Deep, dark emotions that held me in misery, have become lessons. The more I learn, the less I fear.

I could not escape the rapidly spinning carousel. Right eye swollen shut, the left, blood-filled and blurred. Overpowering nausea stormed in. The lessons began.

Rumination, a mystical time warp, nor all the sadness in the world can change the impact a ball had on my life. No such wanting, wishing or genie can turn back time, have me finding the strength to advocate, counter the ER doctor’s diagnosis, magically return my vision or appetite. By approaching at my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from a lens of optimism, adversity has become a catalyst for growth and a teacher of invaluable lessons. I continue to learn more from the wake of my TBI than any classroom lesson or expert could possibly teach.

Like a snow-globe, a jar filled with glitter, the jar I was, had been shaken up, a chaotic, spiralling swirl of shiny plastic particles. Caught up in fear and chaos of turbulent thoughts I struggled to settle, to allow my mind to clear. I am learning to resist stirring up the waters of the mind, mindful that the all the glitter will settle. Like everyone and everything, it will not remain the same forever.  I am not the same as I was before my accident, I am not the same as I was yesterday. I am learning about impermanence, the power of perspective and self belief. I am exploring lessons of equanimity, how to keep my spirit calm and content. I survived, I am living, I am learning.

Deep, dark emotions tied to loss, losses that for so long held me in misery, have become lessons. My most serene moments tend to happen on mountain trails when I find the courage to let go of what I cannot change. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is only something in my head.  Ruminating about the past, worrying about the future can mean missing out on the only thing that truly exists, this moment. There is no more important moment than right now.

Equanimity admisdt a thunderstorm on an uncertain mountain trail is as necessary as courage to keep finding the good in the adverse; courage begets confidence. Berating myself or pursuing a path of perfectionism only depletes confidence. I am learning that accepting the trail my life has taken, inviting self compassion, releasing shoulds, recognising that my best is good enough, focusing on and celebrating what my body allows me to  do, makes for sunnier days, happier trails. As acceptance grows, so does self belief.

When a trail littered with deep rocks plays havoc with my depth perception, a stone misjudged, a root disguised in a shadow, sunglasses broken, knees bloodied, battered and bruised,  falling is how I grow. Staying down is depreciating, bouncing back is resilience.

I have learned that every day cannot be an alpine postcard. At times stoic, I feel numbness with mention or thoughts of September 3. I have learned that detachment, personal avoidance and the seemingly impossible gelling of life before and after my accident are real, intangible symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  that are difficult for others to fathom yet felt like a warm embrace when they do. Sounds of helicopters on mountain rescue missions, the cracking of a bat on a baseball diamond, media’s distortion of reality, smells of hospital snacks and the sight of scales can trigger withdrawal and isolation. I have learned that I cannot control others’ curiosity, their approach, opinion or dance of their emotions; however, I can control the way I respond.

I have learned that while many things are out of my control, I choose the way I perceive and respond to circumstances. I choose the power of my attitude. In turbulent times, a stranger’s piercing stare, an innocent question, label or assumption can feel like lightning with potential to alight a thunderous reaction. Mother Nature counters anger. She naturally fosters perspective and movement towards a place of awareness where I am learning to counter such experiences with calm, compassionate thoughts; a natural healer.

I have learned how powerfully inner strength and courage germinate with empathy. For far too long, I was a closed book, no sharing my story or welcoming characters into the plot. Heartfelt curiosity, pausing to point out a disguised electrical fence or camouflaged trip-up on a trail, an anonymous sticky note of admiration and reference to courage, an extended wink playfully mimicking my permanent one, a random embrace, thoughtful airport encounters, sharing silence and a listening ear; numerous seemingly insignificant actions bring empathetic sunshine on the darkest of trails.

I have learned to let plans be no more powerful than ideas. In the blink of an eye my life changed, for at the time felt like the worst, yet with patience, strength and time see unimaginable opportunities that have turned life in an inspiring new direction, which could have never been planned. Blueprints for a day on a trail that is in fact closed, an unexpected weather change or energy that seems to have not returned with the morning sun can be subtle guides to unexpected gems. I would not have risked joining a Nepalese yoga class had that trail been open. Strangers have become friends following hitchhiking encounters resulting from risky storms up high.  When early morning alpenglow invites me to join yet my legs are crying for a rest, I struggle. Remaining mindful of how much my body regenerates with rest and appreciates the stillness of mediation continues to be a debate between the physical and the mental yet experience is a prototype teacher.

I relish in intimate lessons with Mother Nature while running in mountains. I treasure these moments, mindful  of impermanence. Change is coming, experience has taught me that I can face it, overcome it and grow stronger from it.  In the wake of my TBI, I have learned that I am stronger than I ever imagined possible. The more I learn, the less I fear. As the chapters develop, so do I. The teacher, that is experience, tested me first yet countless lessons continue.

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  1. Tom Stevens says:

    Jill’s metaphorical view of life is inspirational to all who read her posts. On a morning run in the mountains, her recent post made me realize that the physics of our environment affects our inner and outer being. Like the snow globe, turmoil drifts into tranquility.