Saturday, February 4, 2012
My friend Carlos had a period during his adolescence when he didn’t have much to do. You know that age, to old for all the stuff you used to do, but not old enough to do all the things you wanted to do. Well, he came across a whole pile of rubber bands, an almost limitless supply. So he rolled one into a little ball and then he grabbed another one and wrapped it around the first one. That was so much fun and so rewarding that he selected one more rubber band and repeated the process. He did this whenever he had some spare time and wasn’t going anywhere for awhile. By the end of the summer he had a rubber band ball about the size of a basketball. He called his creation “Boredom.” Boredom became an institution to us. We took it wherever we went. That was twenty years ago, the last place I remember boredom was at college, in the Student Governing Board offices, where it was our constant companion.
Even before I had left the hospital boredom had found me again. In my opinion, the hardest thing about brain injury is the boredom. Everyone finds being infirm to be boring, but brain injury lasts forever! If not forever, for an uncomfortably long time. Everyone with brain injury has memory problems, but everyone can still remember how much fun they used to have and how interesting their life was before their brain injury.
It’s like the football player who is injured and told he will never play football again, except you were playing life and now it appears you will never play life again. What do you tell those well-meaning people who want to give you a kind word of support when they ask what’s wrong? Do you look at them straight on and say, “I’m bored.” In the work-a-day world where people are longing for some peace and quiet how do you convey the utter futility of your predicament? It’s like you’re waiting to get better, but that’s years away if even then.
I do remember the first year after my accident, not in detail, but in general. I remember how bored I was. I still get bored, I think I will spend my life running from boredom. The difference between now and then is that now I’m not bored all the time. I have discovered a secret. The opposite of boredom is purpose. If you find a purpose to your life you will have a way to alleviate boredom. Purpose fills each day with opportunity and each moment with wonder. I actually find myself lamenting that there aren’t enough hours in the day!
The tough part is actually finding a purpose. In my experience it is rarely found by sitting back and wondering what it might be, wishing upon a star. Usually, people are going through their life and this purpose just bites them on the nose. This isn’t much solace for those who are bored now, so what can a person do?
I would look at volunteer opportunities. This is not to say that this is the best way to find your passion and purpose in life, but it does give you something to do until you find your place in the world.
Remember to look inward. Before I was of much use to anyone I spent time improving myself. “Invest in yourself first,” a sage once told me. That is my mantra now, whenever I talk about brain injury to survivors I talk about ways that I found to improve myself after my accident, many of these techniques I have written about in these pages, but everyone is different and we all must chart our own course.
Good luck and happy sailing.