And in the 16th year of Nicholas’ new normal, New England called us back.
Twenty-one months after my big brother’s fall from a tree, subsequent traumatic brain injury, and with my parent’s blessing, I moved from Massachusetts to Colorado. There was always an expectation that I’d come home when and if I was needed, and history will show that I* have done this, willingly.
However, I always knew there would be a time that I’d need to move home or be asked to move back. To be physically present. To help more. To be more available. For my brother, for my parents, for my sister. Then, while I was in Colorado the “I” became a “we” and Jon and I took on the reality of having our families back in New England together. The irony of choosing to move to Vermont during a pandemic when I can’t actually help my parents or my brother is not lost on me. Here we are, three hours away and a world apart.
I don’t know if it’s my desire to find something, anything, that is familiar or the extra time that allows for some creativity, regardless I’m compelled to share the similarities between van life and pandemic life. In a lot of ways, van life prepared us for days like these.
Sure, in a million obvious ways these two experiences are extremely and apparently dissimilar but in a handful of ways, they are not. We spent over a year planning for van life and securing our finances in order to set out and explore with nothing but wonderment + a sense of adventure. Pandemic life, on the other hand, has rolled over us like a tsunami with very little warning and complete financial insecurity. So, how are they similar? Let’s discuss this.
The words are not really flowing this year and I feel like Nicholas has been living with a brain injury my entire life. It’s not that I forget the 27 years I knew my big brother as uninjured, it’s just that 15 years is a long time. It’s most of my adult life to date. I don’t really have anything profound to say, but as I admitted years ago, acknowledging and writing on January 5th is part of my process, until it isn’t.
Around this time last year, Jon and I decided to give Whole 30* a whirl. We had visited with friends over Thanksgiving who had shared their experience with us. Personally, I was feeling a bit soft and blamed it on my then 41-year-old metabolism. I was fearful that age had won and that, despite my 41 years of counting, judging and fretting, I was never going to shed a certain number of pounds. So, I wanted to see what this “reset” had to offer both of us.
Apparently, it’s National Infertility Awareness Week (or it was last week when I wrote this). I know this because of social media. I am totally cool with normalizing fertility issues.The miscarriages I have had are the result of conceiving via medical intervention.Natural conception didn’t work for us. I’ll talk about this stuff openly + honestly all day long, but I can’t help but feel that there is a sector of people who fall under the category of “infertile” who don’t have a voice.
The month’s leading up to the 14th anniversary’s of Nicholas’ fall from a tree has had me more involved in his care than I have been in close to 12 yrs…and it was about time.I was in my second year of graduate school for physical therapy when Nicholas fell out of a tree and became the brain injured version of the person that he once was.Prior to that, I had tried to move out west for grad school, but one of the top five Doctor of Physical Therapy programs was in Boston, so I stayed (zero regrets because the MGH Institute For Health Professions was the perfect place for me).However, I was seriously considering doing my third year, my internship year, out west. This was a secret to no one and a goal I was set on achieving.When Nicholas got hurt, my parents asked me to stay and, without hesitation, I stayed.
You’ve heard the expressions of having several balls in the air, many irons in the fire or perhaps wearing many hats. There are a million ways to explain that feeling when you simply have a lot going on all at once. For me I refer to various areas of my life as buckets and from Sept – April my buckets were overflowing, disorganized, tipped over and downright dysfunctional. I felt like raccoons had gotten into the garbage late at night and left the contents of my life scattered in extremely odd places.
Normally our blog is about realizations, streams of consciousness, etc and rarely do we write about where we went, how we got there and what we did. Before we left on our 16 month North American van adventure, many people told us where to go and how to get there and what to do. While we were/are grateful for the insight, it was overwhelming. We are more casual and prefer to go with our gut (or our google/Instagram) and keep our ears and eyes open to insight we get from others along the way. However, we recently spent 5 days in a van driving around Iceland and a quick visit to a place with so much to offer warrants some type of itinerary. We decided a summary of our adventure might be helpful for others who are headed to the land of fire + ice…cuz everyone seems to be doing it these days.
As I sit here on the eve of the 13th anniversary of Nicholas’ accident, trying to think of something profound to say, I’m having a difficult time finding anything coherent to write because I have one million thoughts and emotions, but they are not about me or my family, for once.