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.