January, 2020: Helping others, not about me, distant, be with them; community coming together to learn about One Human Family Quad Cities Area–great turn out!
February, 2020: Busy helping others learn about racial justice, winter, snow, help others, not about me, distant.
March, 2020: It’s here, everything stopping, longing for the busyness because I’m scared; Hey, God, I’m afraid, please keep those I love safe. What if I don’t see them again? Holding tightly to Fear not, for I am with you.
April, 2020: Spring is coming, thanking God for the sound of the birds, melting snow; adjusting to masks, more sunshine, beginning to see everything being closed/canceled; overwhelmed, focus on one day at a time; it is coming, I will do my part to help protect others, I’m sad with God about people hunting people; Closer, it involves me, I can’t see how to move forward with many comforting routines.
May, 2020: God is in the warm feeling of the sun; I’m starting to feel more comfortable with restricted routines; deep pain watching the killing of a person; actions need to be taken but I can’t see how; protesting does not change systemic structures, but can’t see what will; God please help, it hurts.
June, 2020: Backing up my Black friends and sharing with them the love that I have for them; Asking God to make sure they feel love radiating from me and others like a Care Bear; need to show I value people over business, care and love over greed; God help me to see your path.
July, 2020: I got this, I am not afraid; an opportunity presents itself to bring about greater racial equity in our community, God will be with me, God is with me. I am not above hustling. Black lives matter belongs to us all; confusion about those that can’t see that, God help them.
August, 2020: Resistance to what can better things for all of us, must be met with love; God is love; the learning process is love; the learning process is God, I believe God exists within others–let me connect to that; keeping my eyes on God’s work, God’s message; admitting my own fear to God when claiming Black lives matter in all White spaces; Being reminded that I am not alone and that God is with me by seeing paths through experiences that are shaped by kindness.
September, 2020: We did it here; more accountability needed everywhere; God please bring justice to all; Help me to see how to move forward with One Human Family-Macomb; trust God provides support for God’s work.
October, 2020: Let’s take it one step at a time still and make sure that all are included; Keep working on your awareness of your assumptions about others–trust that God is helping you see those assumptions.
November, 2020: Better to not kill than to share a meal with others; God, help me to see how to be close yet distant with others.
December, 2020: There is much to be thankful for; thanking God for science and vaccines; Why is it that the only folks I know who’ve gotten COVID are Black people? God says Black lives matter.
The events of January 6, 2021, at our U.S. Capitol got me curious about flags. Not only did I see a wide variety of them in photos, but I’ve started noting them more in the community around me. So, I thought I would create a blog post in which I list the flags I detected in photos or videos and review what they mean—at least according to the quick research I did! I’ll share a few notes on my mind about what I found, as well. I hope this resource is helpful to you and others. I end this post raising an important question for us to consider about a “newer” flag that is being flown and what it means. To be fully transparent, I do believe that there is meaning beyond what this newer flag says, beyond what some are attributing it to say.
This is the official flag of the United States of America. “The U.S.A. flag stands for our nation and the shared history, pride, principles, and commitment of its people. When we properly display this powerful symbol, we signal our respect for everything it represents.” Information about how to properly display the flag can be found here.
This was a battle flag of the Confederate States of America. It has changed over time. Many claim it symbolizes Southern heritage, while others claim it symbolizes slavery; my thoughts are that Southern heritage involves a history of slavery, so it does both. Perhaps more importantly, I see it as a symbol of division. This flag was never meant to represent all states that we know today as the United States of America. Furthermore, I see it as a flag of secession. Today, it is identified as a Hate Symbol and is used as a symbol of white supremacy and slavery beyond the borders of the U.S. More information can be found out about it here.
Three Percenter flag: This is the flag of a gun rights militia group, although members would say that they are not a militia, but rather are pro-government, as long as the government follows a strict interpretation of the constitution. Some three percenters form non-paramilitary groups and create online “networks,” rather than militias, while even more people are active as individual members and are unaffiliated. It was created in 2008 based on the inaccurate claim that only 3% of people took up arms against the British. More information about it can be found here.
