This quote seems to be everywhere lately (I’m not sure of the origin) and has especially resonated with me after reading a book for book club called Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. It’s about a woman who is in a car accident and sustains a traumatic brain injury. Her life is turned upside down and her impairments force her to take a second look at her life and at what is truly important. Let me just say right off that I would recommend this book. Especially if you’ve ever wondered how a brain injury might affect someone.
I wouldn’t have chosen it to read. Not because it’s not a good story but because before my days of being a mom I worked on a brain injury team. As a speech therapist I saw this type of patient on a daily basis. Looking at this book on the shelf I would have said, “I already know the story.” I’ve seen first hand the often heartbreaking lasting effects of a brain injury. The sorrow of the individual, struggle of the family to push forward, and overwhelming difficulty of accepting that life will never be the same. But these people often find fulfillment in other unexpected areas of life. The author does an excellent job of portraying this.
Maybe the individual will never return to work full-time again or never return to work at all. Maybe they cannot ever drive or climb stairs. But perhaps through this time of dark despair other interests reveal themselves. Photography, painting, volunteering, or simply ambling through the park. Many of these patients are forced to slow down their lives and in doing so, discover what had been passing them by in all the chaos. Children, hobbies, vacations, date nights, old friends. Drinking of cup of coffee on the patio and watching the sunrise.
This book struck a chord with me and it took some time to figure out why. Sarah, the main character, goes from a hectic business woman with three kids and not a free minute in the day to needing assistance for something as simple as pulling up her pants. Since she is forced to slow down she becomes more aware of her own life. I don’t want to give away too much (it’s a quick read and worth it) but I will say that in reading this book I realized that my patients are the reason I’ve become so focused on being present in the moment of each day. Every day is a gift. A gift that we can spend frantically running from one task to the next or we can create a life around ourselves that uplifts, fulfills, and comforts. It is our choice.
An excerpt from the book:
Ever since business school, I’ve had my head down, barreling a thousand miles an hour, wearing the flesh of each day down to the bone, pointed down one road toward a single goal. A successful life…And then I crashed my car. For the first time in almost a decade, I stopped barreling a thousand miles an hour down a road. Everything stopped. And although much of the stillness of the past four months has been a painful and terrifying experience, it has given me a chance to lift my head up and have a look around.
And I’m starting to wonder. What else is there? Maybe success can be something else, and maybe there’s another way to get there.
I’ve always said that as a therapist my patients teach me lessons just as I teach them. Thank you to all the patients I’ve ever treated. I’m sorry for what happened to you. It’s not fair and I hope you can feel complete again. But know that you taught me to slow down and this has given me great fulfillment. I had no idea what an impression you left until reading this book.