When I think I’ll never be happy again, never have fun again, never enjoy life again, I need to stop for a moment and think some more because the only thing holding me back is me.
There comes a time in life when we need to say, “I’m going to make this happen.” After a severe setback like a brain injury that alters your family’s life forever, it’s easy to find yourself stuck on a treadmill of routine and despair for years. But is it necessary? Is it ordained? No, it’s not.
Paulo Coelho says, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.”
As humans, we are ‘once bitten, twice shy.’ We learn early on what hurts and what we should avoid. We find people and circumstances to blame for our decision to sit back and avoid new things that might prove hazardous, or difficult, or even just different from our ritualistic and boring routines. After a loved one in our family suffers a brain injury, we grow an even thicker protective shell. I wore that shell until it was too heavy to carry around, until it grew over my eyes and I could not see that the storm had passed and it was a beautiful day.
What can we do to break out? I can only say what I did. Little by little, I peeked out at the world and found I wanted to be a part of it again. I saw laughing couples with arms locked and I wanted to be them. I saw how people who had suffered tremendous loss and sorrow seemed to glow with a joyful peace as they helped others, and I wanted to do that, too.
Immediately following Hugh’s crash, I found it comforting to commiserate with others, but after a while, this shared misery only made me feel worse. It took a long time, but peeking out to see what I wanted was a first step. Listening to inspiring stories followed, and realizing I had to toss the blame, resist bitterness, and lose all resentment soon followed too. I started feeling grateful again, grateful for the love in my life and for the realization that I could grab the reins of my day-to-day journey.
My cousin’s son, Eamonn, is a free spirit. People are naturally drawn to him. He’s in his thirties, married, and has children, yet he retains a youthful joy. He exudes good health and goodwill. Recently, I saw another photo of him on Facebook beaming into the camera on a snow-covered mountain with his lovely wife, and I commented, “Do you guys just have fun all the time?”
He wrote back, “That's the goal! I can throw up some sad stuff here and there for y'all to keep it real, but I don't like putting attention towards it. It doesn't deserve it.” He makes a conscious decision to have fun. Now there’s an idea!
Fun is free, it’s widely available, and it’s here for the taking if we choose it. Some of us in the brain injury community may think we’ll never have fun again, but if we shift our focus, seek out positive stories, try new things that deep down we really always wanted to do, and make it our goal to have fun, we may find ourselves smiling and enjoying our lives more than we ever dreamed possible.