Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanks for the Reminderies

I know I don't say it or or show it or even feel it enough (in fact more often than not, I'm muttering under my breath about how I just want to left alone), but I am incredibly thankful for my family and my welcoming home.

Six years ago, getting a Thanksgiving day pass from the rehab was one of the first steps toward getting me home for good. I was reminded of my good fortune a couple of times this week. 

First, I was doing a "peer visit" at the rehab -- with a man who strikingly resembled me as a patient (helmet and all) -- and was thrilled to witness he and his wife receiving that good news of a Thanksgiving pass of their own.

Even more jarring perhaps, was a visit I and a couple other members of Brain Injury Voices took to a newly-formed brain injury support group at a nearby out-patient rehab. In the audience was my last roommate at the rehab. I think I had four in total; and he was the only one to outstay me, despite or possibly because of his insistence that he didn't need to be there. Unfortunately, we didn't get to talk, and I don't know if he remembered me; but it seems that he now lives in a group home for people with brain injuries and comes to this rehab during the day.

Jordan [not his real name] was in his late 30s when we met, was divorced, a former nurse, and would receive regular visits from his mother and sister, neither of which were in a position to take him home with them. 2010 was his second stay at the rehab, after having suffered two strokes in 2008. In 2010 he had a seizure that brought him back, because  it was unclear whether he was able to properly keep up with his anti-seizure medication.

So, IF...: if I had not chosen a sedentary career at a well-established corporation with excellent benefits and a vested dedication to its employees; if I had not been married and settled into a fairly reliable and navigable house; if my parents were not gainfully retired and healthy; basically, if I had not planned my life so perfectly around having a debilitating illness at 40; if I had not kept up with my meds when I had my seizure in 2012, I most certainly could have been Jordan, sitting patiently and listening to some bozo 's pseudo-inspiring drivel about how hard work, patience and creative strategizing pay off.

So I am very thankful for everything I have, including the stupid brain that got me here.
The boys dressed up for Thanksgiving 2016, Wyatt in his cousin's old suit and Gus in my old tuxedo jacket that never quite fit me and never will again anyway.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Measured Response

My first foray into politics did not quite yield the desired results (I obviously don't have a strong swing state readership), but it was unreasonable to think it would or could.

With my disappointment over the Presidential election results, I find myself challenged by uncertainty in a way which is not unfamiliar to me but which I must approach with the same conscious and conscientious attitude I have lived every day of my life for the past six years. I single out that timeframe for the simple reason that since my stroke I have to be very planful about how I expend my extremely-limited focus and energy.

Yes, I'm disappointed in the message our country has sent itself and the world in terms of angry, fear-mongering rhetoric. But I'm still willing to accept the election results and see which Donald Trump shows up for work. I will not protest his presidency unless he tries to follow through on the hateful promises he made to sell himself as a candidate of change.

I can't back the #NotMyPresident movement, because it is just as rigid as the fear Clinton supporters had that Trump and his supporters would not accept the results of the election had he lost.

Acceptance is by no means easy. It's taken me many years to recognize that acceptance of my particular situation isn't the same as surrendering to it. As a brain injury friend reminds me whenever I bring it up, "surrenders are negotiated". Surrender is not the same as acquiescence. So, no, I'm not happy about the state of the nation, but it does me and no one else any good to assume the worst and unnecessarily expend energy railing against hypotheticals. We'll need our strength to remain vigilant and confront the realities of the world. As I learned from a Walt Whitman quote on an ex-girlfriend's Body Shop t-shirt: all you have been told ..., dismiss whatever insults your own soul....

We will get through this as long as we choose to stand by our core values and stop suspiciously eyeing each other through pinhole camera lenses.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Hashtag: Blame Is Lame

Every non-political blog I know has one entry that starts, "I usually don't talk about politics, but..." This is my such entry, as much as I think this blog has grown from a personal diary of sorts into something wholly other and so much more. So if this space offers some kind of bully pulpit beyond Facebook's preaching to the choir, I feel obligated to explain why this year's Presidential election is more personal and infuriating than any in my lifetime.

One of our candidates believes in our democracy and the power of its principles to affect real and positive change in America and the world. She is by no means perfect but admits her foibles and flaws and at times, yes, her poor judgment. She is also willing to acknowledge the advantages of being white, wealthy, and a government insider -- despite the disadvantages, discrimination, and double standards at work against someone with the gall to run for high office sans penis.

The other major party candidate is a petulant, ego-maniacal bully who lives to project an air of infallibility and who emphatically equates vulnerability with weakness and weakness with failure. I'll admit that beyond that sense of him, he has failed to convey any belief system to me whatsoever. Beliefs require forethought and ongoing contemplation, and he seems unwilling to take the time for either: only what happens to come off the top of his head, the tip of his tongue, and the length of his groping reach.

But he, "Speaks his mind!," claim his supporters. No, like any snake oil salesman, he says what he thinks people want to hear, avoiding the "facts" in favor of the "feels". In some ways that's a good indicator of how little he thinks of the American people -- that he believes we want to and are only capable of comprehending a world predicated on instinct: fear, paranoia, and suspicion. And that we respect blame and entitlement over responsibility or self reliance. Personally, that's not the kind of country I can get behind.

While there are so many reasons to be viscerally offended by Donald Trump, what I find most disappointing and upsetting is that my first memory of him is exactly what he'd want it to be:

Growing up in northern New Jersey, I got my local news from New York City. So in 1986 -- when I saw Trump swoop in and renovate Wollman Rink in Central Park, under budget and in a fraction of the time it'd taken the City of New York to fumble that particular ball -- he convinced me he could effortlessly do anything he said he would do: yes, he made Central Park skate again. And now, of course, he's attached his name to the achievement so no one will forget.

So I'm a little disappointed at how easily my sixteen-year-old self drank his gold-plated Kool-Aid. Interesting that while I've grown up, he's still retained the same myopic, monochromatic world view of a pubescent boy.

Not that  I'm qualified to psychoanalyze "The Donald", but I will nonetheless proffer a diagnosis of  Munchhausen by Proxy. He seems to have victim envy. Frustrated that so many people who aren't him get sympathy for their woes (middle child much?), he's spent a lifetime victimizing people in exchange for the attention it gets him.

I'm not saying he's never overcome real adversity: you can't return from bankruptcy as many times as he has without a certain level of resiliency.

However -- given my life changes of the past six years -- what infuriates me most about the man is his inability to recognize the privilege fueling his so-called success and instead goes out of his way to make excuses for his own poor choices, blaming others or conjuring conspiracy theories. Thus my attempts to dog him on Twitter with #BlameisLame. Disappointingly, I've received no response. He's got bigger fish to fry.

I think he's far off the mark if he believes that everyday people empathize with his claimed Horacio Alger tale of bootstrap-pulling with a mere million-dollar loan and the ability to overcome a bias media that actually reports what he says and takes him at his word. Don't we all hate being dogged by the paparazzi and having to fight a corrupt system by exposing its flaws through the loopholes we exploit? He's just like people!

I've recently been pondering the real or fake Buddhist quote, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." Real or not, it's helped me appreciate the choices I've made over the past six years to not live as a victim of my circumstances but rather embrace them as a chance to grow beyond who I am or ever was.

If you are still on the fence about who to vote for Tuesday, I encourage you to give Mr. Trump and his most vehement followers the same opportunity to reflect on the pain of disappointment and choose to turn it into something positive and inclusive, not to embolden any sort of movement toward  insulation, isolation, and fear.