Cars Cars Cars

I shift the seat forward a little bit, making sure I can reach the pedals. I adjust the rearview mirror and side mirrors, and try to find a comfortable angle for the seat back.  After a few minutes of shifting and frustration, even getting out of the car to adjust the headrest, I give it up.  But I came here to test drive this car, and damn I am going to test drive this car, uncomfortable seat or not.

So I do.  I take the 2015 Nissan Rogue for a spin.  It’s decently priced, with low miles and the features I’ve decided I need. Since it’s a dealership instead of a used car place, the saleswoman joins me on my test drive.  It’s a bit awkward having someone with me while I try to assess a vehicle, although thankfully she doesn’t talk much or try for a hard sell.  She directs me along a path that I’ve driven before, the same path I was directed along by another dealer, in another car, earlier this week.

The Rogue is unremarkable.  It’s fine.  That’s about as warm as I can get.  Road noise is louder than in the Ford Fusion I drove earlier this week. The ride is relatively smooth, smoother than the Pontiac Vibe I drove three weeks ago.  Visibility is decent, gadgets are fine, the saleswoman is competent. I’ve never considered a Nissan before, but Consumer Reports – an independent organization that assesses vehicles and other consumer goods – has given the Nissan Rogue a good review and reliability rating for the 2010-2015 models, so I thought I’d try it out.

The uncomfortable seat, though, doesn’t get more comfortable.  And it’s hard for me to seriously consider a vehicle that isn’t even comfortable to sit in.  After the test drive, I thank the saleswoman and take my leave.  Another car to cross of my list, just like I crossed off the Toyota RAV4 last week.

Cars cars everywhere, and not one I’m sure I want.

When I started my car-buying journey back on February 3rd, it quickly became clear how much information was out there and how many decisions I needed to make. Price, make and model, features, age, miles, reliability – on and on and on.

Honestly, in my normal life, I don’t think about cars.  Not even a little bit.  If it gets me from point A to point B and doesn’t need a lot of repairs – it’s a good car, or good enough. What else is there to say?

But it turns out, there is a lot more to say. I have come to realize my priorities have changed, and changed significantly.  My belief that bad things will pass me by, that bad, life-changing things can’t and won’t happen to me… well, that youthful innocence is gone, now.  After four years healing from a concussion that never went away, and a second hit on the head making it impossible for me to continue to work, I now know weird little injuries, strange happen-chance accidents, can be life-changing.  And that has made me re-prioritize my car-buying choices.

Safety.  That is my number one concern.  I mean, I and everyone else who drives a car acknowledges safety is important, but now it is different.  Now, it is really really important I not get into another car accident.  Or, if I do get into one, that I am as protected as possible.  Another concussion, another hit on the head, could be catastrophic – plain and simple. I envision losing cognitive ability permanently, adult daycare, home health aids and other stuff I never want to have happen.

That is terrifying.  Really terrifying.

So, safety.  What is safe, and how much does safe cost?  Which of the safety features out there actually matter? What is just expensive fluff? I turned to Consumer Reports (CR) to help me choose what I need in a new-to-me car.  And it provided some answers.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) has been proven to prevent accidents and rollovers.  It came onto the scene in 2007 and became required in vehicles in 2012.  For Subaru Foresters, it only became standard in 2009.  It was offered for the 2007 Subaru Forester (my current car), but only at a higher trim level. Some vehicles have had it standard starting in 2007 – like the Honda CR-V – and some waiting until it was required in 2012.  CR conveniently provides a list of all recommended vehicles and when they adopted that technology.  So, my new car needs to be at least 2007 and may need to be even newer depending on the precise make and model of the vehicle.

Another safety feature to look for is side curtain airbags.  My 2007 Forester has a side airbag – like a pillow – carefully located so my head will bounce off it in case of a side impact.  I found a picture at


My 2007 Subaru Forester’s airbags. Good thing my head will hit that little pillow during an accident. Poor Jimmy in back is SOL.

Here is a picture of a side curtain airbag, which Mary’s 2011 Honda Fit has for both front and back passengers.


Ahh, no flying glass inside the cabin here. Thank goodness. A safer option.

CR agrees, side curtain airbags are the way to go.

There is a lot of new safety technology out there – automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring. And, it seems like it’s really great.  My reality is, though, that I am on a fixed income… a limited income… and cars that new, with that many options, are simply outside of my price range.  I’m not going to worry about what I can’t change, so I’ll set those newer safety features aside to consider during the purchase of my next used vehicle.

