Everyone has a story. Often, if you really listen to someone talk, it isn’t too difficult to figure out the story they are telling themselves, telling you, telling the world every moment of every day.
For me, the easiest to identify are the victim stories – I’ve been done wrong, I’m so helpless, my experience is so utterly horrible, there is nothing I can do.
Really, there is nothing wrong with wallowing in self pity once in a while. I certainly have indulged – I expect we all have at one time or another. What gets tiring, boring, irritating is when people love their victim story so much they hold on to it. They repeat it again and again. It becomes how they view every aspect of their world.
I don’t much like seeing myself as a victim. In truth, though, I have felt powerless over and over again since I hit my head. It has been like my spirit, my life has been at the mercy of a sporadic and unknowable jailer. Sometimes I’m free, sometimes I’m limited, sometimes I can’t leave the house at all.
My story these past 23 months has been “I can’t”. I have felt weak and trapped by my body and my mind at least once every day for the last 709 days.
I can’t come to your party – head injury.
I can’t carry that heavy thing – head injury.
I can’t talk on the phone – head injury.
I can’t go to that concert – head injury.
I can’t work – head injury.
I can’t go to that restaurant – head injury.
I can’t remember to do that task – head injury.
I can’t give that training – head injury.
I can’t look at that computer – head injury.
I can’t walk that far – head injury.
I can’t remember that deep meaningful conversation we had last night – head injury.
I can’t hang out – head injury.
I can’t do that unexpected task – head injury.
I can’t hear about that sad/painful/scary thing – head injury.
I can’t shovel the walk – head injury.
I can’t do that fun impromptu event – head injury.
I can’t understand what you’re saying – head injury.
I could go on, but you get the picture. My life has been defined by can’t. I have had to tell other people and myself, over and over again, about all the ways I fall short. I gotta tell you… I am tired of hearing myself say that I can’t because of my head injury. Really tired.
I want to change my story into something more fulfilling – something that will help me heal, not something that just reminds me of all the ways I fall short of who I use to be. I refuse to be a victim of my circumstances, of my body, of my injury any longer.
Instead of blaming my negative experiences on my brain, how about I just own my limitations? It is me – ME – who is able to do something one day but not another. It is me who can’t lift heavy things. It is me who can’t read a book when there is background noise. Me. No one else.
I am nowhere near as competent as I was pre-injury. Yet, the show must go on. Right now, I am a person who misses details, who gets confused when I’m tired and who can start a task and wander off when it’s only half done. Not my “fault”, per se, but certainly my reality. Who I am now is the playing piece I have to move across this board called life. Yes, I liked the old piece a lot, and I miss her. I miss her so frikkin much that I can’t think about it. Look, though – this new piece has good stuff too, and she is the one available to me, right now, to make my dreams come true.
How about I own my choices and my limitations, instead of avoiding responsibility and blaming a past incident. How about I change my verbiage from “I can’t” to “I choose”. Because, really, I do choose. I choose every day, every moment. I have real choices. Sometimes the choices suck or aren’t what I want, or sometimes I can’t even understand them, but I do have choices.
Instead of “I can’t lift that heavy thing because of a head injury” how about just “Can you carry that inside for me?”
Instead of “I can’t go out tonight because of a head injury” how about “I’d love to go out, but I really need to rest so I can work tomorrow.”
Instead of “I can’t understand what you’re saying because of a head injury” how about “Can you repeat yourself, and speak slower?”
Damn, story changes are hard. The phrases above reflect a person who asks for help, who owns her limits, and who might need things explained multiple times. It is the voice of someone who is vulnerable. Who the fuck is that person? It’s scary to choose to be that person. So much easier to deny my responsibility for my life and push it off onto one incident that turned my life in a direction I didn’t want it to go. So much easier to still imagine myself as being that independent, accommodating, near-genius person I was for my first 38 years of my life.
But in the end, choice is better. So much better to be the captain of my own life instead of a prisoner. I am not trapped. I run my life. I have choices.