This flag is seen as a symbol of support for the reelection for Trump. The problem with this flag is that it usesa logo (the lion in the middle) synonymous with the white supremacist group known as VDARE, an anti-immigration group that has been suspended on Dutch Twitter for promoting hate speech. After spending just a few minutes on the VDARE website, I truly believe that this is simply just a hate symbol. See for yourself hereif you’d like.
This is the Punisher skull flag. It originated with a Marvel character…yes, Marvel comics. However, many (like myself) believe it is misunderstood. One of the Punishers co-creators recently spoke about how the character was not created to be something to admire, but rather his actions should be seen as morally dubious. It has been a profitable image but, no matter the backstory, a skull to me represents death. You can read a bit more about the Punisher Skull from its creator here.
This flag can also be found with a cannon on it rather than a gun. The cannon version of it was the original and served as a representation of a small group of Texans rebelling against the Mexican government. Suffice it to say, there is a lot of Texas pride associated with this flag. The flag with the AR-15 has come to represent a belief that the government has gotten too big. More information about this flag can be found here.
Thin Blue Line flag: If you are like me, you associate this flag with the support for the police. With all that happened this summer related to police brutality in the U.S., it has come to represent, to some, support for such actions. In fact, I have witnessed it being used in opposition to a Black Lives Matter flag, as if to say that one is either for the police or for Black lives mattering and not both. In fact, the division this flag seems to create is a critique of it. Furthermore, I think it is important to know that it was flown by White Supremacists at the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, although the creator of the flag disavows any association with those that flew it there. More information about the flag can be read here.
First adopted by the Tea Party, some militias now use this flag. It has come to represent opposition to government restrictions. It is called the Gadsden flag and it originated in the Revolutionary War as sort of a “come at me Bro” message to the British. Although, to be fair, the namesake of the flag was a slave owner, so to some it is seen as a symbol of racism. Recently though, some of the most violent and vehemently anti-government figures have recast the flag as a warning against the American government. Read more about this history of the flag here.
This is the flag of a white nationalist group that represents a satirical religion that involves the god of darkness and chaos. Specifically, the flag represents a made up sect of people who worship the Egyptian god of darkness, Kek. Its mascot is Pepe the frog (I promise, I am not making this up!) and is an alt-right hate symbol. More specifically, it is used to troll liberals online. More information about the flag can be found here.
Faith Over Fear flag: This flag claims that because one has faith, one does not need to be afraid. This flag is connected to Christianity. Unfortunately, it needs greater context and reminds me of some of what I’ve seen pop up during COVID-19. I don’t believe that this phrase means that because one has faith in God, one does not need to fear anything. As I’ve said and thought multiple times during the pandemic, God also gave us brains because God wants us to use them. I assume that this flag is NOT about giving greater context to the phrase but is rather representing that because one has faith, they need to fear what is going on. It is akin to saying, “It is all a part of the plan;” more information about it can be found here.
The phrase, “Release the Kraken” came from a Liam Neeson movie in 2010, the movie “Clash of the Titians.” It has come to be used, however, by conspiracy theorist that Trump won the 2020 election. He did not; it was a free and fair election. Click here for more information on that claim. I see the use of this symbol as another representation of the embracement of chaos and encouragement to fight, as an octopus flaying all of its arms would create quite a bit of chaos.
This is the Christian flag and makes me think of the Christian crusades when crusaders were sent to the Holy land to fight Muslims in order to regain control of the Holy land. These battles were often organized by those who saw themselves as Christians; although to be fair, they combined religion, politics, and war. “The effects, besides the obvious death, ruined lives, destruction and wasted resources, ranged from the collapse of the Byzantine Empire to a souring of relations and intolerance between religions and peoples in the East and West which still blights governments and societies today.” More information about the Crusades can be read here.
The United States of America Flag code stipulates that it can only be flown like this in situations of distress or emergency. See the above section related to the American flag for more details. When you see the flag being flown upside down, the message being sent is that there is a dire emergency happening.
The Tree flag, featuring a pine tree with the motto, “An Appeal to Heaven,” or sometimes, “An Appeal to God,” was used originally during the Revolutionary War. Specifically, it was flown by a squadron of six cruiser ships commissioned under George Washington’s authority as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in October 1775. The phrase, “an Appeal to Heaven,” was used by John Locke to claim that people have rights that cannot be infringed upon and was used to justify the revolution. It is a call to action to overthrow the government. More information about it can be found here.
