The other day I was listening to a friend deliberate on what to call the day her injury struck. Something about the notion of calling it the anniversary was bothering her. She was wondering if it was something to be celebrated. Of course she was hearing supportive messages urging her to celebrate her strength. How far she’d come in her recovery. The life she still has ahead of her to live, in large part because of how she has worked to restore herself.
I agreed that the word anniversary didn’t have the right connotation for commemorating such a devastating day. Usually an anniversary is thought of as a positive thing to remember. We all have our own that we like to remember. As we continued to walk around we just couldn’t come up with another word or phrase that had the right tone. I do know that some brain injury survivors refer to that day as a new beginning and use the word rebirthday. That just isn’t ringing true to my ear but it does make sense to me, especially considering how a brain injury changes us to some degree. Some people have a fighting attitude and think of it as a big middle finger flown high in the air to fate – and also to the people they feel are judging them harshly. Others have a more inspired take on that word and see it as something to gladly embrace. There are probably other terms out there, too, but I haven’t seen or heard them yet.
For the record I’ll just say right here that I’m not thinking fondly about this process of remembering the date of my own TBI each year.
What I didn’t come up with then and there eventually crystallized in my head and I’m going to try to lay it out here in this post. What I’d like to say to her is that she has made amazing progress. And I feel superbly qualified to say that, both from my medical knowledge as well as living through my own recovery process. I’m not just saying that to be nice either, especially since she and her friends or family may read this one day and know it’s her. She has many things about herself to celebrate, but maybe it would be better to not tie her recognition to this date. I’m looking at my looming anniversary date and it sometimes feels like I’m a dog on a leash. One that is tied to a stake out in the middle of the yard. I don’t want to feel like my life all comes down to that single point in time. Trying to get on with my life. Put one foot in front of the other. Move forward. You know, all those inspiring messages. At least for now they’re sending me along my path but it’s just going in an ever smaller circle back to that stake.
After thinking about her some more I realized that meeting up with her was like a landmark for the week. Like one of my therapy appointments, only a lot better. I got nothing but love for my therapists mind you, but talking about real life with another survivor, this person in particular, is special. Like a touchstone. A little stone worn smooth over millions of years that you carry in your pocket as you get on with life and the better things you’re hoping will (and are trying hard to make) come your way. You reach for it on purpose sometimes. Other times you feel it in the course of getting something else. Brush your hand over that pocket and it’s there. A good thing and a pleasant reminder to keep going.
Yeah, whatever. Remembering my crash isn’t that kind of touchstone right now. It is more like the finger I broke in the crash. It didn’t heal well enough and now I feel a little pain every time I bend it.
But let’s continue on with that touchstone metaphor. That might be exactly what I want the thought of May 18th to be for me now. It’s my birthday and people will probably remind me of that for as long as I live. Well, at least I hope so. Anyway, thinking of it like a little stone carried in my pocket could be a good thing. Because I lose stuff. Even before I got this TBI. I have always carried various things in my pockets. Because I needed them or found I was using them all the time. I still have that Swiss Army knife and use it all the time. Over the years I added new things. And I stopped carrying others. Maybe they got lost and I just didn’t need them enough to go on a thorough search or just replace them. I’ve forgotten about those things, those touchstones from much earlier in my life.
Yes, I want to make the having forgotten the date I crashed such a touchstone. Doing that might work for you, too. Because one day in the future maybe you’ll realize you’ve forgotten and it passed by one February or something without notice. You might get that little smile and do that slight tilt of your head as you look at nothing in particular while you think on having forgotten.
You could make THAT day an anniversary to remember. I know I’m going to.