So, I’m looking for a 2007 or newer vehicle with ESC and side curtain airbags.

Next, I consider whether to go with an all wheel drive (AWD) or front wheel drive (FWD) vehicle. I know what I want – I want an AWD vehicle.  But do I actually need it?  Times have changed.  I no longer live at the end of a long dirt road up a hill.  Now, I park every night perhaps 15 feet from a main road that is maintained, plowed, and salted on a regular basis. My injury has limited my movement and activity significantly.  I don’t go out much at night, I rarely drive on a dirt road, and if it’s truly bad weather, I just stay home.  That sort of lifestyle doesn’t need AWD to get by.  Rather, why not save thousands of dollars and simply go with FWD? In that spirit, I test drove a Toyota Corolla and it seemed fine.

Then I road around the Islands a bit with Mary in her Honda Fit – a FWD vehicle – and saw how her driving experience was different from my AWD driving experience. Every layer of snow blown onto the road, every ice patch, every uneven questionable traction situation required her attention.  She had to think, consider, judge what was needed to stay safe – slowing down, stopping, changing her route.  She had to use mental energy and flexible thinking to problem solve situations in real-time.

Seriously not my strong point, post mTBI.

I don’t want to invest that added level of consideration, judgment, decision-making into my driving experience. Rather, I need to make driving as easy as possible. There are still days I just don’t have the energy to drive safely – the concentration and awareness of my surroundings are simply beyond me. The last thing I need is to make driving more difficult, make it so I can only drive where I want 80% of the time, instead of 90-95% of the time. Easier is better. AWD it is. Next issue.

Like every car buyer in the world, I want a car that is reliable.  Again, I turned to CR and their car analysis.  They provided a convenient two page spread of all the most reliable vehicles, and what years they are reliable,and also specific cars to avoid that have had higher than usual problems.  I used that as a starting place, determined which recommended ones have AWD, and started looking.

And that is why I just test drove a Nissan Rogue, a car I didn’t even know existed until a few weeks ago. And a Subaru Legacy between 2010 and 2014.  And that Ford Fusion – another car I didn’t know existed – which had 2012, 2015 and 2016 as good years.

It has been satisfying, my friends, to turn fully into this task.  Realizing I can only focus on one thing at a time has given me the freedom to really focus on that one thing.  And it feels good to be making progress, one test drive at a time.

Hopefully, soon, this can be done.  I do want to get back to the rest of my life as soon as possible. Writing, friendships, household projects.  Thankfully, though, my life is such that I have the freedom to focus. And, since I have the freedom to focus, I have the ability to succeed.  I thank the universe for that blessing.

Wish me luck finding that perfect used car with ESC, side air bags, AWD, low miles, the right price and a newish year.  Hopefully it won’t be too long in coming.

Blessed be.

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“Love, you are impaired.” Mary says calmly as we sit on the couch together.

I feel my body unconsciously twitch away, denying that truth.

“You are impaired.”

This time my eye twitches, but I feel something resonating deep in my chest like a strummed guitar string.  Good. Something buried is rising to the surface.

“You are impaired and disabled; that is why you cannot work.” she says, looking at me directly in the eye.

It’s working.  I feel the sadness start to rise in my chest; the tears soon follow.  She holds me as I cry, stroking my head and saying soothing things.

This is part of what we do for each other.  I’ve been cut off from myself for the past few weeks, escaping into tasks and things that sooth the mind. I’ve been passing the time, not living it. After so many years, I am familiar with my patterns.  I know – even if I don’t know – when something is bothering me, based on my avoidance behavior. Avoid dealing with it, avoid feeling, avoid connecting. In the short term it can work, but it also makes my connection to life and myself so tenuous, so flat and two dimensional.  I try not to lose months or years there anymore.  Now, it is only weeks.

It percolated up through my subconscious today that I might be deeply upset about my neuropsych testing at Dartmouth a few weeks ago.  I told Mary that calmly, because I couldn’t touch the actual feelings.  And she helped me bring it to the surface to feel and flow out of my life.  Immediately after crying and feeling those yucky feelings, I felt better, more connected.  Quite helpful.

And, I mean, the neuropsych testing went fine.  It went great.  It went so much more smoothly than it might have otherwise, because my friend Blaze offered to drive me to and from my appointment on her day off.  That made it just a long day – two hour drive each way, 6 hours of testing there.  That’s a lot, but so much more manageable than the three day affair it was turning into as I considered how I’d do it on my own.

