Guest blogger Catherinanne here for Kevin:
Sometimes greeting the sun means meeting people where they are at and not passing by their needs. On Saturday, trying to ready Kevin’s car so that he would be able to meet the needs of this week ahead, I witnessed a woman rear-end another. I have been working on boundary setting, so my immediate response was to keep driving. I had this important task I wanted to complete to assist Kevin, and then I needed to be ready for the Brescia Ball. And as I drove, I remembered how I felt in similar circumstances, and I turned the car around. The woman was driving her little girl to a birthday party and she thought traffic was moving – we have all been there. The woman she hit was kind and concerned when she looked in her rear-view and saw a child in the vehicle that had just hit her. It could have all gone so differently. Somehow, I think I listened to the needs of those women and the child (at least I tried), and they had my number should either need a witness statement.
I never did get the fuel cap the car needed and the lines at the car cleaning were too long for the time I had left. I felt like perhaps I did not meet Kevin’s need at the time, and I was almost late for the Ball. But on a busy street filled with witnesses, nobody else stopped to see if those women needed anything. Sometimes we must respond, whether a need has been named or not. I am learning to listen, to observe, and to try to meet each need at hand. It has helped that Kevin is good at naming his needs, for the most part, but I have also had to look further, to try to anticipate, and to help in planning. And I have had to learn that sometimes my need may have to be set aside. In trying to meet Kevin where he is at, and not passing by his needs, I think of moments in my life when I have had a lot coming at me, and when I have had to say “stop” because it is all coming too fast. The specialist told us that while I might see a forest and my brain identifies that “group”, Kevin’s brain sees each tree in the forest individually, and can’t yet make the grouping. Please help Kevin see the forest for the trees as he begins to reintegrate, as his brain forms new connections in his healing, and as he works toward seeing and meeting your needs as best he can.
With much love and gratitude for each of you, and for the support and prayers you have given us.
And now in Kevin’s words:
And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?
Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?
Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.
The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.
by Gwendolyn Brooks
I do love poetry. This poem by the great African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks speaks to me at this particular time. How shall I greet the sun, after so lengthy a session in the shade? I guess I’m about to find out.
Tomorrow I will attempt to go back to work, albeit on a modified work schedule. For the next two weeks, I will experiment with working for about three to four hours a day. That is, three to four hours a day, “as tolerable.” Functionally, that means choosing one or two tasks a day that cumulatively are not more than three or four hours. My instructions further read, “should you feel the onset of any of your symptoms, stop immediately and rest.” Should be easy, right?
What I do know from this past four weeks, is that my body, specifically my brain, has no problem telling me when to stop. I must have the discipline to listen to it when it speaks. I need help from all of you. I am going to have to beg your patience, and your understanding. There will be times when I will have to say, “I’m sorry but I have to stop now,” or “I’m sorry but I simply am not available today.” The consequences of not heeding the advice I have been given are not pretty for me.
Heeding the advice of Jean Vanier that ‘growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness,’ I will risk being vulnerable here. I do so knowing that not everyone will understand. Admittedly, this whole Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) stuff is hard to get your head around (pardon the pun). I am certain that there are those who wonder why I just don’t shake it off, or, to use an expression often heard in sport, ‘play through the pain.’ Knowing that may all be the case, I am still left with little else but the naked truth about where things currently sit. I have had a very long and frustrating month. I have spent most days in one room, blinds drawn and sunglasses on. I have not been able to manage people or relationships, or even phone calls, for the most part. At times I have suffered intense headaches, and daily I have been dealing with being dizzy and off balance. Until this past weekend, I have been unable to read books, view screens, go for walks, cook meals, or do much else that required concentration. It has been no picnic. I can honestly say that I have come this far because of your prayers, your love, and your many kindnesses. With that said, I am asking more of you. I need you to know that saying no or setting boundaries will not be easy for me. I openly admit I am somewhat nervous about getting back to things. Dare I say, at times I am even afraid. This fear is fed by experience. There have been times, even these past couple of days, when just a couple of hours out for appointments, or a simple lunch, have exhausted me. I want to go. I want to do more. I want to say ‘yes.’ I want to be useful. I want to be back to my old self. I want to do it all. So I am asking you to help me by trying to understand if I am not as available, as effective, as attentive, as helpful as I might have been in the past. It is important, because that temptation to go back to everything and to push through the symptoms, in my current state, is toxic and it is dark. ‘The dark hangs heavily over the eyes.’
BUT…It is for Light that I have prayed. It is for Light that I have wept. I have lived through the long dark night in anticipation of Light. It is toward Light that I shall move. I go forward encouraged, having soaked in the Light that has shone through the cracks of what ‘has passed away’ and ‘what is yet to be.’ Those rays of light have been a product of your witness and your discipleship. I am reminded of the words of the late, great Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
I am also so very fortunate to have such great doctors and medical teams at the London Family Health Team and the Fowler-Kennedy Sports Medicine Clinic. I have made great progress, even though I am frustrated by the pace of it all. I have no doubt that I will continue to recover and get “better” from this. Continued patience, and continued therapy, will mean continued progress. So I am moving forward. I move forward, toward the Light, with sunglasses firmly planted on my face … but forward I WILL go. With your help, your patience, and your love, I will not flee, I will not shudder.
But for tonight, I will ‘sleep in the coolness of snug unawareness.’