Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Let go.

This is my 24/7 mantra these days. It can be hard for others to understand that as TC emerges from the fog of brain injury and continues his miraculous recovery, I am swimming against the currents of nearly six months of built up fatigue, frustration, and the ugliest word of all: resentment.

The really good days make the bad ones feel even worse somehow. After a day of listening to TC speak clearly and coherently, a day of garble and nonsense is enough to make me close the door to my bedroom and scream aloud. Yes, I really did this the other day. And oddly, yes, it did help.

There is still such heartbreak in watching TC struggle and I’m not sure this feeling will ever subside. His amazing progress has only wet my palate and deepened my yearning to return to former life. But the road is still long. My mission still in progress. Between the therapy, the bills, the paperwork, the toddler, and the enormous emotional baggage, I am responsible for so much more than any one individual ought to be.

I know I’m doing my best, but there are plenty of moments in which I am not proud of myself. Anger erupts within a millisecond and even though I’m not angry at anyone other than the people responsible for this mess, they’re not here to receive the blow. It’s not healthy to live with this kind of poisonous energy bubbling underneath the surface, and at the end of the day, all we have is our health, so I have made it a priority to cope with these feelings in a more positive manner.

With 30 years behind me and about 90 years of life experience, there are so many lessons I wish I would have learned earlier in life. There are so many moments I would have held tighter, so many kisses I would have indulged in, so many times I wish I had paused to just breathe and appreciate. I often hear that this blog has helped others to find gratitude in their everyday lives, and the opportunity to sort out my feelings and to share our story with you has certainly helped me to do the same.

When I began sharing our story openly I made the conscious decision to tell it as honestly as I could. I read quite a lot of books these days about people who have overcome challenging circumstances and the parts that resonate most and provide the most comfort are not the parts where the characters are victorious, they’re the parts where the characters admit that the struggle is hard. This journey has inspired me, renewed me, convinced me of impossible things, and shown me incredible beauty, but there are still many days I’m not sure I have the strength or the will power to live through it. In order to survive and to keep fighting, the only option is to stay calm and nurture the negativity that threatens to throw me overboard.

So, here are the secrets of my survival, the wisdom I wish I had access to sooner, the tips that could have helped me to live a more happy and fulfilled life from the beginning. I share these with with you knowing that no matter what your problems or anxieties are today, there is always room for living better if you allow yourself to adopt a new mindset.

Stress is one of the few diseases you have the option of inviting in. So don’t. The consequences are dire.

You cannot be a caregiver or a parent or a spouse to anyone unless you’re willing to take care of yourself first. Stress is a powerful factor in our physical and mental health. Most every crappy thing can be linked back to it. It’s the #1 complaint I hear from most friends. I used to believe it was a normal part of life, but now I understand its true toxicity. Minimizing stress is not about taking on less responsibility. It’s about investing less emotional energy into the things that cause anxiety. Just say no. Really.

NEVER choose a load of laundry or dirty dishes over an opportunity for quiet and nothingness. 

There will be laundry and dishes to do every day of your life. But you will never regret that hour you spent listening to jazz or taking a mid-day bubble bath. Life is so much more important and rewarding than any to-do list. You must embrace these opportunities without guilt.

When insomnia visits, it can be cured by online shopping for fun, sparkly shoes.

There is no real brilliance behind this one, just to suggest that retail therapy has its time and place. So does indulgence.

A 10 minute walk outside is equal to roughly 4 hours of mental peace and relaxation afterwards.

Fresh air and sunshine. If plants need them to survive, so do humans. Just think about it.

Kiss the baby at least 62 times a day. He will only be a baby once and his sweet baby skin has extraordinary healing properties.

No baby? Substitute “dog,” “child,” “grandma,” “goldfish,” whatever. It still works. Time is fleeting. Create as many visceral memories as you can.

Resist focusing on what you do not have.

In addition to my “say no to stress rule,” this may be the one I find hardest to follow. Social media makes it nearly impossible not to compare our lives to others, yet this is such a tiring and unrewarding expenditure of energy. I had a vision for my life right now and the reality is vastly different than I had hoped. I acknowledge this fact, but try hard not to dwell on it. What do I have? A husband who loved me enough to stay on this earth with me against all the odds. A son, who despite all my imperfections, continues to be the loveliest, spunkiest little person I know. A community who banded together to make it possible for us to keep going and who has alleviated some of my most major fears in the process. A family who is uniquely hilarious, steadfastly devoted, and all mine. OK. Now your turn.

Some things really are first world problems.

I’m not talking about relationship problems or deep seeded concerns here. I’m talking about traffic, out of stock items, lines at Starbucks, annoying bosses, and all the other ridiculous nonsense that floods my Facebook newsfeed. None of that is worth an ounce of anyone’s time or energy. Truly.

Be grateful.

As often, as much, as exuberantly as you can be. Give thanks each day.

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