On my own would have involved me driving myself the two hours there the afternoon before, staying the night and doing the testing the next day.  Then, resting another night so I could drive home safely on day three.  That’s a lot – not even considering the detail laden, energy intensive planning necessary for me to travel alone.  Every stop planned, every meal decided on and written down beforehand, every map printed and studied before driving.  So much work.  But, thankfully, avoided with the help of a friend.  Thanks Blaze!

The actual neuropsych testing… that was rough. It was tiring.  More, it was the failing, over and over again. It was having testing be a heavy, tedious thing that I wasn’t good at.  Tests that, truly, did not compliment my ability.

Of course, that’s the point.  I look forward to the results in another three weeks or so.  I’m curious where my cognitive deficits are now.

Yet, damn.  I’m use to acing standardized tests, without effort.  Hell, pretty much any test.  And this was a reminder that that just isn’t me anymore.

Testing, in the past, was my comfort zone.  I am use to interacting with the tester as an equal.  I suppose that sounds arrogant, but there is a certain way tester and testee interact when they both see each other as competent adults.  A certain tone, a certain energy.  And my testing started that way, because – heck – that’s how I expect things to be.  But it changed, as time went on.  As my shine wore thin.  As I made mistakes and stumbled and had to be corrected over and over on tests that I know – in a previous life – I would have completed with flying colors.

What upset me the most were the tests I’d done before.  Eleven months after my first brain injury in 2014, I had a neuropsych evaluation done locally.  I came back as “average”.  To them, that meant I was fine and that there was nothing they could do.  It didn’t matter that I was use to “exceptional”.  It didn’t matter that I went from the 98% percentile to the 50% percentile, cuz that was good enough.  No, that didn’t help me at all.

The testing I did two weeks ago included a few tests I remember doing back in 2014. This time, though, the experience was quite different.

One test involved picking up these small key-shaped rods and sliding them one-handed into slots facing a variety of directions.  I found a picture of it online:


I remember doing the test in 2014, and having it be a breeze.  It was quick and easy and no problem.  Not so much, this time. It was rather disturbing to watch my right hand struggle to slide the key into the slot correctly. As I went down the line, my hand started shaking from the strain of making it happen.

Dude.  Quite upsetting to struggle so much with something that was so easy and thought-less before.

The second test I remember from 2014 was creating designs using white and red blocks. Each block had sides that were all white, all red, and some half and half.


The Wechsler Block Design Test

She’d show me an image and I needed to duplicate it. Again, last time, I remember it being easy.  The last image, specifically, I remember. In 2014, I completed it much more quickly than the tester expected – less than 10 seconds. She wasn’t prepared for me to say “done” and had to scramble to stop the timer. I felt pretty proud of that, actually. This time…well, this time I did eventually finish it. But it definitely didn’t take 10 seconds. Maybe a minute or so? But to know that I once knew how to do this without effort… that made it twice as frustrating when I couldn’t solve it and had to begin over again and again.

So much lost, from my continuing to work.  So much lost, from my second mTBI.  So much lost, from what I once had.

The last thing from the testing that upset me was the math story problems.  Talk about bringing me back to fourth grade.  Again, something I use to kill at, pre-injury.  Once upon a time, math was my specialty.  Actually, anything with numbers. Numbers and I have always been friends. After my injury, it’s been much harder to figure numbers reliably in my head.  But, my basic comfort with numbers is there… and I guess, my expectation that I can solve math problems when asked.

Guess not.  No, that’s not fair.  I did okay.  Pretty good even.  I started flailing towards the end, knowing my mind wasn’t holding the numbers correctly in my head.  The last one she gave me stuck, because I knew I should know the answer.

Sandra rides her horse for 60 minutes every day.  Today, she rode her horse 15% less. How long did she ride her horse today?

I think what killed it was that it is a two-parter.  First, you have to figure out 15%. I got that, waveringly, in my head. Second, you need to subtract that amount from the 60 minutes (answer = 51 min for those who are curious).  I couldn’t remember what to do with the number once I had done the multiplication.  When I tried to remember the next step, I lost the first number and had to start over again.  Over and over again.

So frustrating.  I don’t give up easily, though, so I would have still been there trying to figure it out if she hadn’t insisted time was up.


