Stick to it My Boy
Many of us hear voices in our head one way
One of my voices I think is my Dad's. It says things like "Son,
you need a little bit of "stick-ability". When he was teaching me
golf, he would say "Golf is like living. If you follow through on
your action, then you will get further".
These two sayings come back to me frequently these days,
especially since one of the things I have difficulty with is
sustaining an activity, particularly if something to do with
interacting with people. Somehow, keeping track of a conversation,
or being able to follow an idea thread through eludes me more
easily these days. Email conversations begin to elude me after a
while - I either have to recycle through old copies to remind me of
where we're up to, or I just stop writing. I think I even
discouraged one overseas correspondent. I'd forgotten I'd initiated
a correspondence, and when he wrote back I replied with surprise,
wondering where he'd obtained my email address! He never wrote
Making the most of strategies
For most of my life I have managed to get things done by setting
little strategies in place. A strategy might be setting goals, or
working out a series of steps to get something accomplished, or
thinking about a plan of action, and then activating it, or keeping
my daily to-do-list current.
It seems that after my haemorrhagic stroke, all these little
strategies have been sabotaged. If they are still there, they just
don't seem to work very well any more. I set my goals, work at them
for a few weeks, and then something happens - I get distracted and
forget I had them. When I remember, I find I have to start again.
However, I take heart from a mentor of mine who once said "I take
one step forward and two steps back. But I get there in the end
because I discover I'm facing the wrong way!"
It becomes easier to give up than sweat through some way of
maintaining the conversation, or continuing reading the book, or to
keep working on the job at hand. And then I hear the voice "you
need a little bit of stick-ability here my boy"!
Having grown up with this voice, I know how to modify it, and it
doesn't disadvantage me any more. But I still have a lingering
longing "I'd sure like some of that, and I'd like some energy to go
with it please!" I would like to stick at something and finish it.
I would like to "follow through" with a plan of action and complete
it. But there you are - even that longing waxes and wanes! The
great Sir Winston Churchill said that "An optimist sees an
opportunity in every calamity, a pessimist sees a calamity in every
Opportunities from challenges
Somehow, in the challenge of the experience of an acquired brain
injury I now find myself looking for the opportunity it brings. I
might also find that my lack of "stick-to-it-ness" can be turned
into an opportunity.
"So", you might be asking, "what have you discovered?"
Well, one of the important things has been that this power-tool,
my brain, which was helping to shape the world isn't as rust proof
as I thought it was. Discovering this in such a painful way was a
kind of Copernican revolution. The very bases of my
"meaning-finding" were turned upside down.
For example, this Black Belt now finds it difficult to balance,
let alone perform powerful or intricate karate moves. My drive
towards a Licentiate Diploma on Electric Organ became a jumbled and
uncoordinated mess so I downsized to first grade Jass Piano. My
reading is practically zero. A hard fall for someone who's mantra
was "readers are leaders"!
Choosing a reference point
Another lesson being slowly learned is that comparisons are not
always useful. In the Rehab gym I was extremely grateful that my
injury was mine, and not the same as some of the others there. In
the mystery of "Why these things happen to the people they do
happen to" I found a renewed insight into the randomness of life.
These things happen because they do. My injury is mine, and I am
the only one who can deal with it. I can choose to let it drag me
down, or I can choose to think differently about it. I choose to be
my own reference point for how this injury affects me, and I choose
to be my own reference point for living with it and moving
The great English essayist G.K. Chesterton, said that "Every man
has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself
the courage of other persons." I can't use other people's courage,
and I can't find courage by escaping into literature or TV or drugs
of one kind or another. But if I persevere I CAN find this courage
Choosing to be positive
Back to the voices! I know only too well that negative self talk
weakens my enthusiasm, but positive and inspirational words to
myself can instantly boost my mood and motivate me.
Many different thinkers and motivation-type people have pointed
out that the opportunities we look for are really in ourselves.
They are not "out there" somewhere in our environment; they are not
in luck or chance, or even in other people; they are in ourselves
One of the things I learned quite some years ago when I was
studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming is that people are not broken
- they work perfectly! We may not like what they do, or they may
not like it, but they are able to do it again and again,
systematically. It's not that they're broken; they're just doing
something different from what we, or they, would want to
A work in progress
One way of talking about all this is to say that there is no such
thing as failure, only feedback. No matter what awful thing
happens, this can be interpreted and transformed into a useful
outcome. Knowing this helps get me out of a kind of win/lose
I'm not broken or useless. It seems I work a non-stick-to-it
strategy really well. I am a work in progress, discovering a
different context in which my lack of stick-to-it-ness might be
To be different in many parts of our society is to be guilty. We
have pressures in our communities which inexorably push people into
conformity. If we want to belong to various aspects of our society,
then we must conform to certain behavioural expectations.
The majority, in an adult world, makes the rules where minority
groups of any kind (and we can include the vast numbers of people
with ABI as a minority group) prove to be poor competitors. When we
don't succeed, the majority assumes that the fault is in the us
rather than in the rules of the game. It is then not useful to
similarly blame ourselves.
My doctoral thesis was on the notion of the way language can build
Hope. The word "hope" simply means that something is possible.
Maybe not probable, but at least possible. Hope takes a look and
says "Anything can happen".
Hope carries with it enormous power. It keeps us looking towards a
possible future. I hope for lots, and it is this hoping that keeps
me positive. Maybe a new head is not possible, so I don't hope for
that. But an increasing ability to stick-to-it and follow