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Stick to it My Boy

Personal Stories

Stick to it My Boy

Many of us hear voices in our head one way or another. 

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".


Social difficulties
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 back!

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"!

Following through
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 opportunity."

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 forward.
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 within myself.

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 alone.
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 happen.

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 framework.
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 useful.
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 through.


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