On the plus side, I had been very concerned that I would test too well – too competent. I didn’t want to fight to still have time and space to heal. Hah.  In retrospect, clearly not a concern.  Just more data to support my current life, focused on healing and connecting.

But that doesn’t stop me from being upset – deeply upset – about my current truth.

I am impaired. I am impaired. I am impaired.

There is no shame in that. It just is.

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One Thing At A Time

Life is rolling, rolling along and I feel fine.

Things are good. I am here. Life is manageable.


It’s winter, but my prickly pear has started growing a new arm!

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve magically healed from my brain injuries. Nor that I’ve even had a jump in healing or a marked improvement in the last few weeks. Rather, life is feeling good because who I am and who I expect myself to be have lined up just a little bit more completely.

I figured something out. Another little piece of the puzzle, another little help along the way to making my mTBI recovering life just a bit more bearable. Want to know what it is?

It is this simple truth:

I can only do one thing at a time.

That’s it. That’s the long and short of it.

I can only do one thing at a time.

Now, I’ve known that’s true on the small scale. I can’t multitask around the house.  It just leads to headaches and frustration and tears. I don’t try anymore.

What has changed my life is realizing this truth on a larger scale. On a big scale, I can only do one thing at a time. Large actions, large ideas, large issues can only be handled one by one. Any significant action or life changing decision can only be considered and felt and dealt with one at a time. Period.

I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me. That’s not how life works.

But that’s how I work, now. And the sooner I can acknowledge that, accept that, and plan for that – the happier we will all be.

There is a reason I have been labeled impaired, disabled. I don’t think Social Security is sending me checks every month just because I felt like a few years’ vacation. Hah.

No, they’re paying me because I can’t work. I’m not working because there are things I just can’t do right now. A lot of things.

What’s amazing is that even after four years, I am still discovering the ways that I am impaired. No, I’m not getting worse. No, I haven’t re-injured myself. Rather, I mean I am becoming more skilled. I am becoming more able to first perceive I have an executive functioning issue and second to articulate it to myself and others.

Gods, that is like 95% of the challenge in brain injury world. First to perceive what it is that is off, and then to find words to tell someone else.

If I could have told myself, or told Mary, what was wrong with me after I was injured… that would have saved both of us years of anger and frustration and resentment. She didn’t understand the level of help I needed. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t helping me, but I couldn’t explain what I needed or why I needed it because I was too confused.

Gods, what a nightmare. For everyone.


Okay. Now, back to what I was originally talking about. I have realized I can only do one “big” thing at a time. So how does that play out in my life? Let’s look at the last bit of time.

From the beginning of the year until the date of my injury anniversary (January 25th), I was dealing with the reality that I experienced a life-changing injury four years ago. I was angry, I was sad, I was bitter. I had all sorts of emotions and thoughts bubbling beneath the surface of my consciousness, and I did my best during that time to hear my inner self and process through my emotions. During that time period, that was the only big thing I could focus on. I wrote a blog post, the day came and went, and I put that anniversary to bed in my mind.

Once that was taken care of, I could move on to the next thing. I spent from about January 26th to this past Friday integrating my entire self behind changing my name. I have been considering changing my name on and off for the past five months or so. I’ll write more about this later in another blog post… soon. This past Friday, I initiated the name change process. Another big thing done. Now it can sit on the shelf until the court does it’s part and it’s time for me to take further action.

That meant I was free to move on to the next issue in my life – my car. My damned car. It is a lemon. Not a legally-actionable-level lemon, but definitely a lemon. It just turned over 100,000 miles and it needs thousands of dollars worth of work. A new noise, a new smell, a new vibration seems to pop up every week, and I feel like it is a ticking time bomb. I need to trade it in or sell it, and get an affordable, working, reliable car as soon as possible. That is what is currently taking all my mental energy, and likely will for a while.


The antagonist in this part of the story.

Once I’ve dealt with that issue, there will be something else to take its place. New medical treatments, taxes, a new bed, travel to see family, money management, house repairs… on and on and on. All of it needs my attention. Half of it needed my attention last month. And none of these things can be dealt with right now. Because I am dealing with one thing – and only one thing – at a time. Because that is all I can do.

So I set aside all concerns, thoughts, problem solving urges, and actions for all other situations in my life, so I have the energy and capacity to handle one situation in my life.

I now, truly, have a one track mind.