Trump flag: So, given all I shared above about the other flags and how they may have different meanings to different people, and after witnessing the events of January 6, 2021, a question I have is, “What is the meaning of the Trump flag to you?”
On Friday, I fell down twice; once when my adventure partner was home and once when he was not. The second time, I spilled the drink I was carrying in my hands all over myself, and had to change clothes. The first time, I was outside doing some yard work, so it sort of looked like I had taken a seat in the grass. Two years ago, when first returning home from the hospital, I didn’t anticipate my first fall would be my last day to fall down. I am ever thankful that my PTs and OTs have taught me how to get myself back up, which, even if someone is around me, I insist on doing by myself.
I wrote the above paragraph two years ago and saved it to my draft posts. It recently caught my attention for many reasons. First, it is indeed quite true that I have fallen down many times since the above paragraph was written. Second, last week I wore a bandage on my chin due to my most recent fall. For the record, this was the only time any of my falls have resulted in bleeding.
I apologize for the grossness. This was my chin right after the fall. Ouch!
Two years ago, during my first few falls, a student asked me what it feels like for me to fall. I spoke about my foot drop issue, shared my hope for continued recovery, and realized that I haven’t fully shared what it is like for me to fall. So, I thought I would take a moment now (yes, two years later) to do just that, because I imagine that watching me fall from the outside is much different than what I experience inside.
First, I fall because I have foot drop, not because I have balance issues. Gone are the days, thank goodness, of me getting sick from standing up (Yes, this happened January-February, 2015). Also gone are the days of me continually walking into the right wall even when I don’t mean to do so (darn left neglect…big moments folks!). 🙂 For the most part, I am usually good about lifting my leg up high enough to be able to take a step. However, if I’ve been sitting for awhile, am tired, or I get lost in thinking about something else instead of paying attention to lifting my leg up…I fall.
Second, I fall because I am carrying too many items (I use a backpack like a purse now), or forget that I cannot do the exact thing my brain is thinking I can do. I walk only around 4,000 steps a day, so I need to be stingy about how I use my steps. For example, I struggle walking through doors that self-close quickly and open from the right side. It gets frustrating, and sometimes boring, to have to consciously think about walking. The upside is that I’m much more aware of my surroundings than most people, because I’m always on the lookout for obstacles I might find challenging, as well as how to avoid or overcome them.
My go with me everywhere backpack.
Third, I am usually fully aware when I’m going to fall and always try to land on my butt; admittedly, it has the most padding. 😉
Fourth, when I fall, especially if it is on my left side, it feels as though I’m falling into a hole with no bottom until I hit the ground. It is a sort of “lighter than air” feeling and seems as if there is nothing I can do about it. About a year ago, when I knew I was going down because I had sat up and turned too quickly, and this time I had too much forward momentum to fall on my butt, I braced myself for the moment of impact and was surprised to discover that my left foot was in a spot that helped me to stay on my feet. This was a pleasant discovery and something that I told myself I would repeat if it produced positive recovery results…alas, it has not, or at least not in the same way that it did that day.
Finally, I know that bumps and bruises for stroke survivors are not good ideas. Don’t worry, my blood is drawn fairly frequently to make sure that my INR is still within range. Also, I pay a lot of attention to any bruises I do receive. I do so because, even though I have a heads up that I’m going to fall, I still find myself scared after I fall. I do not need my life explosion occurring twice.
No, this is not about the political left, although you might find it to still be political. It is more about finding hope in the recovery process regarding the left side of my body, specifically my left foot.
If you’ve been a follower of my blog over the past few years, you know that I acquired foot drop due to what I call my “life explosion” in January 2015. I continue to work on my recovery and refuse to believe that I will stop making progress. And, I do continue to make progress…just a few weeks ago I was able to complete five wall squats in which my left knee was level with my right knee. This was quite exciting! For months, due to weakness in my left hip, my left knee would turn in toward my right essentially allowing my right leg to do all of the work. So, my PT started, and continues, to engage me in a wide variety of hip strengthening exercises. One of which left me with inner thigh pain during spring break (major bummer) and all of which I’ve made progress in doing. This is great news!
