughts or intentionally prayed for is so meaningful and such a blessing.
I’m “kinda” grateful for the palatal myoclonus, as it’s a frequent physical/audible symptom/reminder to slow down, be present, and move at a pace that feels right to me right now (despite my subconscious thoughts thinking otherwise).
I enjoyed … playing make believe with the girls (thankfully the Fort included a “bed” that I could sit in while the girls faffed about), letting Clara rinse the dishes and load the washer. I enjoyed supplying Jo with her requested “big box to make a craft” and watching it evolve from a box to a spaceship and seeing Herb join in. Thrifty me also loved that the spaceship buttons came from one of Herb’s old shirts with a rip in it.
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I wonder if and how this incident may impact my career and what God’s plan is for me. On the one hand it feels dramatic to say, but on the other hand (and based on others’ experiences) it’s not unrealistic that it may be the case. The important thing is that in this moment (and hopefully for longer), the idea of this potentially impacting my career is something that if it must happen is something I feel like I can accept and will see where things land.
It feels weird to say I feel okay-ish where I am. Almost wrong…because don’t I want to be better? But want is not the focus. Stay afloat, go to your appointments, follow your medical team’s direction and keep floating.

Snapshots – 7/13/19

I previously posted a series of daily snapshots – numbering them and trying to maintain the same format. It was a way of practicing mindfulness and gratitude (often during difficult times).
After a brain injury in March and many ups and downs in the last several months, there are still many challenges faced and a recovery path that I’m on.
My abilities now are different from my abilities before, so I’m starting fresh, in a way that feels manageable to “new me”. Including, not numbering posts (which is one more thing to process and feel like I’ve put expectations on myself), not setting challenges with updates, and being ok with writing simpler, shorter descriptions. I’m learning that it’s ok to be right where I am, and that I am still a fully human and worthwhile individual, even thought it feels different and my capabilities are different.
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I am grateful for … better awareness of capabilities and when symptoms arise; friends and family who either understand or try to understand the situation; many friends who strive to show their love and support in any way they can, and weird coping mechanisms that help a bit. Like the “nose trick” pictured below recommended by the optometrist, for dealing with highway/driving stimuli (essentially blocking the vision close to your nose). With hat, sunglasses, nose trick and iPod distraction, the ride to the airport was still difficult but no panic attacks – which is absolutely a win.
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I’m also very thankful for Suze, who has sustained a brain injury and can share her perspectives and ground me a bit in her advice and experience, when I feel lost and like I’m both failing and flailing. She empathizes and speaks truths in a gentle but firm and matter of fact way that I need.
i am grateful that I had the ability to nap today and that I was able to put away toiletries from our trip, 10 pieces of laundry, and make our bed. I am grateful I could type this and while my brain is working quite hard, that I can find most of the words I want to use.
I am grateful for down-to-earth and loving humans we met on our trip. Herb and I couldn’t sit together on the plane ride there and I had the most amazing seat mates who helped keep me calm, adjusted lights to reduce symptoms, and checked in to make sure I was ok. Friends we made at the resort who were very sensitive and understanding to my aversion to alcohol, flickering lights, and other seemingly innocent things – and made me feel loved and accepted just as I was.
I enjoyed … spending a week with Herb, with no children, no responsibilities and all sorts of flexibility to use my brain power for fun things like aqua aerobics and socializing, knowing I could lie down and be mindless when symptoms sometimes arose. It was absolutely glorious to feel healthy and have the brain capacity to be social, generous, joking and fun. I also enjoyed minimal screen time and being present.
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I’ve found it helpful to think of this brain injury as a bit like being lost at sea. No one chooses to get thrown from a boat and get lost at sea – it just happens. And while you can try your hardest to swim to shore you don’t know which direction it is or how far or how long it will take, so you’re better off conserving energy and floating. Floating, staying calm, staying aware of your surroundings, staying positive but adjusting your expectations and not ruminating in what went wrong or where you wish you were or why this happened to you, but accepting where you are.
Sometimes the waves will be rocky and sometimes they will be calm. Sometimes you’ll be able to swim a few strokes in what seems to be the right direction, but remember that just floating takes effort too. Floating is a worthwhile endeavour and an accomplishment in and of itself that’s worth celebrating – when swimming isn’t an option all you can do to avoid sinking is floating.
For now, floating is the imagery and feeling I’m using to stay present and remind myself to accept and love myself where I am.

Unexpected Beauty

Last week, H & I went to Niagara Falls for a mommy/daddy trip. With his new job it was an opportunity to both celebrate the occasion and also reconnect after months of stress and busy-ness.

Our plans were somewhat predictable – book one of those hotel deals on wagjag, stop by the outlet mall on the way in, go for dinner, use that free $25 casino voucher, check out the falls, have a blissful child-free sleep-in, then meander our way back home the next day.

