Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Testing the Waters



In this crazy thing called life that seems to quickly speed along, but also slow to a crawl at times, I often find myself wondering about the BIG moments. Where are they? What are they?

Are the big moments landing a hundred and fifty K a year job? Becoming a number one best-selling author? Finding a life-long partner in love?

I’ve been through a few jobs, I’ve written a few books, and I have been in a few relationships.

Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe they are just moments; moments to remember; moments to cherish. Like the friend in high school who stuck by my side despite others moving ahead. Despite my lack of…. Does it matter? Like the day I was able to walk out of the hospital after re-learning how to use my legs and muscles because my brain forgot what they were supposed to do.

As I take the time and really see things, I guess that moments have happened for me already; and are happening now; and will always be happening.

Not BIG, just moments. BIG isn’t for me anyway.

Jobs, writing, relationships …. Whatever, they just all happen at MY own kind of stride. The way that works for me. Because I lead with my heart, I can’t lead with my head, it just doesn’t work that way.

As I take the time and really see things, I realize that those moments, for me, come at a cautious pace. I do the things that make me feel comfortable; but no matter how many times I may have travelled a similar path, I am uncertain. And I have come to understand, that that is okay, because it is me.

I will forever be testing the waters for my moments; I just need to remember to take the time, not get caught up in the slow funk or the runaway train of life.

So whether it is a new job, a new story to tell, a new relationship; they are all just that….new. The past is the past. The present and future is new, different, unique.

I just need to breathe and tell myself:

Test the waters.

Find the moments.

Keep on going.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Colours


I see one colour but I feel another.

I have always been that guy who values the concept of the glass being half full. There is always a glimmer of good that rises from the darkness. As a guy who has grown up and lived through a variety of traumatic events, coming at him in many different shapes and from many different directions, I feel that my belief in this holds some merit. My glass half full has done battle with brain injury, cancer, death and much more in between. Those demons, they have knocked on my door and stolen moments and lives. And when this darkness has touched me, I close my eyes, and that is when I see the glass half full, that is when I see the colour silver. It is the colour silver that helps me go beyond, and it gives me a reason to smile and keep my head held high. I feel that it is the best and only alternative.

But before getting to that colour, that silver, that place of safety, comes the crying, the hating, the frustration, the yelling, the confusion, the anger; and it can last and hurt like hell. There is no time limit that can be placed upon such feelings spawned by trauma. And these things need to be felt; to be worked through, and to maybe even be held onto just a little bit so that we can remember. But if I do not allow myself to eventually see the silver, what is the point? 

I honour myself, and those touched by the trauma, to see the silver and move forward.

But the colour I feel is something different, and that is the colour purple. Can you feel a colour? Me writing this blog post should tell you my answer. I feel that the colour purple, it is the feeling of safety, of overcoming, of surviving. It is the feeling of uniqueness and creativity. I think it comes from the purple smoke stack tower that stood outside of my window, at the hospital I was in when I was sick; plagued with a viral infection. And it is not so much a vivid memory of the tall structure and its colour, but a feeling from within. 

It is because of that feeling, the purple inside, that I am given the strength. The strength to continue on and to get through the fatigue, the loneliness, the confusion, the fear.

I am a true Survivor and that survivorship, it is saturated in purple. Purple has helped my character, my accomplishments, my emotions and my sensitivities, to grow. I have overcome barriers and challenges while drenched in the hidden and underlying colour of purple. My blood, sweat and tears, my soul, all tinged with it…. I swear. I can feel it.
 
I see;

And I feel;

And I move forward.

Do you want to come with me?

Friday, June 3, 2016

ABI Candle Lit Vigil Speech


I sustained my brain injury from a viral infection that creeped its way into my head while I slept on a November night in 1978. You could say that I never really woke up from this nightmare that shadowed me throughout the years while I grew up, at home, in school, at the various jobs I held.

I’ve dealt with failure, depression, discrimination, fear, isolation, frustration, anger, feeling stupid, being called stupid.


These things still lurk around the corner. I am easily fatigued, I tend to have trouble retaining information, I work at a different pace than most, and I require certain workplace accommodations.


Trauma touched my life again in 2001 when my mom fell and hit her head, and brain injury re-introduced itself. Her life has been altered ever since. She lives with Aphasia, she is unbalanced, and she can no longer drive. She seems to even deal with the same weight lose that I do.


Brain injury, I think, can be defined as episodic, focal and diffuse, varying. It affects everyone differently, but in many ways, exactly the same.


Let’s face it, life with a brain injury, whether it is two months after the initial incident or thirty years, can suck! It can suck big time!! But, life without a brain injury can also suck just as much, if not more.


I am a guy who likes to see the glass half full, even when looking into the deepest, darkest abyss. Okay, I haven’t always been like this. But over time I have come to learn that the barriers my brain injury has brought into my life, while very frustrating at times, can also be my greatest assets.


I still get scared, I often feel lonely and confused. But a part of me has also learned to embrace that vulnerability. I have grown strong and become wise. And just like me, I think we should all have the courage to be imperfect. It can be argued too that imperfection and vulnerability are two of humanities greatest traits.