Still, I walk around with what is affectionately referred to as “stroke walk” and I still work to walk 4,000 steps a day. I have moved to using a handmade wooden cane (and yes, I try to be very Dr. “House”-like with it).
Now you can see my Bioness
Now you don’t
I even managed to do most of the yard work this spring on my own, with shoveling being the greatest challenge. I created a work around, though, and would use the small gardening shovel which only required more time.
Some of the results of the yard work.
Lou checking out the yard work.
A side view of the backyard.
This is when I knew spring was here. 🙂
Yesterday, though…yesterday frustrated me quite a bit. First, I’ve been experiencing the pains of an in-grown toenail. (If you are not a foot person, I apologize…and please know I am not a foot person either, but have become more comfortable with everything ‘body’ since my time in the hospital.). This issue has been going on for a few months, however it wasn’t until recently that I went to the doctor about it. I’m waiting to go to another doctor about it in the near future. In the meanwhile, I soak my foot each night and use my Bioness to help keep pressure off my left foot. Upon doing my own research and talking to the doctor, in-grown toenails are common amongst those with gait issues. Lovely.
Second, it was raining outside. This issue isn’t as bad as the first one, due to the fact that it is making it so that I don’t have to water the plants in the yard. At the same time, however, it is both challenging to get all of my steps in and then walk inside a building without a carpet nearby (or a carpet that actually soaks up water) safely. Essentially, I just need to get used to the squishy shoe sound and doing my best to drag my foot on any mat available in an attempt to wipe off the water.
Finally, I am so excited about the cognitive gains that I’ve made, especially this past spring. Sort of similar to my wall squats, I’ve improved to the point where I actually have energy throughout the day and it’s wonderful! Please don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t extend to unfamiliar environments; in those environments, I still lose energy quite quickly. For example, attending a conference was quite a challenge this past spring.
Me (on the right) at one of the conference presentations.
However, I keep pushing myself. Everyone I speak too (e.g. doctors, nurses, therapists, etc.) encourages me to keep going, reminding me that it is possible to regain abilities even years later. Just this week, I found this hopeful quote inside a book I’m reading for a book club,
Neural plasticity is the field of research into how, when, and why the brain develops (Stiles, 2000). The findings of that field go against the prevailing cultural narrative of fixed intelligence. Rather than reaching our intellectual potential in our mid-20s and simply staying there, our brains continue to develop in the areas that correspond to the skills we practice (Fuchs & Fluegge, 2014; Stiles, 2000) (p. 170).
So, here’s to continuing to practice walking “non-stroke-style”!
Thursday morning I was invited to attend a gathering at a local mosque between 5-530 p.m. in Macomb, IL. The purpose of the gathering was to show our Muslim friends that we are here for them and love having them in our community. I was all in after receiving the invitation.
I’m standing in the back row on the left.
I headed there after Physical Therapy, and anticipated it being a quick in and out type deal. I should have known better. After all, Dr. Sodiq (my World Religion professor at TCU) and every single Muslim I’ve met since have been nothing but kind. Still, I was nervous…I was attending by myself and TBI survivors don’t really like social situations, and I am already introverted. I’m more the “sneak in and out without being noticed to leave a card” kind of person. Still, this mattered to me, so I went.
I thought my plan of leaving a card might not work out, after all how in the world would I sneak in quietly? (Please picture in your mind 6′ tall me, with my backpack, cane, and foot drop trying to tip toe). Upon entering the mosque I learned that I was catching the tail end of the event. Here is when I began to feel ever grateful for my decision to go in.
If you are unaware, it is proper manners to remove your shoes when entering the worship area. So, there were shoes snuggly set aside in the entry way. As soon as I entered, I was greeted and welcomed to go on in. I did my best to mumble through my concerns about how I couldn’t take off my shoes (foot drop on soft carpet is not a recipe for being able to walk). Once I explained it, I was told that I could just go in and that it wasn’t a problem. So, I did my best to take some steps into the room. I made it about 6 feet into the room, and stood looking around to take it all in. There were all sorts of people visiting and sharing food. It was beautiful.