And now that I know that, I – surprisingly – feel a lot better about everything. It suddenly makes sense. I don’t need to figure out a bunch of things. I just need to figure out what is most urgent or most important to me, and focus on that. As long as everything else won’t explode or kill anyone – it can wait. Really. It can wait. I know that isn’t pleasant for the people in my life, or people who want or need things from me… but that is the best I can do.

I remember a time, a time long ago now, where I could figure out my car repairs, roller derby practice, divorce papers, medical care, and the plans for my next trip all at once. All at once! On and on and on, I just kept adding things to figure out. And I did it. I could juggle it all, keep all those balls in the air.

And now I can’t. And that just is. It bothers me, when I think about it, that it takes me a year to do what a healthy person can accomplish in a month. Hell, in two weeks. So I don’t think about it.

I just accept what is true for me now, and focus on that. Now that I’m not trying to do more than one thing at a time, I am a lot happier. I feel so much more in control of my life. It is simpler, when there are fewer choices. My main choice is what problem I will deal with. It isn’t how I will manage all the stuff that needs to get done. It isn’t me trying to use every moment of every day to make what I want happen. It isn’t complex and energy intensive.

It’s one thing. One thing at a time. That, my friends, I can handle.

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Four Years and Counting

Four years ago today, I was at a roller derby scrimmage.  Actually, I wasn’t just “at” a scrimmage, I was skating in a roller derby scrimmage.  Right around this time, I was jamming and had just burst through the pack.  Only one defender left to pass – I can do this.  Around the curve of the track we make contact.  And suddenly I am flying through the air and land on my shoulder and neck, the back of my helmeted head striking the concrete with force.

That simple moment, and my life changed.  Literally, nothing has ever quite looked or felt the same since.  I got a concussion.  I went to the doctor, was told to avoid computer screens and ibuprofen for a few weeks, and I should be fine.  That was four years ago today.  What actually happened was my concussion symptoms never went away.  At least not yet.  Since that first brain injury, I haven’t been able to work full time.  A second head hit two years ago sealed the deal, and I had to stop working altogether.

Four years.  That’s a long time.  A long time.  That’s enough time to earn a bachelor’s degree, get a few promotions, or grow a three year old child.

Each of these last four years, I have written a blog post on the anniversary of my injury.  The first year, I detailed what actually happened and what it had already cost me (check it out here A Year Later).  The second year, I realized my old self, my old life was dead.  Plus, I kept track of costs (read it here I’m Turning 2). The third year, keeping track of the money I’d lost was too depressing, so I focused on qualitative losses and gains (link here Three Years Down)

This year, what am I writing about?  Well, let me start with this little fact.  I have been injured almost 10% of my life (9.52381% for those detail-oriented like me). 10% of my life!  Crazy, right?


So, for those of you new to mTBIs, new to this blog – what did hitting my head twice win me?

Fatigue, impaired memory, headaches, confusion, fogginess, noise and light sensitivity, stuttering, poor balance. Trouble starting and finishing projects, an inability to problem solve. Forgetting words, inadvertent word substitution (how many things can I honestly call “potato”? 5? 20? My brain has no limit). Trouble keeping track of activities, appointments, the pot bubbling on the stove.  Having to have a conversation over and over again – What, you are going out this evening?!? – because I forget it, over and over again.

It sucks, definitely.  When I allow myself to think about it, I get angry.  Bitter.  Resentful of the doctors who didn’t give me the direction I needed to protect my brain after my injury.  Angry at the world for having things go so wrong.  Bitter about my slow healing.

And, I’m alive.  Not how I wanted to be, not how I planned to be, but I am alive. And sometimes you just have to take what you can get.

I struggled for years after my first injury to keep my job, to remain independent, to live how I use to live.  And I failed at it.  I failed at it every single day.  And I got angry at myself for failing, like somehow I had suddenly stopped “trying” hard enough, stopped wanting to participate in my life.  Like it was a deliberate choice, instead of just my capacity and ability having drastically and abruptly changed.  Like, if I tried hard enough, wanted it enough, pushed myself far enough, I’d be able to stay who I was before my injury and meet the demands of my daily life.

From this side of things, it’s like – duh – of course you can’t keep doing what you usually do when your ability shifts from being the size of a bucket loader to the size a teacup.  Of course you won’t be able to do the same things, lead the same life, carry the same loads.  Of course not.

And without exception, I tried.  And tried hard.  And I tried for as long as I could.  Until I couldn’t anymore, and had to adjust my life and expectation to what was actually going on.


No more stormwater inspections for me.

