What is it about January?
Some people think they can whip up a plan for all kinds of Big Change to manifest for the coming year and poof, the sheer will of their intention will make it so….foolish mortals. I have been around the sun a few times and I can tell you that Big Change will happen, ready or not. There is a strong chance that right now, this very minute, the Universe is planning her own special surprise just for you.
Big Change and I go way back, but the most recent has made, well, a lasting impression. On a snowy December morning in Colorado my mind was filled with thoughts of Christmas Parties and News Years Resolutions, elaborate meals to make, killer outfits to coordinate- you get it. But the Universe was brewing her plan, her next Big Change for me.
One fast hard fall on pavement was all it took to set Big Change into place. Traumatic Brain Injury, the Mother of all Big Change.
TBI is serious business with only one way out: rest. My life became a series of blurry hours; eyes behind a mask to block the light, living in a state somewhere between sleep and meditation. No screen time, no music, no sunlight, no reading, no car travel, no exercise, no speaking or being spoken to. This still, silent life continued for many dark months. Grinding at me in the back of my addled mind was the awareness that every day away from my microphone was another day that my voice-over business fell deeper into debt and obscurity.
“Get up and shake it off”, became my mantra after 6 months in bed.
In my life I had endured hospital stays, kidney surgery and all kinds of sports injuries – so wasn’t this just another thing to recover from? I would push through like I always do. I tried making to-do lists, setting up appointments with clients, exercising, and connecting with friends. All of my efforts put me back in bed, depleted and disoriented. I felt weak, needy and self indulgent. I resisted the notion that I was injured at all. Maybe I was just lazy and hormonal. After all, I used to be able to work my way out of anything – but now everything was so confusing, so utterly difficult. What I did not consider is that TBI robs you of the ability to actually think, sequence and process information.
I have always been healthy and strong, a voiceover with promise, an organized single parent globetrotter. Friends, therapists, hell even my Mother (and I ALWAYS listen to my Mother) tried to explain to me that I was concussed, needed time, rest and grace. But I was unconvinced and resistant to any more time laying around. I tried to voice new projects and my voice was plosive, weak and forced. My voice was reflecting my feelings and there wasn’t a single positive thing about my feelings.
Pema Chodron puts it perfectly , as she always does,
”Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums up the way we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is the ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. “
I began to recognize that I was living in the “in-between state”. The in-between state is the transition state, the time when you try to do things the way you did them before but because the conditions around you are changed the old methods don’t work. So you need to be open to trying other ways, droping old limiting beliefs along the way. In my case that was the old measurement systems like lists, goal spreadsheets and negative self talk. Turns out that at my foggiest point I started to see things more clearly than I had ever seen them before.
I had to learn loving-kindness toward myself or maitri .
Maitri or Metta (Pali Version) can be translated as friendship or benevolence that faces inward- it is befriending yourself. To heal, I had to change my perspective about how life can be lived by filtering everything through the lens of self kindness. I had to break up with multitasking, harmful criticism and unreachable benchmarks. I had to learn to set realistic goals, change my inner dialogue and do lots of brain nourishing yoga. And I had to Live Simply.
Change is not easy, duh. And sometimes I feel like I am a total fake, an impostor, by practicing self-kindness. After all, shouldn’t my butt be able to fit in the baby car seat? Doesn’t every business owner need to pull an all-nighter at least twice a month, and by now shouldn’t I be able to ski at least half as well as Michela Schiffrin? Nope. Years ago I lived in a cabin with a sweet Kansas cowboy who summed up much of life by saying
“Girl, what’s normal for you, is normal for you”. It was one of the better things I got out of the relationship.
It’s hard to believe but life is sweeter now. I smile more and listen deeper. It’s becoming so simple to see things clearly through a lens of Metta. When I chose kindness I learned to make better lifestyle choices. Yay.
So, how can I be nonplussed about the next Big Change? Because I know with 100% certainty it’s coming, lugging a roller cart of challenges along with possibilities. And if tossing a TBI in my path is any indication of the length the Universe will go open my heart and mind, I am no longer resisting.
In fact, I’m ready for it. Hold my beer.