Last month, I was able to do the impossible – I completed reading a book!
While this may seem insignificant to many, it was huge in my world. A few short years ago, this was an impossibility. And if the doctor’s opinion was to be trusted, I was destined never to read again.
It was early on after my brain injury that the losses started piling up. I lost many friends, a commonplace occurrence after brain injury. As a self-employed person, I lost most of my clients. Having no meaningful concept of time early on, it would often take me weeks and sometimes months to return a phone call to a client. This was not conducive to good business relationships. Family members walked out of my life, unable to understand and accept the new person that I had become.
My life was a veritable battlefield, filled with the corpses of people, places, and things that defined who I was before my injury. It was such an ugly time that I’m glad it’s behind me.
Like anyone with a heartbeat, I had a few things that brought me great joy, and reading was one of them. During my first post-injury year, I picked up the ever-present book on my nightstand, looking to find comfort in the familiarity of simply reading a book.
For a few months, a new ritual evolved. I would open my book and begin to read. Nothing I read looked or sounded familiar, so I would go back a few pages, hoping to pick up the narrative. With all of the words and characters looking unfamiliar, I’d turn back even more pages – still with no luck.
It took me a couple of months to realize what was happening. Though I could read page after page, my ability to retain what I had just read had disappeared. After a few months of frustration, I gave up on reading and chalked it up to another brain injury loss.
A few years ago, while at a local brain injury support group meeting, a member suggested that I try reading an easy book, perhaps something at a middle school reading level. My youngest son bounded into his bedroom and came back with the first in a series of books. Over the next few months, I read through most of the Cirque Du Freak book series.
I was delighted to be back in the reading ring again!
If I had to throw a dart at the calendar, I would guess that it was somewhere around four years after my injury when my ability to read returned. I am quite pleased to share that it has never left. These days, there is at least one book on my night table, though more often, two can be found.
Over the years that passed, I moved slowly back into the realm of adult reading. My most recent read, The Wise Man’s Fear, came in at just over 1,100 pages and 400,000 words.
In my pre-injury life, digesting a volume like this would have been a three-month endeavor. This most recent book took me just over a year to complete – a full thirteen months from cover-to-cover.
I couldn’t be happier.
Such is the nature of life these days. Things take longer than they used to. I have slowed down. Sure, some of it can be attributed to getting older, but most of the new, slower pace that life has taken on is injury related.
I’ve found that in that slower pace, life has become rewarding in very unexpected ways. I see more than I used to, as I’m no longer rushing from one thing to another. In fact, these days, I rarely rush at all.
Conversations with others are more meaningful as I’m no longer either looking at my watch or thinking about what I have to do next. This allows me to be more present in the moment.
Better still, I hold no bitterness toward the fact that I do less these days. Life passes more quickly as the years stack up. We all reach the same finish line. I would rather look back at a meaningful, mindfully lived life, than one where I scurried about, barely catching a breath, always looking for what’s next.
I’d rather look at what’s now, rather than what’s next.
Sharing with my son that I had FINALLY completed my book, he was quick with another suggestion. I am now reading the science fiction classic Dune. At over 900 pages, I’ll be done this volume sometime in 2019.
If you think that bothers me even a little, think again!