Break for freedom – Day 16 (A writing pause)

Day 16  – Saturday August 26, 2017 (A writing pause)

9:26 a.m. – I home from my walk about two hours ago. It was a peaceful affair, sweatshirt weather, it was 45 degrees this morning early. I completed the entire walk in comfort. I am going to, for now, pause the daily briefs about the walks. No doubt I will be back reporting on how they are going, or how a specific one stands out, and why.

I will, you have my word, report if I take a single day off from walking, and what led me to do so. No doubt I will at some point, but all of me knows, now is not the time.

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For Charley

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Break for freedom – Day 15 (Chris Albee)

Day – 15 Friday, August 25, 2017  (Chris Albee)

Today is the first in a third week of solo walks for me. These walks would not be happening at all were it not for my late friend, Chris Albee. Chris died this July 20 at age 49 from a sudden, ruthless, fast-growing mass in his brain. I’ve known no one who exceeds Chris’s honor, humility, loyalty, and love for family and friends. For those of us with disabilities; it is well worth noting it would never cross his mind to experience any one of us as someone of less value or import than others.

These solo walks are the first time in more than three decades I’ve gone for walks in a community without, what for me, feels like protection, for more than 30 years, started when Chris was alive. I took my first solo walk on July 12. I told him what I’d done and I told him I’d done it because I was unable to climb inside him and join him in his fight, and I had to lash out at something, and I thought the crippling fear that made a solo walks feel impossible was a target in need of pulverizing. I also told him that were it not for him, I wouldn’t have tried. My voice broke a couple of times.

When I finished, his response was a muscular, loving, “Oh man, that’s so cool, Pete.” He meant it. He was my friend. In my heart, he always will be.

7:58 a.m. – Back home.

If you’ve been an athlete or dancer you know you can go into a task feeling great, sure you will dance beautifully, or cover a 20-mile training run with so much gusto you stop, legs astride, fists jammed into your hips, scowling at the reality the run wasn’t 20 miles longer one. Thing is, if you’ve been an athlete or a dancer you know damn well the aforementioned scenario is a load of rubbish. You never know what the experience is going to be until you’re in it. I felt great going out the door this morning, which may well explain why the entire was intensely uncomfortable; breathing and stride patterns felt out of sync, sweat poured like it did earlier in these walks.

How did I manage this? I accepted it, offered myself guidance-phrases like, Stay in the walk; if it’s uncomfortable, allow this discomfort, and keep going. And so I did.

I miss you, Chris.

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For Joshua Albee

Day 8 – August 18, 2017 (Moxie Man)

Day 8 – Friday, August 18, 2017 (Moxie Man)

5:24 a.m. – Charley’s early walk was lovely. More so than usual, there is a very light rain falling, and the scent of rain in the air reaches the center my heart. I’ve loved the scent since I was a  boy. Had the scent somehow washed over me when I was a baby, then my love for it started then. I kissed Charley on the top of his velvety head, and then let him make his morning contributions.

I treasure moments like this morning’s early walk with Charley, in August more than any other month. August has not been much of a friend. My Dad died on the 16th, my mother committed suicide on the 12th, and I was held-up and shot in the head on the 24th. That said, an enchanting woman called me Moxie Man this month, and that’s just about as lovely as the scent of rain, and embeds a beautiful moment in August.

It just started pouring rain outside! This could me my first real rain walk. I am smiling. I want as much of my life back as I can get. Remember, because you feel hopeless doesn’t mean there’s no hope; it simply means you’ve lost contact with it; it’s still there; promise.

8:44 a.m. – Back home. A walk in a soft rain, the earlier downpour had calmed by the time I entered the morning. I hope it rains the same way tomorrow morning. When I was a boy we lived in an area filled with woods and a nice wide stream me and my friends viewed as our own private river. Walking in the rain reminded me of all the beauty and peace I found in the woods. I think it is still there.

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For Anne Marie

 

Just ‘Round the Bend

It’s been many years since I’ve had a good relationship with August. We just don’t get along. I never wronged August, least I can’t remember if I did, but I must’ve. After all, August contains some of the biggest wounds of this man’s life. Shot on August 24th, mother commits suicide on August 12, and the biggest wound of all, my father dies on August 16 when he is 55 and I’m 15.

