Playing the Glad Game

Playing the Glad Game

The older I get, the more I find myself eager to be grateful, and it’s just about that time of year to celebrate what we are thankful for. Yes, I realize that Thanksgiving was not born out of bounty and abundance for all, but at least it has evolved into a day when people gather around turkeys and pies with family and friends and make a habit out of sharing gratitude. I make my family do it every year. Whoever is lucky enough to be sitting at a table with this Leyde, has to speak up and share what they are grateful for—whatever it is. So here goes, I’m opening this up to the metaphorical Thanksgiving table here on BrainLine…with a twist.

How can you be grateful for the brain injury in your life?

“I am grateful for my dad’s brain injury because….” Wow, is that ever hard to say. I’m pretty sure I’ve done more swearing and sobbing over my dad’s injury than anything else over the years. And, for the record, typing this sentence out: I am grateful for my dad’s brain injury (twice now) is ridiculously harder than I imagined. I have to stop because tears are rolling down my cheeks for all the appropriate reasons. His brain injury is a terrible thing. I feel sick thinking I could be grateful for something that took so many things away from my mother who has done nothing but everything for my father. I feel really sad because for 18 years I have watched my father miss out on things I had envisioned him experiencing in his own life—as a dad, as a husband, and as the distinguished hippie of an old guy I believed he’d become someday. And I’m pissed. Perhaps that is what I feel most often toward his brain injury—pissed. It was unexpected. It’s unwanted. And it’s so unfair! How dare I muster up gratitude for something like that?

"Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.";
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

All things. In many instances gratitude comes easy. We are thankful to be loved and fed well. We are thankful for our birthday gifts, our friendships, and our freedoms. We can easily thank people who do nice things and organizations that help others. But there are instances where gratitude is a challenge—where it becomes a very conscious choice. Here we are asked to flip things on their head and see them from a different angle. Granted, this is not always possible, but in the instance of the brain injury in our family, this seems my only path to acceptance. I have learned I am grateful for my father’s brain injury because being grateful is the only way I can live with it and not against it. Maybe it’s my yoga career or my ridiculous optimism, but I can’t just wish for what was or wallow in negativity.

My Gram Margaret would tell me that I have to “play the glad game.” Although I am certainly not glad that my dad’s accident happened, I’ve learned to search for the good that came as a result of something so terrible. I’m not going to dissect a future my family never had, but I am aware that there are wonderful people and experiences in my life that came about as a result of the way things happened.

I have made a list of five reasons I am grateful for living with brain injury. I am sharing that list with you, and I can only hope that no matter how hard and how sad brain injury is, no matter how pissed off and confused you are, that somehow you can look at what happened in a different way. Somehow you can play the glad game. Somehow there is a way to be grateful.

"When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around."
— Willie Nelson

I am grateful for my dad’s brain injury because…

… of the relationship I have with my family. We have gone through some extremely difficult and uncertain times, but we stick with it. I am grateful that my father reminds me of the importance of family, and I am grateful for my mother, for how open and honest she is with me.

… I have resilience. I have learned how to get up, dust off, and do it again. Many times I exercise this resilience with situations related to my father’s injury, but this resilience has not failed to benefit me in other parts of my life.

… of my career. Never in the world did I see myself as an author, a yoga teacher, or a public speaker. I have tried to learn about and share what has helped me cope with, live through, and accept, so I can help others. I love what I do.

… I believe in the impossible. I spent years wondering how the heck this crazy thing happened to our family. What were the odds? So now I look at things that seem just as unlikely and ask myself “What are the odds?” And then I go and beat those odds.

… I have learned awareness. The brain injury and its aftermath have challenged me in more ways that I can count, but I know that as a result, I pay attention to what is around me, to how I can react when necessary, and how I can let go when necessary.

Note: This blog was inspired by a comment on last month’s blog. Thank you, Kelle, for a little reminder.

Comments (4)

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Thank you Janna for such a thought provoking blog which I will certainly recommend to the users of the website I work on- the Brain Injury Hub. We deal mostly with children who have had a a brain injury and I have no doubt that many of the parents I talk to will be able to take some solace in this. 

If anyone would like to share their experiences on our website please feel free to write on the forum www.braininjuryhub.co.uk/forum

Maria Coyle (Information Editor)

Our sons were in an auto accident on 8;13.12.  Our oldest son Aaron didn't survive.  Our youngest son Steven sustained a severe TBI.  He has come an incredibly long way!  What a journey.  We are thankful for his miraculous recovery!  I can relate to what you shared in your blog.  Thank you for taking time to share and most of all taking time to truly be thankful in the midst of this life changing journey!  We are often asked how we can be happy and laugh again...we don't have a choice!  Aaron was a happy guy and made everyone laugh.  He wants us to be happy.  We have also learned first hand how important laughter is in healing!   I can't even imagine how different Steven's recovery would be if we had quit on him or stayed in a doom and gloom mindset! 

I can especially relate to this part of your blog:  …

I have learned awareness. The brain injury and its aftermath have challenged me in more ways than I can count, but I know that as a result, I pay attention to what is around me, to how I can react when necessary, and how I can let go when necessary.

Thanks again for sharing!  Continued peace and blessings to your and your family! 

I have had a brain injury from a brain tumor from back in 2006 and while my life is no where near perfect or even the same as it once was I have learned how important it is to STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES now! You see when I was young, like most young folks I skimmed through life easily and painlessly with not a real care in the world! Then in 2005 I began having migraine headaches that got worse and worse and longer and longer until I ended up in an airplane being sent for emergency surgery to Seattle from Ted Stevens Anchorage Intl. Airport. I spent the next 9 months down there having brain surgery, therapy, you name it I had it! The surgery went fine but back then they did not do brain surgery in ALASKA so off to Washington I was sent! The problem was that I contracted many different staff infections , so now not only do I deal with the ramifications of brain injury but of the residual harm these infections caused my system now also for the rest of my life! I went through a super depression for about a year but being a super woman go getter left handed optimist type A personality, I read and figured out everything I could about how to better myself, come out of the looming depression I was in and LEARN ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH ME BECAUSE BY GOLLY, I HAD CONTROL OVER IT, IT DIDNT AND NEVER WOULD HAVE CONTROL OVER ME! 

Thank you!