Life In The Slow Lane...
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San Diego, CA, United States
This is a commentary about the slow lane, about the slowing of time since I suffered a severe brain injury while skateboarding with my dog. This is a blog about recovery; about our '82 VW Westfalia. It's about writing, surfing, camping, married life, bleeding ulcers that make you feel old at 32; about family, friends, and my dog Artie; it's about cruising in fourth gear, getting passed by every car and learning to appreciate every second of it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Celebrating The Underachiever

In the gym today during rehab, I stood near the corner of the room, one foot in front of the other on a yellow line. My arms were crossed against my chest, my eyes were closed, in my right hand was a white timer. The test is a way to measure the damage to the Vestibular system. A normal person is said to be able to hold the stance for thirty seconds. On my first day of rehab,only four seconds passed before the wobble forced me off balance. Therapists informed me that my Vestibular system had been damaged. They said it was a matter of time until it came back.

There I stood, in the same spot, taking the same test I had taken a month and a half earlier, dressed in the same surf trunks, most likely the same grey undershirt. By twenty seconds, the wobble had me swaying from left to right, like I was on board an ocean vessel during a storm. I recovered, barely. By forty seconds I regained my balance. I took deep breaths and thought about upcoming stories I had to write, I learned that when it comes to balance, concentrating on anything but the task at hand is helpful.

I heard therapists talking in the distance. "Ok, try and move your left leg. Can you wiggle your toes for me?"

I felt the breeze of people walking past me. I opened my eyes, the distractions were too much. I looked at the timer and it read two minutes and nineteen seconds. I smiled through the initial dizzy spell. Discovering progress during this type of recovery is strange. The reaction is always overblown and exaggerated.

"Two minutes and twenty seconds," I said holding up the timer like it was a trophy.

"Hey, that's amazing. Great job," my physical therapist said to me.

Her comment made me think about the achievement. Nowadays, everything, not just the minor accomplishments but also the small setbacks, get blown out of proportion. The insignificant physical feats are treated as some sort of indication that could determine the future of your entire life. The mistake on the math question is evidence that your brain will forever be damaged.

I pictured myself raising my arms, hands clasped together, all just for standing in a straight line for two minutes. I thought how silly it all is. I know there's no other way. I understand that the nature of this injury has a person frantically searching for any sign of improvement. It shows my judgment has returned to a normal scale. Returning to the normal scale is scary. It shows just how far back I fell. It shows me how weak I was, how unsteady I stood. It serves as a constant reminder that I am damaged goods.

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