Fast forward four years.  I’ve adjusted to my new life, my new abilities.  I live day to day, not looking ahead, not looking behind.  I do my best to keep all my energy and attention for today, because that’s all I can manage.  I set my expectations small, so small.  But that means, most days, I can meet those expectations.  And on rough day, or bad days, I just shrug and know I can’t do those things, and that’s okay.  Because another day with come.  If it’s not tomorrow, then the day after, where I will be able to do a few small things.  I just have to be patient.

It sounds really depressing when I write that here.  In reality, it has been a life saver.  After failing over and over again, every day for years, it’s really nice to pile up a bunch of wins in my column.  I succeed most days.  That makes me happy.  Yes, that means I have to celebrate the little things – making a phone call, cooking dinner, participating in a medical appointment.  But it means I have something to celebrate, something to feel good about, and every person needs that.

So, in case you’re wondering, most of the time I’m happy.  Or at least at peace.


I definitely wouldn’t have had time to keep bees in my past life.

I’ve spent the last week or so thinking about this anniversary.  When I wasn’t thinking about it, my subconscious sure was.  I could feel myself start to fill with anger and sadness.  When I actually allow myself to recognize the change in my ability, to know the truth of my limitations, bitter disappointment and dissatisfaction fill me.  I hate my life.  I hate my limitations.  I hate all the ways I have to accommodate my impairment, or ask others to accommodate me, every single frikkin day.  It’s enough to drive one to insanity or self destruction. Mostly, I try not to know these things, these truths.  It just makes life too hard. But anniversary #4 wouldn’t let me ignore it, at least for this short stretch of time.  Writing this post brings everything to the surface, makes me face my life and what is going on, or not going on.

Don’t get me wrong, I am healing.  I am healing slowly.  Very slowly.  If my brain healing continues at this same pace, I expect I’ll be ready for a part time job… in about 20 years. No joke. Maybe 30.  I assure you, that’s not a good fucking feeling.

Anger and bitterness prompted me to take action.  I contacted a new care provider, this time a chiropractor that helped a brain injured friend of mine.  I already see a great chiropractor, but somehow this one is going to make a difference in my life.  And, I hope he does.  I hope his xrays and precision alignment of my head and neck give me more energy, make me less foggy, improve my life in some way.  I am very much open to improvement.  Of course, most of it I expect won’t be covered by insurance. Why do new brain recovery treatments always cost hundreds or thousands of dollars? Good thing I have plastic I can flex, if needed. Sigh.

So, that’s where things stand. Another new treatment.  Another year has passed.

And I’ll just keep putting along, like I do.  Living day to day.  Focusing on the positive, sometimes aggressively, to keep my life livable.  It’s good to visit the dark feelings, to shake one’s fist at the heavens once in a while, but damn I just can’t live there.  I choose not to live there.  And maybe, someday, things will be different.

Blessed be.

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Happy 2018!  I’m amazed it is already the new year.  I spent more than half my life waiting for it to become the year 2000 – incidentally the year I turned 25 – and since then time just seems to keep speeding by.


My first dawn of 2018

My biggest gift and my biggest surprise so far this year is something simple.  I know it is 2018.  I know it is 2018 without even trying.  I know it isn’t 2017, or 2016, or 2014… it is definitely 2018.

That’s pretty great, in my book.  The best part is that it isn’t something I had to work at.  I didn’t plan it.  I didn’t spend weeks prompting my mind to remember the year was changing.  No, it was organic.  It just happened.  2018.  Simple as that.

For years – since my first brain injury in 2014 – I have been adrift in time.  My mind has floated in a sea of darkness, without time landmarks to anchor me in place.  I could have been anywhere, any time.  Functionally, most of the time it doesn’t matter.  I mean, how often does someone ask you what year it is?

It hasn’t bothered me, this lack.  My days have and are condensed down to this moment, and this next one, without energy to worry about placing this moment’s experience into the context of the whole of time. If nothing else, I am an efficient woman at my core.  I jealously guard my energy from worries about yesterday or tomorrow.  I succeed some days more than others.  In the best circumstance, I am able to spend all of this day’s energy on actions and thoughts and emotions for today.  That means not groping after a sense of time that doesn’t really add value to my ability to experience life.

But, unexpectedly, I receive this gift of knowing the year.  2018.  That’s nice.

I wonder why.  Why now?  Why this year?

