Once again, I’ve tried to stop writing these annual reflection pieces, but, once again, I can’t. I realized that the anniversary of Nicholas’ accident is, coincidently, at the start of the year. I’m not one for resolutions, but I am one for reflection. Perhaps it’s appropriate to look at the timing of Nicholas’ accident and these annual musings as a “reset” or “intention” for the coming year. Regardless, here goes:
For me, the last 12 years since Nicholas’ sustained a traumatic brain injury have looked a lot like a self help book with a tremendous amout of focus on yours truly. Some might view that as a selfish approach, and if I really let myself be judged by others I might succumb to that, but I don’t let that happen. The life I’ve lived since Nicholas’ tumble out of a tree and resultant brain injury has come with the blessing of my parents, and that’s all the matters.
The first two years after Nicholas’ accident can best be described as a fog of survival. Intense days in the ICU in New Zealand, followed by round the clock family coverage at Spaulding Rehab in Boston until he was finally able to go home with my parents, where the real work began and reality settled in day after day after day. As that fog slowly lifted, the path, for me, became about self-care. My parents gave me their blessing to move out west and I really started to focus on me, from the inside out. My goal, although I may not have known it at the time, was to feel balanced and strong so I could support my parents as they were and are ultimately the people who matter most. Nicholas has been relatively the same for the past 12 years, but my folks have shifted tremendously and it’s their journey I want to support more than anything. If they are happy, Nicholas will be fine, we all will be fine. So, I moved away (not on purpose but because it had been a long time goal to live out west) and I went to therapy. I set running, riding and racing goals and achieved them. I got physical therapy jobs that set me up for a good work/life balance from the get-go because that was a priority for my success and to be a good professional care giver. I stopped doing physical endeavors that didn’t set me up for success (like swim races when I was ready or multi pitch climbing adventures), not because I was afraid to try, but because my delicate self needed some TLC for a while. I, I, I, me, me, me. I did the work on myself so I could be strong for myself and my family; and I feel GOOD about that and what I have to offer them. On top of that, three of the past twelve years were focused on trying to have a baby. That took a physical and emotional toll and, after more work on myself, I’m finally back and have been for a while.
(Insert non-sequitur, but it’s on purpose. Bare with me.)
I don’t care for the expression “silver lining” because it inherently comes from hardship and I’d prefer that myself and everyone I care for could go without hardship; but, alas, I don’t get to make that choice. I think people use the expression “silver lining” far too casually with absolutely zero appreciation for the situation preceding the moment when one appreciates the positive outcome that came from a negative occurance. Using the expression of “finding” or “looking” for a silver lining simply makes an attempt at giving an answer to “why” when something horrible happens. The expression attempts to make people feel better, but not for me. I choose to believe and feel that these things that happen are just life and with that comes cicumstances and consequences, very little of which we can control. That being said, the expression is far too mainstream for me to spend any amount of energy telling people to stop saying it. I know what it infers and why it exists, even if the feelings evoked when speaking and hearing the expression fall short. Instead, I will choose not to say it personally and try to come up with something slightly more meaningful, thoughtful and empathetic to say at those same moments. I prefer to acknowledge that things happen in life, good and bad, and each of those good and bad things has a consequence, good or bad, or outcome.
So what the heck do those two topics, self care and silver linings, have to do with each other? Perspective? Sure, but for me it brings me to the topic of giving back. There you have it. The time is now. I’ve taken a LOT during my years of self care, whether it was related to Nicholas, Jon’s bike accident, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, fertility treatment, miscarriages, etc and it’s time to give a LOT back. I’m strong now (self-care) and I’m capable of helping others (silver lining). I don’t mean financial donations, although I’m proud of the money raised and miles run through the Boston Marathon Charity Program. I mean time, actions, physical labor and commitment. Jon and I have already done some volunteering through More Than Sport and plan on doing a lot more during our trip and future travels.
There you have it. My new year “reset” brought upon by this year’s reflection of how my brother’s accident has lead to several positive outcomes, silver linings if you will, for my family and others. Others have benefited from the generosity of my parents who helped establish Old Farm Rockport, a home for people with brain injuries where my brother resides. Others will benefit from the time and commitment I/we put forth in past and future volunteer opportunities. But I’d still give it all back, I’d take those benefits away from other people, to never have lost the original version of Nicholas in the first place, but I can’t. It’s life and it’s a series of circumstances and consequences, good and bad. It just is and I’m choosing to focus on the good because that’s what I’ve got to give.