I saw a picture of a handsome curly-haired birthday boy on Facebook last week. When his Teacher-Mom took her maternity leave 10 years ago, I taught her 4th grade class. I was a December graduate with a master’s degree in Teaching and in January 2003 that was my first teaching job.
I loved teaching. The challenges, the relationships, the creativity, the opportunities. My imagination easily skipped ahead and framed a future with me as Teacher-Mom, my own 2-3 kids traipsing the halls of the school where I taught. Of course I would continue to take classes in educational development and ultimately pursue administration, or some other education specialty. This scenario was not unfounded. After wandering years, I really had found a career that fit and I could map the road ahead.
The curious thing about the auto accident that ended my life was that I lived through it – Kara Swanson
Kara Swanson suffered a brain injury as a result of a car accident and I read her story, I’ll Carry the Fork: Recovering a Life After Brain Injury, while I worked on recovering from my own. Recovery is a tricky word because it indicates a return to previous condition, but brains often don’t recover like broken arms recover and I’ve spent these past 7.5 years learning what this means. Unlike a broken arm, which has a general timetable for healing and return to normal function, there aren’t many helpful outlines for brain recovery and you don’t know what recovery will actually look like.
Mine has been a long, disorienting journey filled with frustration, anger and fear. It’s a mixed up story because I have recovered what appears to be my previous condition. But David says he’s married to his second wife. Fundamental changes in the way my brain processes and filters information and sound have changed my life. I lost the ability to manage and lead the busy learning environment of an elementary classroom without flooding my brain and draining my energy.
“….never forget that life doesn’t follow the plans we make just because we made them. We have to allow for change, prepare for it, seek positive results from it. We have to understand that tragedy, sadness and unexpected challenge may wreak havoc at any time, and leave us facing hard work to recover a life” (142).
I copied this line out of Kara Swanson’s book 14 months after my car accident. I was still in the early stages of my own healing and recovery work and I couldn’t see the road ahead.
How well I know the truth in her words. As I write here, my goal is to unpack not only my experiences and understandings around loss and grief, but also what I’ve come to know of goodness and hope.