The most optimistic interpretation is that I’m healing.  I mean, I know I am healing – slowly, painfully slowly, but I am healing.  And perhaps this knowing of the year – being aware when the date changed, and writing it seamlessly in my journal and HBOT tracking sheet – perhaps this is just one more sign of how some small part of my brain is back in it’s proper place.  If so, that’s great.  I’m happy for all the little improvements that make up my changing life.

Alternately, it could simply reflect a level of acceptance of my injury. A year ago, I was actively confused about the year – was it 2014, 2017, 2016? (check out my post here: Goodbye 2016).  Now, I haven’t worked for 1 1/2 years.  I have finally stopped fighting, trying to be someone I no longer am.  I have allowed my shame and guilt at being different and less than I was fall away (most of the time).  I have given myself permission to just “be” day-to-day without my worth being directly related to the number and quality of tasks I complete.  Now, after all that evolution, maybe I can allow myself to know the year.  Maybe I am no longer stuck in being who I was in 2014 or 2015 or 2016.  Maybe now, since I mostly accept my impaired and limited life, what year it is can just be known to me.

Maybe that is what is going on.

And who knows, this might be a passing moment of clarity.  Healing from my mTBIs has not been a linear path.  Perhaps tomorrow, for no apparent reason, I will lose this anchor in reality.  Or, perhaps, next week I’ll overextend myself and this knowledge will be one of the little bits of myself I lose again.  I don’t know.  Really, I can’t know.  I do not have control over what I can or can’t do each day.  I mean, I have control whether I rest or overdo it.  But, there is no linear relationship, no A+B=C, that guarantees functionality.  If I rest, I am not automatically gifted with more energy, or a clearer thought pattern.  Resting does increase my chances I might get one or both of those things, but it is definitely no guarantee.  Try planning your life when you can’t promise anyone any action, any level of functionality.  It takes a bit of getting use to.

Right now, at least, I know the year. 2018.  I have a handle on my position in the universe – I am oriented to time and space, at least for the moment.  And that’s a positive thing.

The future?  The future will take care of itself.  All I can do is show up every day.

These past months, I’ve been enjoying the restfulness of winter.  The snow and cold are great motivation to stay inside and rest.  This year (all 4 days) have been very cold so far.  Here was the temperature at 7 am Tuesday morning (before the sun comes up in Vermont at this time of year):



Happy new year.  I know it will get warmer, eventually.  Just like I will heal, eventually.  And through it all, time keeps marking on, one day at a time.

Blessed be.


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Derby Reclamation

Life is such a funny mixture of things. Most of it is details, grinding daily details that are unimportant and as alike as grains of sand. Sprinkled within that daily grind are moments, seconds sometimes, of clarity and experience that change my life. Those unplanned moments make a new path possible, a new reality true. Like most people, I don’t realize those important moments until they have sped by me and I’m left looking back at them as they fade away on the horizon. That was true for me at the derby bout I attended precisely one month ago. It’s taken me all this time to process what happened, what I learned, what has changed.

First, some background.  I played roller derby, joyously, for five years.  My career ended abruptly with a concussion whose symptoms never went away.  A second brain injury from a can falling on my head (!) made it impossible for me to work at all.  Losing derby – the playing, the skating, the hitting – was devastating.  Derby was the core of my life at that time, and then so abruptly… not.  I couldn’t cope with one more loss, with so many losses from brain injury already suffocating me.  I cut myself off from the sport, the people, that aspect of myself.  I edited derby out of my life and tried to move forward.  And the years passed.

Until a recent opportunity to attend an alumni derby bout changed that.  I guess, on some level, I was finally ready to experience some resolution around roller derby and it’s place in my life. After much consideration and fraught feelings (expressed here: Derby Drama), I decided to attend.  Heck, after all that crying and grief it would have been seriously anti-climatic not to.  So I did.

And I’m glad I did.

It went well.  I arrived, I attended, I talked to people, I enjoyed derby, and I drove home safely.  Yes, I was overwhelmed, confused, and drifted like a rudderless boat.  Yes, there were things I wish I had done differently, or things I didn’t do that I wish I had.  Yes, I ended up feeling like crap for three days afterwards.  But I had fun, saw friends, and for one night didn’t feel so alone.  That is worth it in my book.


Hey look – there I am after the bout!     Photo by Mark Eley Photography

I appreciated everyone who made a point to welcome me, hug me, and generally make me feel wanted.  It was great to feel like I belonged.  Thank you.  That was really kind of you all.  It felt wonderful to be greeted and included so warmly; exactly what I needed.