Now don’t be whipping out any sympathy violins for me, that’s not the point here. I am alive and well and happy and testimony that things can be survived and grown from and while wounds leave their marks and shapes, they don’t mean to stop your life, ‘less you hand’m more control then they deserve. Life happens to us whether we like it our not, it’s how we manage it that makes the difference, our living breathing relationship with it – that’s the point.

Suicide’s anything but fuckin’ painless and the same goes for getting shot and your father dyin’ when you’re fifteen’ll fuck your world up too. But you know what? Sunsets are beautiful and the same goes for sunrises. Friendships and family are precious and Springsteen songs make my heart soar and the sound of children laughing will lighten the heaviest heart and have you seen the flowers blooming lately?

Old wounds don’t stop life. Old pains don’t slam doors. Old scars don’t close your eyes or shut your ears. Open wide your soul and breathe. Lift your hearts up by the fuckin’ bootstraps if you have to. Open your eyes and ears, love people, love life. There’s life gifts in front of you and there’s life gifts ‘round the bend. You might not see’m now, but they’re just ‘round the bend. I know it’s scary, but don’t let it frighten you.

We all got our Augusts. You got yours and I got mine. You keep living now – and I’ll be seein’ you ‘round the bend.

Living With Brain Injury – Part III: The Isolation Challenge

Isolating yourself from the world is an all too common occurrence among those who live with brain injuries, myself included.

For those who know me from a distance, this acknowledgement on my part may surprise them. I give speeches and facilitate workshops and seminars and so forth, but other than that, getting out of the house and into the world around me is no easy task, and, in the world of brain injury, I have a lot of company.

There are reasons I have three dogs and a vegetable garden. They all get me outside and once I am outside, away from home, and engaged in a task of some kind, I’m fine and enjoying myself. I love wonderful conversations and bookstores. I hope, for example, that heaven itself is a book store and there I will find an endless supply of books not published  on earth written by Dickens, Tolstoy and Steinbeck and others. I love the sound of laughter, especially the sound of a baby giggling; I’m not sure there is a sound anymore heartwarming than that.

But it is breaking the isolation barrier and getting out of the house in the first place that can be the “Mount Everest” challenge.

When I work with others – and on myself – the are some basic Life Growth tenets I teach. Life Growth is a life-management philosophy and protocol that gives back to the person their individuality and identifies the challenge – not the person – as the opponent. For example, I am not my brain injury. I have a relationship with it and I am the one who deserves to be guiding my life, not the injury. It is the same with isolation. It is not who I am, none of us who struggle with it have our character and worth defined or diminished by it. But, like in any relationship, we do have some say.

The very first step for those who face the isolation challenge is to accept that the challenge is real. It seems to me that any hope of gaining freedom from this or any challenge slips from our grasp if we don’t accept the reality of the challenge in the first place. I would not be celebrating seven years of sobriety this month if I did not accept that I deal with the disease of alcoholism. I would not be able to write these words to you if I did not accept my eyesight was getting bad and, as a result, got me some glasses that let me see the damned words in the first place. (Are you smiling? I hope so. There is no reason for sadness as we discuss this. Isn’t it kind of nice that we get to connect with each other like this, through words, isolation or no isolation?)

The emotional equation goes like this: You have to accept it in order to manage it and you have to manage it in order to get free of it.

What those of us who know us should not do is judge us. We get trapped in isolation for a reason,  not because we are lazy or weak and need to simply snap out of it.

As to why the challenge of isolation is so prevalent for those of us with brain injuries, I’m not sure there is any one set answer, though there may be. Part of the answer for many of us, I think, is this. When you are traumatized with a brain injury, no matter the cause, your it can’t happen to me syndrome is gone. The task then becomes taking part in life knowing these things can happen, so it is no wonder so many of us hunker down in the perceived safety of our homes and stay there.

But then here’s the question, the key question in my book, if we surrender to the isolation, then the very trauma and presence of our injuries now robs us of taking part in life.

Let me ask you, who do you think deserves to be in charge of your ability to take part in life, you or the injury? I vote for you – and – by the way – for me too.