I was then approached by a young man (young means younger than me) and asked if I wanted some tea. I replied that it would be wonderful, and was quickly poured a cup. Next, I was approached my another young man asking if I wanted to sit down. I replied that a chair would be great, and he proceeded to ask folks to move so that there was space. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have someone I don’t know do that for me. I was in sensory overload at that point, and am not sure that I would have tried to sit down without his help.
Then I was asked if I wanted a plate of food. Seriously, who says no to that! The plate of food I was brought was almost all sweets, which are my weakness…so, in other words perfect!. Suddenly another person came and sat down to my right. If any of you follow my left neglect stories you know that I struggle looking left, so it felt like a relief when I could look right and be talking to someone. I then proceeded to spend the rest of the evening talking to him. I learned that: he is from Libya (“one of the seven” is how he phrased it…can you imagine becoming comfortable saying that about your home country?); he is in graduate school at WIU; he has not been home in three years; he misses home; and that he agrees with me that we are all here to do good and that the commonality amongst all religions is love. He also helped me to stand up twice (again, thick carpet after PT is not helpful), helped me to find a spot in the group photo taken, and asked me if I wanted an English copy of the Quaraan (Side note: I did.)
I am sharing all of this because the day leading up to my visit was not a great day, so spending time getting to know someone was exactly what I needed to do. My heart was replenished.
Signs the children made for the Islamic Center.
Yes, yes, I encourage us all to learn from those that are different. Yes, you can read information about difference, but there is nothing quite like sitting down and having a conversation with a person. I was not scared. It was not scary. The room was full of love. I wish this kind of heart-filling love upon all of us.
As a society, we love dualism. We enjoy reducing our options to two, and framing it so that the only options we have are the two that we often can’t stop obsessing over. Yes, our love of dualism is a lens to view the most recent presidential election and its aftermath (e.g., You either were for Trump or participated in the marches this past weekend, You either were for Trump or are for abortion, etc.).
It is also a lens to view most decisions. A few dualisms related to higher education, and specifically student affairs are:
We either go to college or we don’t; We are either life-long learners or we’ve stopped learning; and one that has been on my mind over the past two years, “I will either get better or I will not”. Thankfully, given my health challenges I’ve had to make my options for this one more complex than a simple one or the other.
Another that has cropped up recently in my mind is:
We are either for students developing/growing/learning/becoming complex in how they make meaning or we are for student success.
Why is it that we do this?
I genuinely am interested in knowing. It makes no sense to me why we would frame our practice as though we have two options (please know that I am not perfect in not doing it either..see above). Yes, there is a movement to use “big data” to shape the higher education experience for students. And I agree that it has potential to result in some more personalized experiences for our students, which is great! Still, I believe that it is us humans that assist in the development of students (aka, helping others learn), not computers exporting formulas. Thus, I believe that there will always be a need for some sort of student affairs professionals.
Additionally, although I agree that the innovation of the assembly line in the United States (U.S.) allowed us to gain traction in terms of having an advantage on a global scale economically speaking, I do not think that human growth occurs in an assembly like fashion. If it did, I hope we would have had it figured out a long time ago. Thus, another reason why I believe that there will be a need for student affairs professionals.
Another way that we enjoy dualism in our everyday lives is to reduce our interactions with others to be simply an evaluation of someone’s intelligence.
They are either intelligent or not.
This one I’ve heard a lot lately due to the election, so not just within education.
Although lately in higher education, we seem to be doing this in regard to a variety of issues: social justice issues, what it means to be professional, political perspective, etc. I hope that we catch ourselves in these moments and pull back from drawing a causation between a person’s intellectual abilities and how they make sense of the world. I know that we often don’t…as evidenced by conversations I’ve witnessed in person and on social media.
The multitude of options that exist between two choices is an area we as student affairs professionals can assist others in seeing. As long as we continue to be the folks who have examined change (aka development) on the individual level, as well as on the organizational level–including how the two interact. Again, there is another reason we need student affairs professionals….perhaps even for life, not just within institutions of higher education.
Today is the two year anniversary of what I’ve dubbed “my life explosion“. Some might think it is odd that I acknowledge this date, and even sometimes refer to it as my new birthday.
My life on January 6, 2015
For me, however, I’d rather put it out there than keep my acknowledgement of it inside. So, here I am, two years later still working on recovery…a process that is measured in years and not months or days like some other illnesses.
