Every year since my 2010 traumatic brain injury, I’ve taken the time to reflect back on changes that have come to pass during the prior year.
Never one keen on New Year’s resolutions, I prefer to look back in time in one-year chunks. Looking backwards lets me see real information, while looking forward means that I often delve into the realm of wishful thinking.
Without exception, every year I’ve been able to look back and see tangible progress in my recovery. This past year was no different, although what my reflection showed was not what some may call progress. Progress is not always measured with tangible facts.
“How so?” asked the ever-present narrator who dwells within.
Glad you asked. I’m one to segment my life. I have my home life, my connected family life, my work life, and my spiritual life. Each is unique, but all are connected.
On the work front, 2020 showed that things were about the same as 2019. A web developer and internet marketer by trade, I had a reasonably successful year. A few years ago, I found my work groove again, and I have stayed in the groove ever since. From a work standpoint, there was no vast improvement over 2019. Rather it was simply a continuation of the success that I’ve been able to attain.
How about things on the home front?
Profound gratitude reigns supreme at home. Sarah and I are blessed in that not only has our marriage withstood the unfathomable stresses that come during the early years after brain injury, but we’ve emerged stronger as a couple. When you get through a brain injury, most everything else pales by comparison. Better still, we like each other, something that makes the never-ending quarantine feel a bit more manageable. Our 2020 home life was almost a reflection of our 2019 home life. We ended the year happy and together. Of course, like everyone else, we didn’t get out much.
There is one part of my life that saw a significant backslide in 2020. It seems that all the stressors that come with life these days have really wreaked havoc with my memory. As last year passed, my memory felt more and more like a glass jar full of fireflies. It became increasingly hard to keep track of things. For a few months, I found this backwards trend to be disconcerting and quite disturbing. But reality hit me hard one day when I realized that I was just like everyone else.
Brain injury or not, months of overwhelming stress was taking a toll on me. As time passed, I saw others, people who were not part of the brain injury community, share their struggles. Many of them spoke specifically of memory problems. Once I saw it for what it was: a reaction to our unsetting times, I became more accepting of my memory lapses. Now I mentally chalk it up to pandemic life, and not a backslide in my TBI recovery.
Herein lies the reality of life in this moment – I am accepting of what challenges remain post-injury, and I have grown to the point of not simply blaming things on my brain injury. My 2020 growth is measured differently than in years past. It is my attitude that has evolved. And when my attitude changed, everything changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still have significant challenges, more than most will ever know.
Always one to look at the positive, there is a distinct advantage to having a memory that doesn’t work as it should. The reality is that some parts of 2020 will fade from my memory faster than it might for others. Time will continue to pass, and life will eventually return to a yet-to-be-determined new normal.
If fate is kind and I am able to see more years pass, 2020 will become an even more distant memory. It is my hope to be able to look back and remember this chapter of life that we are all sharing right now as one where people of courage rose to the occasion and where the best of humanity was revealed. That’s my hope, and if there is one thing we all need right now, it is hope.