Brain injury has led to all of us feeling some sort of loss I think, a desire to get back to something. I say let go of who you think you should be, and be who you are. And don’t misunderstand; this is not the easiest thing for us to do. It took me a long time of thinking I had to be a certain way, someone that I wasn’t, to fit into the so called “norm”. I still think I get caught up in that every once and a while.


But I’ve realized something. Regardless of any mishaps or horrors, regardless of this dreaded thing, brain injury, that has become part of my life, it is my life, and life is the “norm.”


********


So, now it is time to stand up, take control of who you are, and move forward; even if it is by inches. Because this is the moment.

As I stand here, in the back of the Loyal True Blue & Orange Home, on this beautiful June day, Friday the 3rd of 2016, I take the time, even while I read these words, to appreciate and listen to the quiet noise around me. You, me, all of us; the birds, the cars, all of it. 

I think about how no one is back at home except for my dog who has probably jumped up and sleeps on my bed;
his peace being snuggled into the place where I close my eyes and have often gotten lost in dreamland. Getting lost.....mentally anyway...... something that is not too terribly hard for me to do.



It is not difficult for me to lose focus and have my brain drift off track, and so I work hard from day to day to keep it and myself on course. Often when I am alone I allow my thoughts to wander. Today I am not alone, but I still allow my thoughts to wander; and it is all good. Because this is the moment I realize that we can make our own changes to our own lives.

There are many times that I have allowed frustrations to run wildly through my body over silly things, things I don't have and things I cannot control. But when the wave of emotion rolls into the quietness of the after moment, I come to see that I don't really need more than I got and shouldn't worry about control because it will either all work out or it won't and I'll do what I have always done..... survive and keep trying.

This is the moment when you and I should take time to close our eyes and realize that we are all superstars and that we can love as much as we can be loved.


This is the moment I remind myself that happiness and success are measured and valued wrong, because they come from within ones soul and are NOT checked off from a sunshine list. And I wonder if I have reached my capabilities, my peak, or if more is coming.



Because whether it is or not, I am always going to be reaching for more.... more knowledge, more acceptance, more skill, more love, more peace.

This is the moment I stumble upon the revelation that even in my darkest hours I am surrounded by more beauty than I often acknowledge....... I think that applies to most of us.


And this is the moment I feel in my heart that I still love this sometimes angry and depressed world and I will never stop.


When I was younger, like I've already mentioned,I faced some very difficult challenges and barriers that I still see shadows of today and I know that with time they will get better but some can also get worse.



This is the moment when I can let my inner calmness fill my entire body and head so that I can breathe because there are certain factors that will make me forget but also allow me to recall on occasion.

This is the moment to laugh and to cry, to believe, to learn; learn to share, accommodate and accept. This is the moment to realize that it is alright, alright to slow down and catch a breath, to fall behind a little, to be afraid, to be different; there is nothing wrong with being different.



Frustration will come again along with its buddies confusion and depression and it is okay. The struggle sometimes felt within is just that, a struggle; neither bad nor good and only we can let it go. Let it go.


It is a time to know that forgetting and then reminding oneself of these moments, these feelings, is part of life; it is part of discovery, vivid and glorious! These moments, they can occur every day if we let them

This is why we need to cherish our moments, however small and short lived or big and stretched out; because they are all beautiful and they are all worth it. Stand tall, and be proud of who you are. Brain injury; the ups and downs; and everything that comes with it.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Wild Ones



Some may question “the Wild Ones?”

As a group we never actually hung out…. Not really. Each of them may have crossed paths and interacted on the occasion for brief moments, but mostly their lives and friendships with me remained separate from one another. In my mind though, this awesome lot of super dudes and I walked, and still walk, among each other quite often. The prerequisite for these guys to be classified by me as awesome consisted of “Hey Mark, let’s hang out.”

I mentioned all of these dudes in my Memoir, “Challenging Barriers and Walking the Path”, as they were all significant to my life in one way or another, helping to fill this confused and shaky life with some cherished memories and what I think of as great adventures and fun times.  Peter, the Finn, Surfer Dude, and Kevin.

Where are they now? The Finn is still in my life, I occasionally correspond with Surfer Dude, Peter has moved onto his own big moments, and Kevin I remain connected to through memories and family. But I often feel that we are all still together and always will be.

They have all meant more than can actually be put into words because they have helped this lost boy grow and accept. I am comfortable with my life for many reasons, but these boys, they gave, and continue to give, (even in absence) a calm comfort.

Music, theatre, dreams, fun, laughter, rebellion, mischief.  

Sitting on the surface of a half built foundation to a home while crackin’ jokes; lounging by a campfire in the rain or stacking on more and more wood to raise up the flames; singing along with eighties tunes belting out from the car radio at one AM in the morning; baking in a sauna and then running out into the dark and jumping into the cold water; surfing Styrofoam boards on three inch waves; taking a long journey into never land to recover a theatre set with little knowledge of our return and therefore throwing caution to the wind. The list of memories is long and in my heart they all run deep.

This foursome brought into my life times that presented me with laughter, clarity, meaning, excitement, tears of happiness and acceptance. They helped me rise from mistakes, overcome challenges, and feel comfort through sadness. Regardless of where we’ve gotten to now in present time, the impact is still strong. For me, these are the "Wild Ones".