The fog is thick today
both hovering over the lake
and in my head,
rendering me slow-witted,
Does the lake feel the same?
It’s not obvious
that the fix is helping.
The image is blurry and bulges strangely.
What faith is required when the cure
feels worse than the injury!
My vision therapy glasses have arrived. Yikes. Not sure how I’m going to manage with months of this! How can something that makes my head hurt so much actually help in the long term? Fingers crossed!
How hard the fight for gains,
wading through mire,
battling the blurred words,
crumbling beneath the crushing pressure.
Another day, perhaps a gain
of minutes of wellness.
Don’t over-do when the body is able
to accommodate desire to do more than
an errand or two before succumbing.
How goes the war?
I cannot fathom a positive outcome any more.
A few words more
fingers flicking over keys.
A few words more
a story unwinds
A few words more
before my head explodes
Small successes form
between the creases in my brows.
I will write a few words more,
to force recovery, word by
blurry, painful word.
Every day you approach the computer
“What are we doing again?” I show you where to see the assignment. I review the expectations, the objectives, the criteria.
“Oh! Okay! I get it!” you say, and set to work.
The next day, we do it again.
Today you stare at me with blank, hollow eyes.
“I don’t get it,” you say.
Everyone else is busily working. You’ve been absent. When you come, you have to study for a test in another subject. Or see the counselor. Or help your friend. In fourteen hours of research time, you’ve been here for eight. Do you have anything to show for the time? Others have the list of the websites they consulted, pages of notes, excitement over how they’ll turn research into a presentation next week.
You have confusion.
The same confusion from the first day. Repeated again. Some days we can help you. Some days you are confident and productive.
But nothing stays in your memory more than an hour.
Other days you are sullen and oppositional, because you’re sure you’ve never seen this before, and you’re angry about it.
“This is stupid.”
What more can I do? I ask. They tell me your parents refuse to have you tested. They don’t want you to have a label, so we don’t know if this is a cognitive impairment, learning disability, or the results of drug use or a sports injury. A label comes with funding to give you the additional support you plainly need. Keep repeating expectations. Keep explaining the criteria. I agree. This is stupid.
The course is almost over and you return each day to week one, living a personal Groundhog Day loop,
and no one knows how to pull you out.
Opinion-Waiting for retirement January 16, 2020
Tags: brain injury, carpe diem, change, concussion, dreams, goals, opinion, plans, retirement
I keep running into people who have big plans for their retirement. They’re going to move somewhere with less snow. They’re going to get serious about that hobby. They’re going to start writing that book.
I ask them what I asked myself in 1998: Why wait?
One Spring Break when I was in my thirties with two pre-teen kids, I’d driven south with the kids to see my parents. I went to Vancouver, and sitting in the Water Street station, I looked around at the blooming tulips and plum trees and pondered the foot of snow in my yard back home.
On our 800 km journey back home, we drove past lots of schools. I looked at those schools and had an epiphany. There are teachers working here. Why wait thirty years to move? Why not have the life we want to have NOW?
I returned home and had a chat with my husband. I sent out applications. He interviewed for a transfer in his government job. He had a few offers around the province that he turned down. I was called to an interview in Salmon Arm and subsequently accepted a position. Two days later he was offered a position in Salmon Arm, too. Serendipity and synchronicity. Two months later we were living in a beautiful community that actually had four seasons that appeared when they were supposed to on the calendar (instead of two seasons: ‘winter’ and ‘bugs’). That was twenty years ago.
I dreamed of being a writer, but thought that in my forties, it was too late to start. Then my school hosted the BC Book Prize tour, and I discovered that every author visiting us had written their first book after fifty.
I started writing just after Thanksgiving and the week before Easter I finished Grace Awakening. The week after the following Thanksgiving at the Surrey Writing Conference I pitched it to a small publisher, which subsequently offered me a contract. A dream come true.
This October was ten years after I pitched that first book. I was offered a table to sell my books at a signing event at the Surrey Writers Conference, alongside some of my author idols. I am working in my dream job, teaching English & Creative Writing in an amazing school in a beautiful place, WHILE writing books! It couldn’t be more perfect!
I still have a few years before retirement.
I have retirement plans. When I retire, I plan to write a lot more books, and visit schools to teach a lot more teens and adults how to bring their dream stories to life. I will travel and write and read. It will be awesome.
A year and a half ago, I received a brain injury. Out of no where, in my own home, BAM: Life changed.
Words swam on a page. I couldn’t decipher hand-writing. The computer screen hurt. Crowds hurt my ears. Lights hurt my eyes. I had head-aches and eye-aches. I was dizzy. I was nauseous. For MONTHS.
I told my doctor that he needed to figure out healing quickly, because I needed to go back to my dream job and keep working on my books! He said, “Shawn, you might be retired now.”
That scared me. The idea that I might enter retirement unable to read, unable to write, and unable to teach or travel was horrifying. What a bleak picture! On the bright side, I thought, at least I have been able to have this wonderful job, teaching teens to write, and to inspire them. At least, I have published nine books.
Thankfully, I had excellent concussion therapy and I have recovered enough from my brain injury to work part-time again. Despite my injury, 6 pieces were published last year. Some had been written years ago, some were short articles or stories that took me weeks instead of a day to write. Slow progress is still progress.
My injury wasn’t the end of my dreams, but it could have been.
Wouldn’t it have been horrible to have all my plans completely unreachable due to poor health? Wouldn’t it have been a hundred times worse if I had saved all my dreams for retirement, and not have the health to attempt them? I had two colleagues who were in good health when they retired, but were dead six months later.
If you have a dream, don’t wait for retirement.
We only have today.
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