All went according to plan, except the next morning my body awoke at 6:30am (it’s usual “with child” time). After lying in bed, by 7:15am I came to terms with the fact that the blissful child-free sleep-in was not happening.

I had a goal to incorporate more nature into this trip and, after checking the sunrise time, thought this would be a perfect opportunity to catch the sunrise over the falls, while H finished his sleep-in.

My way down to the falls was a mini adventure in itself – taking a ridiculously roundabout way to get there, chatting with a lovely elderly tourist from Korea, and discovering 2 Tim Horton’s that I hadn’t knew existed in the area.

Once I arrived at the main falls viewing area I was glad to see the sun hadn’t quite appeared yet, and I soaked in the quietness and bliss of being one of 15-20 people viewing the beauty of the falls, sharing this special moment kinda together, but not really together. As I searched out my perfect location a few of us smiled in acknowledgement as we passed each other.

Eventually I found the perfect spot, right in front of the American falls, where the sun crept up over the trees, glowing across the sky.

Niagara Falls Sunrise

The view. A picture doesn’t really do it justice. 🙂

I thought about how many times we’ve visited the falls and how this was that one perfect time where my body naturally woke itself, there was no breakfast buffet to hurry to, and the weather was relatively mild. Then took a moment to pray and give thanks for the beauty I was witnessing.

I opened my eyes and after a few seconds, a gentleman I had passed and smiled at earlier came and leaned on the railing next to me and started chatting. He was in his early-mid 40’s, had kind eyes, a charming smile, facial scruff, slightly taller than me, and was wearing a red and white hat (which reminded me of Where’s Waldo) and a grey hoodie. We talked briefly about the erosion of the falls and he turned to me smiling and said “You sound like you’re a teacher.” As he talked I became acutely aware that he smelled faintly of alcohol, casually took notice of the # of people around me, regretted leaving my wedding rings in the hotel room (one less thing to mug me for!) and thought “oh snap…this could get really awkward, really fast.”

We introduced ourselves (his name was T), shook hands, and shared our line of work – he was a lumberjack – super Canadian. I asked what brought him to Niagara Falls and he shared that he was from London, Ontario and that he was having a rough time in his life so took a little roadtrip. I said I was sorry to hear about his rough time, then (still aware of a potentially awkward situation) I casually shared that I was here, with my husband, on a mommy/daddy getaway while the kids were at their grandparents.

What happened next was fairly unexpected.

He mentioned that he could hear God calling him to walk with Him, but that the devil kept tempting him to do things he shouldn’t do.

And with that opening we spent the next 45 minutes conversing back and forth. He shared about his setbacks in life, his lack of support, his career difficulties, his 2 sons & how he felt he led a double-life and was ashamed of the things he did & hid from his children; his pastor, his passions, his father, his kids, his faith…how his mother had told him he was a waste of life. At times he openly wept, and at times we hugged. He showed me pictures of his beautiful sons and explained their idiosyncrasies. I shared details of my own life and struggles, shared pieces of my faith journey, offered suggestions that I hoped were helpful, but most importantly, listened.

Later, when our conversation turned to the casual topic of “I wonder if we could swim down there?”, and I was super aware of the large tea I had consumed earlier, I said that I should get going and asked if I could pray with him.

So side-by-side, we leaned on the railing, bowed our heads and prayed together, as the sun rose in front of us, over one of the wonders of the world.

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Our exact view for those 45 minutes.

As we started to part ways I asked if I could give him my e-mail, and said that he could reach out any time he needed someone to listen (at the same time, I hoped this wouldn’t be a move I’d regret and mentally weighed my urge to love with my risk-averse analyses). With one final hug I told him it was a blessing to connect with him this morning and walked away, with a mixture of emotions. Sad for T’s situation, in awe of the special moment that had transpired, thankful that all the right things were in place for that conversation to happen (I had nowhere else I had to be but there), guilty for the “dilemmas” I faced the previous day at the outlets (e.g. do I really need this pair of shoes or not?)…as well as anxious to find a washroom and slightly concerned that H would wonder what was taking so long (he was still sleeping when I returned).

As I headed back up I realized I hadn’t gotten T’s information, and would’t be able to reach out to him, so headed back down to see if I could find him, but unfortunately he was gone.

It’s been just over a week – and everyday I think and wonder about him and how he’s doing. Everyday I check the e-mail account I gave him, hoping that he’s written so that we can keep the conversation going. I did that nutty kinda thing where you search for them on Google and Facebook with super limited information, typing in things like “T lumberjack London, ON” to no avail. I hope he’s doing okay and, with time, will turn things around.

It was so special to share that morning with T, and I am continually amazed by the life I get to live. “On paper”, there’s nothing remarkable about my career/awards/resume-type accomplishments at this point in my life, but I am continually blessed with unexpected beauty & experiences everyday that leave me feeling lucky to live a quietly extraordinary life.