I’ve never felt more powerless than when my brain let me down. And you have to bear with me here, because this story takes a winding road, but we'll get there I promise.
We’ve all had moments of powerlessness, sometimes small things like when we feel slighted or misunderstood, sometimes big things like not being recognized when we know our voice should be heard but we aren’t even acknowledged. So many times, we try to gain control over the situations in which we find ourselves but we simply can’t. It’s a terrible feeling, isn’t it?
The powerlessness of a brain injury, and the struggle through the process of recovery, when nothing (including your brain) is cooperating with you, can be overwhelming. That overwhelm doesn’t go away when you start to feel better. As I’ve started to get a hold of my emotions and abilities again, I still feel overwhelmed at the idea that I am, to a certain extent and at certain times, powerless to this injury.
The ways I’ve felt powerless in the past three years are too many to count. But as I sit here thinking about the list of things over which I no longer have control, it occurs to me that loss of control and loss of power are not really the same kind of problem.
Let’s be absolutely clear here. Pre-injury me was a control freak. Definitely a character flaw, but one that I embraced wholeheartedly and claimed as one of my superpowers. It was part of who I was. It drove my family and friends crazy. I wanted perfection and the way to do that was to control every situation (oftentimes by simply doing everything myself).
Considering power and control as two inextricably linked concepts is where we get ourselves into trouble. Think about it this way: control is needing to have everything in your world on a tight leash. Power is having everything in your world operating within parameters that you’ve comfortably established. I suppose to extend the leash analogy, power might be having trained the parts of your world to walk unleashed but at your heel, comfortably satisfied that they may wander at times but will always return back to you in good order. It may not be perfect, but you will get to the same destination nonetheless.
When I hit my head, and for the many months following, I couldn’t assert myself. At all. I lost my ability to advocate for myself, to ask for what I needed, and to find comfortable satisfaction that everything was or would be where it needed to be. I found myself at the mercy of a dysfunctional medical system, just going through the motions, because I didn’t know what questions to ask or to whom. I couldn’t grasp what was going on or even how serious my situation was. I couldn’t defend myself. My body was letting me down, I wasn’t able to get around on my own, and I was at the mercy of others to help me but I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed. My power was completely stripped away. I wasn’t able to do anything myself, and therefore my control was stripped away too.
In my quest to recover some of my power and my control, I've come upon some important and meaningful methods to get my head around where I am at, and how I'm going to carry on with what I have. Part of that has been letting go of the idea of control, of perfection, and instead focusing on the importance of power and the importance of putting in the effort, even if the result isn't as intended.
That means relying on the people who are here to help me. That means treating every moment with the gratitude and intention it deserves. That means that I don’t have to do or be absolutely everything to everyone, every time. I get a pass sometimes. I know that, I’ve preached that, I take the breaks when I need them. I don't have to be "on" in every moment. It doesn’t have to be that way. I’m abandoning perfection, in favour of a little bit more faith in what those, and the world, around me can do. And more importantly, I'm abandoning perfection in favour of a little bit more emphasis on effort.
In boot camp this morning I was cuing a tricky move. Like she does when something is tricky, one of my favourite boot campers piped in to let me know it was HARD. I knew it was hard, because I was doing it too. And then I did the unthinkable. I let the group know that when I stop moving with them, to look at the screen, to check for people's form, to make sure that we are all moving correctly and safely, I'm also giving myself a pass. I've given myself a break. Because sometimes I can't do all the things. Never in a million years, pre-injury, would I have ever admitted that to a classful of participants. I'm not perfect. I can't do all the things all of the time. I am grateful that I can move, and I'm grateful that I can put in the effort. And I guess that's what it all comes down to. We all just have to try. And in the trying, the working, the doing or not-doing, that's where we are going to feel our most powerful. We may not be able to control every moment, but we can control how hard we try, and that's an incredible feeling in itself.
A pessimist sees the difficulty
in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the
opportunity in every