“The actual length of the rehabilitation process varies according to the person and to the severity of their injury. Some people may only require a few weeks or months of rehabilitation, and others may require years or even lifelong rehabilitation.”
I can see my growth over the past year. I am much stronger, and can therefore walk a bit better and last longer before hitting complete exhaustion (and my goodness the exhaustion). I am better able to complete higher order executive functioning skills. And, I continue to challenge myself so that my neurons build complex pathways.
I also recognize the accomplishments I’ve achieved. For example, several times over the past year my Physical Therapist has strapped me into a harness over a treadmill. Each time my goal was to get to 3.5 in my speed (the lowest speed that is considered running), and the past few times I’ve done it I have reach my goal….albeit, the longest I can last at that speed is 5 minutes, but still, I was running.
I have hit my goal of 4,000 steps a day for almost all of this current school year (I take one day a week off…see exhaustion note above). It has helped to have a furry friend to enjoy going on walks with, and he goes at whatever speed I go, so it works out well. I’ve fallen several times on my walks, but let’s be real…I’ve always been clumsy. The best part is that Optimus is right there looking at me when I do without judgement.
My furry friend, Optimus Prime.
Somehow I’ve managed to travel and present at conferences, as well as attend and participate in a wedding, and I say somehow because there is a ridiculous amount of sensory input in airports and conference centers. Even hotel carpeting…seriously, what is up with hotel carpeting? Does it really need to be (often) bright geometric patterned? These are important questions, people, so please pay attention…it is dizzying. Not one of these adventures would have been possible without my co-presenters and my adventure partner.
I often spot others with walking challenges wherever I go. Yes, these folks were probably around me before my life explosion, but I truly see them.
I also recognize the hypocrisy of a call for social justice that continually stays silent about the issue of disability. If 19% of the population reports having a disability perhaps we can find a way to talk about it more?
I really hope that you saw this and were not okay with it no matter your vote.
I wrote a book. I’m not sure if it is any good, and I’m still working on editing it. I often remind myself that it took Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor 10 years for her to share her story. Perhaps I am emulating her in some sort of way. What I do know is that I needed to get my life explosion out of me as a method of grieving (also a reason I talk a lot about Optimus).
There has been a lot that I’ve lost, and I am sad about it.It is okay to be sad.
Still, I want to use my story to encourage/help others, and so I’ve shared bits of it at community wide events, a classroom of speech therapists in training, and a monthly support group for caregivers of stroke survivors. I hope that by sharing it I’ve helped others in some way as all of these groups of people have helped me.
Goal for 2017: Do much of the same as this past year, except add looking at my experiences with more gratitude. I spent a lot of time over the past year thinking “I woke back up for this?! Why?”
My Macomb Family (Me, Optimus, John, Anas, and Amjad)
Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with two students from Syria, and couldn’t help but think about how amazing it is that we were eating good food, playing games, and enjoying each other’s company. Who would have thought I would be sitting around a table two years later enjoying time with two people from Syria in Macomb, Illinois?
This world we live in often looks like this:
when we want it to look like this:
Perhaps if it did we would miss out on discovering all of the:
As Thanksgiving comes to a close and I prepare to head back to work tomorrow, I can’t help but think of all that I’m thankful for over the past year and more. It can be so easy to get caught up in one’s own responsibilities that one forgets to find a time to pause and recognize all that is in their life. Thus, I am going to spend time considering five such points in this post.
I am thankful for the color orange and for my younger sister’s hard work at making sure that everyone knew it was my favorite color in January 2015. I say this because I have many orange items now and, each time I see one, I think of the people who provided me with motivation and support that spring (and even now). Just today, for example, I had such a thought as I was loading an orange mug into our dishwasher.
I am thankful for my ability to walk on my two legs. Yes, I look a bit like Frankenstein at times when I do walk, and yes, years from now I will have damaged my body enough due to how I can walk that I will need to have surgery. Please know, however, that I can see how I am continuing to improve, too. It’s just…so…slow. However, what keeps me going is my ability to see that I continue to improve. I am thankful I can see it.