My whole relationship with derby shifted that night.  First, there was seeing derby as a spectator, and realizing how different that is from playing.  Second, there was realizing I didn’t know most of the skaters or refs on the track. Third, there was seeing most of the people I knew from derby on the sidelines, with me.  Watching, enjoying, but not skating.  About half of the few people I recognized on the track were just back for that particular alumni bout, and would be on the sidelines with the rest of us soon enough.

Change.  Sometimes it takes me a while to recognize and accept it.  Showing up, seeing the obvious changes to the sport and the participants with my own eyes… that helped me quite a bit.  There were also a few “ah hah!” moments for me that night, a few seconds of conversation that invited life-changing clarity.

On my way out of the door, a new-to-me skater (actually a two year veteran skater) approached me and gave me a roller derby ornament.  By that point in the night, I was foggy as hell, overstimulated, and not able to process incoming information.  I knew that, so didn’t even try to get clarification about the gift nor try to remember her name.  I did chat with her a few moments, though.  As we talked, I asked her how she liked derby.  Her eyes immediately blazed with love.  Such a strong reaction, so quickly… that made me smile.  She was clearly full of passion for her sport, dedicated and suffused in positive obsession.

It had been a long time since I’d seen that in-love derby look.  There is something inspiring, being near someone with such a clear enthusiasm for something.  While I was skating, I saw that look every day.  Seeing that love in her eyes reminded me of who I use to be.  And who I no longer am.  I felt clarity in that moment, seeing adoration for derby shining out the eyes of someone younger.  Someone who had been skating for a while and still was in it completely.  Someone energetic and who has years ahead of her on the track.  I felt a moment of completion, of rightness.  Peace.  All was well.  Here was proof that the torch was being carried on.  Somehow, that moment closed the circle of my derby life.  It was done.

I am no longer that derby person, and will never be again. That path is no longer mine, and has not been mine in a while. I’ve known that. Really. And interacting with this new woman, this dedicated and skilled derby skater… that made it clearer to my deeper self, my subconscious, my heart.

Of course, I cried about it later in the car.  But that’s to be expected.

A few minutes later, I had another moment of clarity. My friend Blazey walked me to my car that night, and we talked about leaving derby.  She talked about how, in reality, leaving derby is an adjustment for everyone.  Derby takes up such a big chunk of your life while you are in it, so when you are done it leaves a big hole.  And there is nothing quite like it in the world.  So it’s a rough transition sometimes, even for those who leave voluntarily. In my case, my friend was saying, I had a particularly rough breakup.


A rough breakup.  Yes, that’s exactly what it was.  It was abrupt, unexpected, and I didn’t want our relationship to end.  Because of some serious mental impairment and energy limitations related to my brain injuries, I haven’t been able to process that.  Somehow, I’ve become that girl who is pining after a relationship that ended almost 4 years ago.  Ack.  I’ve been holding onto something that doesn’t exist anymore. The focus of my obsession has changed, evolved, and now has new intimates in her life.  This derby visit pushed me to realize that this is just another breakup.  We all go through a lot of them in our lives, with people and jobs and visions of ourselves.  This is just one more.  It isn’t the end of the world.  I can survive it.  I have survived it.

It is done. Finally. Thank the Goddess.


All that, and I only remembered to take one photo.  Ah well.  Crusher and me, celebrating 10 years of derby in Vermont.

Does it seem a contradiction to say that the bout also reminded me how much I love passionate, determined, strong-willed derby women?  Cuz it did. And I do. I want more of those sorts of women in my life. Somehow.  I’ll throw that out into the universe, and see what comes back.

If my future holds some small bit of derby in it, some peripheral association, it will be something new.  Not something old.  The past is done, and now there is only the future. My friend Drew reminded me of this quote, which I believe fits well here.

“You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on you. No man ever steps into the same river twice,  for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.”

~~Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

So, my friends, I have put an old hurt to bed.  I have made peace with my past, and perhaps freed a bit more of myself to live fully in the present and look forward to the future. What is the beauty of life, other than the opportunity to grow and change?  Blessed be.

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5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays with an mTBI (VIDEO)

The TBI Rockstars are at it again!  This time, Brie and I tackle how to handle the holidays successfully when recovering from an mTBI.  It’s important to be part of the family fun, and it is also important not to set back your healing.  We explore five things you need to do to take care of yourself and set yourself up for success.


The direct link to the video is here:

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