Showing up for myself

This morning I’m putting off writing. I’m doing everything possible except sitting down to write.

I’m not doing it on purpose, I don’t think. Writing’s at the top of my list of things to do. Want to do. Need?

Those questions are just the tip of the iceberg. Or are they the deepfreeze core?

I’ll look into that.

No, rephrase.

Mindfulness is about being present. It’s about being here, now, and allowing for a full-on investigation into how we feel. How I feel.

By the altar that is my computer I sit down and weep.


I started this journey by accident.

One day my life was la-la-la spinning at maximum rpm. The next, I crashed my bike and landed in a hospital trauma ward.

“Nature abhors a vacuum” was my unofficial pre-injury credo. “Never bored!” was my rally cry. That turns out to be a common thread among TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivors.

In Brainlash: Maximize your recovery for mild brain injury, the author asks, “What did you wish for before you blew out your candles?”

The topic has surfaced several times in brain injury support groups, so I figure there’s a reason I can’t get that line out of my head.

I’ve always burned many candles at once – often from both ends.

On the day of the accident, I was 80 km into a 100-km bicycle ride and eyeing the clock: my great-aunt’s funeral was at 2:00 p.m. We had just snacked! The day was beautiful! I was hoping my daughters were home getting dressed and ready. My partner and I had an early morning spat.

These are a few of my favourite things. I’m sure there’s more. There’s always more.

I cycled on.


Here’s what I know now.

Every time I start feeling better, I have the urge to jump back in the old, familiar saddle. That place of go-go-go, of smell-the-roses-so-deeply-you-want-to-pass-out, of wanting everything.

But now when I do that, I crash. Not literally, like 21 months ago. But my brain crashes, and I’m forced to back off.

I am my own Titanic.


Change is f**ing hard.

“It’s not about life being a certain way,” the mindfulness teacher tells us. “It’s about how we relate to life.”

The mountain, the ocean, the forest… How does one cross them? What does one do with the old horse?

My mindfulness class is exploring the five hindrances. These are the five ways the mind keeps us from living fully in the present. They’re the wanting, not-wanting, sleepy, anxious and doubting minds. The five dwarves seeking control.

I’m fairly adept at giving in to them. I let them rob me.


My daughter asked what I want for my birthday.

“A map,” I said. “I’m so lost. I want to know where I’m going.”

Old goals don’t seem appropriate. Nothing’s the same.

And this mindfulness bomb. It’s altered everything. How is now the big question, not what. (And Simon Sinek whispering Why? in my ear.)


Writers are said to be observers of life.

I’ve spent my entire life observing, asking questions and taking notes.

Now I’m trying to turn the camera back on myself. What’s my relationship with myself? With my TBI? How do I feel?

Every time Dr. Bicycle asks me how I feel, I make a quick, professional escape.

I tell stories, distract or explain. I talk about other people. My speech and breathing speed up. Physically, I shut down.

I tell Dr. Bicycle that those are ways I work at discovering how I feel.

He’s quick to shoot down Mara of the Metaphors. “Feel it, write it, then I’ll believe you,” he says.

Is Dr. Bicycle trying to help me be a better person or a better writer? I scribble in my journal.

IMG_9656 2

The vision board I created at a Brain Injury Society of Toronto workshop.

To kick off the year, I attended a university class with my middle daughter Liva.

It was also a good test of managing a half day away with my brain injury.

The lecture topic was Odysseus.

“How does an individual survive the journey of life?” asked the prof. “The Odyssey is a poem about humanity and being human… Odysseus turns darkness and terror into order and knowledge.”

I’m no Greek hero, but I felt echoes of myself.

I called my occupational therapist from rehab. We talked about my struggles with sleep, fatigue and finding time for creativity. I told her about the mindfulness class, Love Your Brain yoga, the Brain Injury Society of Toronto.

“Am I doing the right things?” I asked.

“Doing things that matter most to you will bring the most meaning and purpose,” she replied.

That’s another line I can’t get out of my head.


It’s 6:30 am. I’m writing.

3 thoughts on “Showing up for myself

  1. Mara, I once took a Mindfulness Training course for theatre workers at Toronto Western. I walked to work after every class, and it felt as if I was walking on air.
    My guess is that you’re on the right path. Buca un daudz laimes.

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