I said in a previous post that I’d write an article about never taking life for granted and enjoying the journey. Many folks know I was injured by a drunk driver last October and sustained moderate Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). I’ve been glad to report that the improvement process has been going extremely well. Sometimes I have trouble navigating conversations and expressing myself verbally (especially in group gatherings with many conversations and actions happening simultaneously) and my balance still isn’t what it used to be, but I’m trying new ways of doing the things that used to come easily to me and steadily improving these newfound methods.
One thing that has helped immensely – and we’ve all heard this before – is regarding the journey as my destination. It’s taking an extraordinary amount of patience to deal with the setbacks in life inevitable for any TBI survivor, and I’m getting through the discomfort, unhappiness, offense, and other emotions I’ve associated with the circumstances of this incident. It bears saying that I haven’t always viewed being in touch with your emotions as a necessary quality of life. I’ve been raised by strong women who have encouraged me show as little weakness as possible, and emotions are often interpreted as a sign of weakness in American society. However, this injury has increased my capacity for compassion. Now, more than ever, I cry about my own plights and the plight of others.
I now fully accept and expect to deal with heavy, difficult emotions (mine and others’) as part of my journey. We can subdue our feelings, but don’t be surprised when you develop bald spots on your scalp, develop nervous habits, contract idiopathic Ulcerative Colitis, or become subject to anxiety attacks (all releases of tension and anxiety that I’ve personally experienced at some point in my life). I will cry in public at the drop of a dime if I find reason to – and unapologetically so. It’s gotten me into some sticky situations recently, this intimacy I have with my emotions. My PDE (Public Display of Emotions). But things always turn out fine. I’m never hurting anyone. But it seems obvious now that folks don’t make much space for emotions in daily life.
Emotion and self-reflection get a bad rap. I’ve got some news for everyone: whether or not we see and understand the benefit of engaging our emotions and engaging in self-reflection, they are a part of ALL our journeys. People often distance themselves from folks displaying raw emotion; it’s kind of sad in my honest opinion (however: if a person’s being emotionally manipulative, that’s not worth your time). It’s time for us to feel confident about our real, buried feelings. It’s time to make space for the rage, anger, passion, jealousy we and others may feel lest these emotions manifest in some way that endangers our surroundings. We would perceive the world quite differently without senses of smell, touch, sight. Let’s find out what we have to gain by exploring our inner worlds. That’s one of toughest things to do: be utterly and completely honest with yourself about yourself. Our inner dimensions, the worlds we refrain from displaying, are some of the most important parts of our truest selves, and while something may have made you want to hide today, your story could save someone’s life. Your story could start the conversation that needed to be had.
Or you may find that you don’t enjoy spending time with yourself. And those who can’t seem to make time for self-reflection should consider their life situations deeply (if you don’t even like you, who could expect to?). There are many times when I find something to dislike about myself. But that’s the first step: I can’t change my behavior effectively if I don’t ever reflect on my behavior. How would I know what I’m changing? So I practice radical love of the world (and thus, myself) by engaging in critical self-reflection. It’s helped me develop and improve in ways I didn’t know were possible. It’s an integral part of my journey, and, though there may be pit stops in sight, the destination can never be known. Onward!