Tag Archives: life

In the blink of an eye

Some thoughts, the morning after.

The police car flew past me last night with lights flashing and sirens blaring. I had the vantage point of sitting in the cross traffic. I watched cars pull over, many pulled from their distracted thoughts of a baseball game or dinner plans or the events of the day. It was life as usual as they made their way through the last minutes of the commute hour. The police car sped down the street and, as is my habit, I said a quiet prayer for the safety of the officer and all those involved before returning to my own distracted thoughts of routine life. I looked at the clock. I was running late for the meeting with my Guide Dogs for the Blind Puppy Club. I would need to move quickly when I pulled into the parking lot. I shuffled in with another puppy raiser. Pleasantries were exchanged as we caught up on the details of each other’s lives and puppies.

During the meeting, my friend’s phone went off. It was her daughter texting her, telling her of a shooting at the Walmart just on the other side of the freeway from where we sat. The same Walmart I have been inside. The same Walmart where we have socialized the puppies. The same Walmart that shares a parking lot with our “usual post-meeting Starbucks.” The same Walmart that suddenly became the scene of a horrific crime. The same Walmart that police vehicles had sped to just 45 minutes prior.

As she shared the news coming from her daughter’s text messages, each of us began sharing our individual sitings of the police vehicles that sped past our cars as we made our way to the meeting. “There was an active shooter at Walmart.” I watched the faces of those around the table as we each tried to process another act of senseless violence. “People were down.”  Though no one said it aloud, I doubt I was the only one pondering the possibility of a terror attack; the Halloween terror attack in New York still fresh and unsettling. “The shooter or shooters were on the run. They are considered armed and dangerous.”

He…She…They…? As they often are during the moments, hours, or even days following random violence, immediate details were sketchy. But, somebody was on the run, not far from where we all sat and in the direct vicinity of where we had planned on going next. I checked my phone for an update as we made plans to change the location of our customary Starbucks run.

As we left the building, I felt the adrenaline coursing through my veins, pushing me to walk a little faster. I decided my pup would wait to relieve until we reached the Starbucks further away. I didn’t need to be standing in a well-lit parking lot just up the road from an active crime scene.

As I crossed the traffic to enter the freeway on-ramp, I looked to my right. Could I see the lights of the emergency vehicles in the Walmart parking lot? I was trying to put pieces together. Those same emergency vehicles sped through traffic not even 2 hours earlier. The first-responders rushing to “serve and protect.”  The drivers, like myself, yielding to the lights and sirens. No one expecting the tragedy that had unfolded in the blink of an eye.

No one awoke yesterday thinking they were walking into the day that would change everything, but 3 people didn’t return home from their Walmart trip last night. The day before, 8 people didn’t finish their trip on a pedestrian pathway in New York. Last month, 58 people were killed and another 546 shot while attending a concert. In the blink of an eye, life changed forever.

No one awoke yesterday thinking they were walking into the day that would change everything, but roughly 4,600 people in the United States were diagnosed with cancer. Yesterday, an average of 121 Americans took their lives and countless others did their best to simply make it through their day, hiding the pain of their own struggles behind a false smile. Globally, an estimated 151,600 people died and another 360,000 were born. All in the blink of an eye.

Life changes. It moves forward. But, life is so often dictated by the events that happen in the blink of an eye. Last night, before I let the veil of sleep consume me, I thought about the people whose lives were forever changed during the course of the day: those that won’t return home; those left behind; those scarred by events that they never anticipated when they awoke; those just doing their best to make it through another day with every ounce of their being; and those feeling vulnerable to life’s blinks. Quietly, I prayed for them, for their friends and family, and for our world.

Then, I prayed that I am placed in the path of someone whose life I might help make better because change can come in just the blink of an eye.





A Peek Inside the Newly Re-injured Brain, Part 2


On Monday, I wrote Part One about my newly re-injured brain. If I was keeping count, and included the concussion I got when I was in high school, this is my 6th concussion. Each concussion is different. Each unfolds differently. Read on to see how the events of last week have begun to unfold.

Here is where I left off in my last post… “I thought if I could focus on something else, I could lose the dizziness and, most importantly, I’d realize “it wasn’t that bad.””

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But it was, and by Saturday morning I really knew it. I had managed to make it through my call with Ruth on Thursday, and I thought I was better than I probably was. Ruth knows me well and the fact that I couldn’t understand many of her words was probably an easy tip-off to her that my fall was big. Still, we worked through.

Friday was a blur. I taught my usual 4 classes as it was too late to get a sub. I lost my place, I stuttered, I struggled to keep up in the class conversations, but I managed to work though.  As the day wore on, the fatigue felt heavy, but I made it to the end with the self-promise of sleep when I got home.

By Saturday morning, I couldn’t deny the impact (every pun intended) of my fall. I looked at the dishwasher and tried to figure out the complexities of simply loading the dishes and felt overwhelmed. I felt the tears welling in my eyes. No one else was yet awake and it would have been easy for me to let loose but I feared if I did, I wouldn’t be able to stop. Both dogs were already awake and in full play mode the way puppies do and the noise and activity was all too much, too fast, too loud.  I wanted to scream in anger, but I didn’t know why or at whom? At myself for being foolish and climbing the damn stool? At my brain for failing me? At the dogs? Or at all the sensory input that wouldn’t slow down…that wouldn’t turn off…that wouldn’t let me forget that I couldn’t process it all?

I pushed it down…all the emotions that felt too big. I forced the dishes into the dishwasher, helter-skelter and I sat down with my coffee. The dizziness and the headache were still there. “Rest, “I told myself, “You know the best cure to this is rest.” But rest felt like resignation and acceptance. I struggled against myself and the to-do list that rattled off in my head in no order of priority but as random thoughts that shot through the dark.

Emails…there were damn emails I needed to respond to. That I should have responded to the day before, but I knew I couldn’t, given my fatigue. I booted up my computer and poured another cup of coffee with the hope I could caffeine my way out of my newly re-injured brain. I scanned my inbox for any new emails that needed to be added to my list as well as any that may scold me for my tardiness. Do I confess I have a brain injury, that I fell doing something stupid, that I’m sorry, that the letters jump and words don’t make sense…once again?

Within 10 minutes, I didn’t care. The screen was making me sick. I shot off the most important emails and closed my screen. I had only been up for a few hours and the wave of fatigue was pulling me under like cloud of fog moving across the plains. My husband, who was now up and closely following me, saw the familiar blank look on my face. He told me so, and he took me by the arm. I didn’t want my bed, that would make me feel sick and disconnected. It would also leave me in a room alone with the dizziness and self-pity and above all, anger.  Emotions washed over me unpredictably. I felt like I was a fast swinging pendulum and I didn’t want to be alone with that swing.

He helped me to the couch, propped my pillow, and I quickly fell asleep.  I slept for the bulk of the next two days. Inside my head, the battle waged. Feelings of guilt over the tasks left undone, of being a burden to my family once again, of wasting a weekend and falling behind on the tasks that haven’t even made it to my to-do list mixed with feelings of fear.

What if this one, this brain injury, doesn’t course correct? What if I can’t recapture what happened in the moments before my fall? What if the dizziness doesn’t stop or I can’t read longer than a few minutes without getting sick or I can’t remember how to?

The fears that were all there before, but are there again –even louder –because I know that concussions can have a cumulative effect…fears that could easily suck me into the darkness and hold me there…. fears that will win, if only I allow them to take hold…fears that fill me with frustrations…fears that I must fight against, but the fight makes me oh, so tired.

Thank you for reading. And, for more about brain injury and recovery, visit me at www.insidersguidetotheinjuredbrain.com