I am thankful for the dog that my adventure partner and I adopted this fall (Optimus Prime…or, Optimus). He reminds me to find time to relax, to be excited about seeing each person each day, to appreciate and eat all of my food, and to enjoy snuggling.
I am thankful for the daylight. The days are getting shorter, and yes, I now wake myself up to a sun light each day (which, has greatly helped me adjust to the time change). Still, the sun comes out and provides me a chance to appreciate it, as well as to appreciate the dark and what it, too, reveals.
I am thankful for my home. Not just the physical building that I have over my head, although I am quite thankful for that too, but my home is the community in which my adventure partner, Optimus, and I live. It is full of people who have a different take on life in so many ways, which makes each of them beautiful and amazing. I know that they are people I can count on if I need help, and people who will get up each day and do their best to consider others.
Optimus Prime (aka Optimus) snuggles in with me for the night.
What they don’t tell you when you are working hard for a goal is about the exhaustion that comes with it. My goal is to keep pushing myself through recovery so that I can get back as close as possible to how I used to be. I don’t want to give up. Why can’t it be like in the Olympics where you see a 10 minute video showing the behind the scenes footage that pumps you up just enough to know that the preparation made it all worth it? I want my 10-minute video now, so that I can see the outcome.
This is easily the hardest experience I’ve ever had and I’m tired of having it. It is a tiredness that nothing can cure. It just needs to be gone through to get to the other side.
I am exhausted, yet told to keep going. Not just by other people, but by myself as well. It is some sort of drive inside of me that keeps pushing me as though I have no choice.
I am not experiencing the same exhaustion I felt pre- “Life explosion,” which is what I call it. This is the exhaustion that comes from having to think about every step I take.
This is the exhaustion that comes from retaining enough cognitive skills that you are acutely aware of every struggle you now have that you didn’t use to have.
This is the exhaustion that comes from wanting to be over the experience.
This is the exhaustion that comes from working hard to accept that you are making progress, while at the same time wanting to apologize for every unclear sentence, quick response, or inability to be confident in reading the feelings of others.
This is the exhaustion that comes from muscles spasming out and there isn’t anything you can do to control it, and you KNOW it makes others feel uncomfortable because it makes you uncomfortable. Because you know it is ugly.
This is the exhaustion that comes from choosing to live with other people in the world.
Who doesn’t want to see a cute photo of Optimus Prime napping?
“In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.” –Barbara Kingsolver, Author
I recently reread a short essay by Maureen Watson (2015) titled: Treasures in Darkness: Loving the Questions. In the essay, Watson speaks about what it feels like to live in the darkness. A year ago I was in a dark place, and although I had good reason to be there, it was torture. Parker Palmer’s metaphor of winter also speaks to where I was at the time. It was cold and it felt like the wind was blowing hard as I stood on a flat plain all alone in the dark of night.
My choice to phrase the above paragraph in the manner that I did was intentional, and does mean that I’m no longer solely in that place. I don’t want it to be heard that I’ve somehow done a 180, but I have made progress. And I can see the progress. All of this I share because recently I’ve been thinking about how I once had a counselor who asked me if it was okay to revisit experiences that I thought I had worked through. I was in a very stubborn place and was sharing with her that I refused to consider the past…I just wanted to be fixed even though I knew that she wasn’t going to tell me how I could be fixed. She pointed out that despite working through something in the past, I had since had more experiences that might lead me to see my past experiences differently, and she asked me if I thought that was possible. Her question stayed with me, and is often something I still consider.
All of these thoughts combined with a passage I was recently reminded of in my Introduction to College Student Personnel course:
“Personnel workers see the person–at whatever age–not as a single moment independent of the past and the future, but as a transition point in a stream of experience that goes back to infancy and will continue on into the future” (Lloyd-Jones, 1954).
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could feel comfort in spite of today’s current events instead of only frustration and darkness?
It is in these moments of desiring comfort and stability, however, that I can see that I’ve managed to get through the dark place I was in and find a bit more light by going one step at a time. And this time, I deeply value the light rather than taking it for granted. In other words, now that I am able to see how far I have come, I find that I want to make sure that I am always a bit uncomfortable, and in many ways I hope that we all are a bit uncomfortable. For it is in that spot, that I believe we discover the most about ourselves.