I made something happen on Monday. I planned it. I organized it. I executed the event. All me. All by myself. For the first time in 22 months, I independently managed something. And it worked out just fine.
This was successful not only because of my actions, but also because of Mary’s inaction. At my request, she let me handle the details. She didn’t point out all the reasons why it might be a bad idea. She didn’t hover, she didn’t micromanage – she gave me space to succeed or fail on my own. For that, I give her thanks.
I am in the process of creating a pottery studio in my garage. Through a combination of good-deal sniffing and obsession, I found a kiln for sale in southern New Hampshire that has computer controls and was in my price range. The deal also included many extras – clay, glaze, kiln furniture – basically a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t have to buy separately. After emailing and a 30 minute phone conversation, I made a date for November 23rd to drive down and pick up my new studio components.
I didn’t know if I could make the drive – I was really not sure. I did everything possible to prepare for it, but I haven’t driven for more than an hour at a time since my injury. Now, I planned to drive 6 1/2 hours over the course of one day. By myself.
Since no one would be with me, I didn’t have to talk to anyone. There was no negotiation of driving times, what was or wasn’t on the radio, when stops needed to happen – nothing. It was just me, and what I wanted and needed, and the road. A successful environment.
I also made a point of not being in a rush anywhere. I gave myself 5 hours to make a 3 hour 20 minute drive. I promised my body stops every hour for as long as needed to reset myself to clearheaded.
I was scared. I wasn’t sure A + B would equal C, but I was frikkin done with not-doing. So, I decided to make the trip into an adventure. My karate teacher always told me that when you feel fear in your belly and chest, tell yourself that it is excitement and you’ll feel better. I was excited for the journey.
Start Place: Grand Isle, Vermont
Time: 7:02 am
Weather: Cool and clear
Destination: Hollis, NH by noon… and back
My adventure begins.
I stopped 11 minutes later to take this picture
To add to the fun, I decided to record voice memos of my thoughts along the drive. I am so often focused on the moment that I forget what the heck I did an hour ago. This was definitely an issue before my head injury. The knock to the head has just made it much more exaggerated.
I was also curious what I might think about while driving. It has only been this past eight or ten months that there has been extra energy to think while driving (as opposed to completely focus every second on the road). But, like most people, whatever might go through my head isn’t something I write down or remember later. So, my trip as described in voice memos:
0725: Drove by a 18 wheeler marked with D018 and wondered what the toxic substance it might be carrying. The company associated with the truck was a chicken farm. Later investigation – D018 denotes benzene.
0732: I use to be tempted by those medical transcription jobs. The incentive of good pay, the technical nature of the work, and the dull repetitive reality of the gig felt safe. Realization that in some ways, that is exactly the type of work I pursued, the difference is that the work is in my field. Hmmm…
0744: Considered the term “in danger of hunger” and came up with the spinoff “in danger of thinking” – identified when someone is using their brain for something other than routine activity and no electronic device is involved. Expect some argument from smartphone users claiming they are actually doing quality thinking while surfing the web and interfacing with their personal electronic. With the scattered nature of attention in 95% of those cases, I find that smartphone use does not qualify. The overall point being that most Americans don’t actually spend very much time each day using their brain in a quality way, myself included.
0752: Driver in front of me cleans their windshield. A huge stream of fluid leaps over their car and splats itself all over my field of vision. Hah. Are those designed that way?
0757: I become conscious of a feeling of fear. It comes and goes, but is set off by being surrounded on all sides by cars hurtling through the world at 75 mph. Feeling my vulnerability, how one screw up by any one of these drivers can kill us all. Knowing that most head injuries come from automobile related accidents.
0802: A celebration of my first hour of driving. An verbalized struggle to determine whether to put on an audiobook to make the time go by. I decide no, because I know my brain won’t be quite as sharp as it would be otherwise, and I want to conserve my mental ability for as long as possible.
0804: Awareness that every choice I make effects the outcome of my experience. I have spent much time and subconscious energy on not acknowledging the power of my choice. Since my injury, I have played with a much smaller deck, so every action is much easier to connect with an outcome. When was the last time that I felt, that I truly understood, that my choices completely, utterly, totally matter?
0811-0824: First rest stop in Randolph, Vermont
0838: Noticing that a lot fewer thoughts are going through my mind. Few big feelings or chatter. First layer of umph for the journey is done. Mile 15 on Hwy 89 in Vermont.
0846: Found myself dwelling on how to ask for a smartphone at work for its navigational ability. Traveling for work last week made me realize that… well… I need navigation assistance to find our armories throughout the state. I can’t just rely on myself to “know” or “remember” where something is. Even with printed out directions (what I am using today), I have to have the mental energy to remember the next step in the directions. Heck, when I am fatigued, I can’t rely on myself to know where I am or what year it is. Electronic assist is necessary.
0902: Hour two of my journey, and I break into impromptu song:
This is an adventure
Yes it is
Every mile falls away in fun
This is an adventure
Yes it is
I can’t wait until this adventure is done.
On this adventure
that goes on and on
I’m singing my song
I’m singing my song
On this adventure
that never ends
And, well, it just goes on from there. Who doesn’t sing to themselves in the car, right?
0917-0948: Break #2, 149 miles down. I give myself reiki, nap, walk around a bit, then on the road again.
1013: Blood pressure spikes as I get onto I-93S with more and more cars around me. I am tired, I know I am not as alert and might miss something, so I deliberately concentrate on paying attention. Driving in traffic didn’t use to bother me. Now, it is more variables to watch and try to react to. All this while consulting my written directions to hit the correct turnoffs.
1051: The directions aren’t making sense to me, and I think I might have passed my exit. I take the next exit, push myself to find a quiet place to park while staying safe. I consult the directions – still don’t make sense. Consult a New Hampshire map I picked up at the rest stop. I could be one of three or four places. I take a moment to close my eyes. Have some chips. Drink some water. Look again. Ahhh, right – now I know where I am. One more exit before my turn, so I just need to jump back on the highway. If I was at full strength, it would have been obvious. Not so when I am already tired with almost four hours of travel.
1106-1130: Lunch time. Acknowledge to myself that I started to get really foggy once the landscape changed to urban congestion. Rest, reiki, drink caffeinated coca cola.
1130-1152: Last stretch, pull into driveway. Lucky I had taken the 30 minutes to reset, else the four vigorous dogs who roll out the front door, barking, might have sent me over the edge.
1152-1302: Visit nine CUTE baby sheepdogs. See kiln. Stand by and watch as an older man in his 60s with arthritis hauls everything around the house and puts it in my car… while I watch, and carry this or that little thing. Because I can’t risk lifting something too heavy and giving myself a headache when I still have the long trip home to consider. So hard to keep my get-it-done attitude in check, but I do – I’ve had a lot of practice over the past two years. It is these moments where it is hard not to hate myself, my weakness.
1328: Left, sitting back by the lunch place to recover. Rest rest rest, and start the exciting adventure of driving home!
The rest of the journey continued as expected. Slow and stead won this race. I listen to an audiobook on the way home – any deep thinking definitely done for thi trip, and I didn’t need to be articulate for anyone else today. I kept taking small bites out of a granola bar with caffeine to fuel my concentration and energy for the remaining hours of the drive.
In short, I managed myself and my ability in an effective, sustainable, and successful manner.
1718 (5:18 pm): I pull into the driveway. I am home. I did it. I did it.
And I am still functional.