Summer in my family means lovely and relaxing days at our lake cabin in Northern Minnesota. I grew up the daughter of teachers so we would spend the whole summer at my maternal grandparents’ lake cabin! It wasn’t large and fancy but now that I look back on the experience it was pretty special to be able to spend a whole summer at a lake cabin.
When I was a teenager my parents purchased our very own cabin about 45 minutes from my grandparents’ cabin and we still spend as much time as we can at the lake cabin during the summer!
This summer even though the world has been in chaos for all of 2020, we still get to spend time at our cabin. I have seen retailers promoting “Christmas in July” to get people to spend 💵! Well, instead of “Christmas in July, ” I am going to use this monthly essay to have “Thanksgiving in July!” And by that, I mean I am taking this time to GIVE THANKS.
There’s no arguing that 2020 has been pretty universally not great. COVID-19 has spread worldwide taking lives and livelihoods. In the United States especially, racism has taken the national spotlight and focused it on centuries of racism and discrimination in this country. And those are the big issues that have gained focus but out of those bigger issues fall smaller ones. Not to mention it’s a presidential election year in the United States which brings with it its own sort of publicity and turmoil.
And while these larger issues are affecting many, there are still the ebbs and flows of regular life that bring with it major things like illness, death and job loss, and more minor things like broken down cars, colds, and bad weather.
So where does that leave the average person? Are you going to be mired down by the weight of the bad news of the world, or are you going to rise to fight another day? There are days when I don’t feel like rising up and fighting. I remember when I was really suffering from fibromyalgia and some days just air hitting my skin hurt. If you haven’t suffered from a chronic condition that causes widespread pain that probably sounds nutty. However, we’ve all suffered from bad moods. So just replace the widespread pain that feels like it makes air settling on your skin hurt with a bad mood that makes every word or glance from another person seem like an assault. It’s days like those that make it hard to feel like fighting the good fight. However, with a lot of great advice from therapists, and my fair share of experience putting that advice to use, I’ve developed a list of a few things that help me move through those challenging moments. This list is a work in progress just like I’m a work in progress.
Things I do that get me ready to fight another day:
- Cuddle a puppy: This is my own rule not based on advice. However, when I was in the hospital and transitional care they had therapy dogs come visit the patients! (So there’s definitely science there.) It’s obvious that I’m a dog person. Always have been. Yet, now after my TBI, I see the benefits of loving something that loves you back so unconditionally.
- Create: For me, creativity fills my tank. It is definitely my fuel. A few months after my coma I was already coming up with story ideas. Good ones that I plan to work on after my memoir. After my TBI, I have expanded the different ways I create. (Visit my #CreativityForDays page to get an idea of how I create besides creative writing.)
- Read something enjoyable: Since I have been writing my memoir, I have been reading more memoirs. I am avoiding Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) memoirs since that’s what mine is about and I don’t want to be influenced. I also enjoy Entertainment Weekly, People, Food Network Magazine, and other lighter entertainment magazines.
- Wear something that makes me (you) smile: This isn’t based on advice other than my own. I will talk about this some other time, but I really feel like the TBI took away all my insecurities that I had been carrying around since I was a teen. And once those insecurities disappeared I was able to enjoy things with the same overzealous exuberance I had as a child. I love purple like I once did and love to wear what I like (especially if it tells people what I like or makes me and others smile). Also, I have discovered fun socks, slippers, and pajamas. Life is too short to wear boring clothes that don’t make you smile. There is a poem by Jenny Joseph called “Warning” that has this famous line: “when I’m an old lady I shall wear purple/ and a red hat that doesn’t suit me…” (read it here). The poem is basically about not conforming and my TBI has made me really see the truth of that poem.
- Don’t spend too much time on electronic devices: I have been working on this for roughly 3 years. Perhaps it is why I have been crafting, drawing, and painting more. I use the “Screen Time” feature on my Apple devices to monitor how much time I’m spending on them. I have limited myself to 4 hours a day. This still seems like a lot but I am creative writing on my iPad which includes writing my memoir, this blog, and a blog I do for another organization. Yet, I would still like to get that down a lot more.
- Don’t worry about what I (you) can’t change: This is perhaps an obvious one. Yet it’s something I spent my whole life trying to learn and now after the TBI I am having to re-learn it.
- Ground myself (yourself) in the present and be mindful: “Mindfulness” has been a hot button topic the last several years. As someone recovering from a TBI and coma who’s brain doesn’t quite work the same way it once did, mindfulness has started to make sense. After my brain injury, I get overwhelmed far easier and don’t respond well to multiple stimuli at once. What this means is that it’s even more important for me to stay in the present and pay attention to it and live one moment at a time.
You may be asking yourself what all this has to do with being thankful since I did say this post was my “Thanksgiving in July.” Well, hug your puppy, I’m getting to that. If I am thoughtful with my actions and the time in my day by using the 7 tips I listed… I’m able to be thankful! Ah ha! You see where I was going with that?! Now set your puppy down (no need to hug it fiercely anymore) and settle in for my list of things I am grateful for.
My Thankful List
- Family: My accident and injury made family seem even more important than it was. And social distancing brought into focus how important touch and physical closeness is since I have a very diminished sense of hearing.
- Friends: Social distancing has meant we’ve had to rely on technology to communicate.
- Pets: Selby and Bella are really under the “family” category. But they also get their own spot on my thankful list for the sheer joy they give me and my family. (Okay, you can hug your trusty 🐶 again.)
- Health: I can’t say enough about how recovering from my TBI is a process, a journey that I still have a long ways to travel down. Yet, I am pretty grateful I have progressed to where I am. I am also grateful for the health of family and friends. As COVID-19 makes its mark worldwide, I find it important to be grateful and thankful for the health we have. Because it certainly isn’t a given.
- Traditions: Even though the world is certainly in chaos (and a chaos actively felt by many), my family and I have still been lucky and privileged enough to still have our traditions. And as I mentioned, in the summer, our tradition is time spent at our lake cabin. Lucky. Privileged. Grateful. And very thankful.
#CreativityForDays Weekly Project
We have this “Welcome Home” sign that had a metal pumpkin for the “O” in Home and my parents and I loved the look of it and where it fit on our wall near the entryway. So when the Fall season is over we were always looking for something to hang in that spot that fit with the corresponding season. Then I got the idea to craft something. Mom and I bought small, round, plain, wooden coasters at Michael’s (crafters in the USA know what store I’m talking about). And I also got metallic acrylic paint and painted various seasonal designs on the coasters. I then put some Command(TM) Strips on the back so I can easily put a different “O” on the sign for each season. The sign came with a pumpkin for Fall and I did a Christmas 🎄 for Christmas, a ❄️ for Winter, a 🌷 for Spring and a ☀️ for Summer. It was fun!
Memoir Writing Word Count
Since I decided to dedicate Thursdays to writing a new blog post that I’m calling #TBIthursday, I am writing more aggressively in my memoir. Maybe not aggressively but I am generating new content and have a new word count.
A Selby Sweetie Conclusion
When my Mom and I were shopping for things for my sign craft project, she saw containers of bubbles for 99 cents. And perhaps this is a sign she’s lived with the me who takes fun and silliness to be important parts of my self-care (see the 7 tips I listed earlier). But she wanted to get the bubbles so we could blow them and Selby would chase after them (because Selby 🐶 is something we’re both grateful for). So we got them and played with them in the yard and @selbysweetie chased them. It was THE BEST! Here’s photographic proof.