I often get asked why we’ve chosen to return to D.C. and the answer is complex. To begin with, it’s our home. It’s where our child was born, where we bought out first place, and where I enjoy a job that I love. We care deeply about our neighbors and friends here. They are wonderful people and they have worked enormously hard to protect us this year. But there are also drawbacks to staying. We don’t enjoy the notoriety that has accompanied this experience. It’s hard not to reminisce about our quiet life a year ago and envy the privacy we once enjoyed. But we accept the situation, acknowledge our own part in it, and will continue to try very hard to steer any public conversations toward the topics of brain injury and aphasia, which is where we believe the attention should be.
The blog, which began as a way of updating friends and family about TC’s progress, spun a life of its own. Never did I intend to grieve or rejoice so publicly, because I never could have imagined how things would continue to change. I am a strong believer in the value of honesty, however. There will be many families who travel this journey after us. I have even had the pleasure of meeting a few already. It would be a disservice to all to pretend the road is paved in rainbows and daffodils. As a caregiver, I wanted to be prepared for the challenges ahead and reading other people’s experiences afforded me that opportunity. People need to know that it’s OK to be depressed from time to time. It’s OK to grieve things that are lost and for that process to be as messy, unusual, or heartbreaking as it might turn out to be. Likewise, people should know that dark feelings are not necessarily permanent and that one day, as it did for us, the heavy fog will likely rise.
Before this year, I never knew so much goodness and generosity existed in the world. As the recipients of abundant kindness, TC and I still cope with awkward feelings about this. We’ll never feel completely deserving of what we’ve been given, but we do hope people know that we’ll spend the remainder of our lifetimes trying to pay it back. That is truly our responsibility now.
However, and I don’t think I’m suggesting anything particularly provocative or novel here, I do believe the human race could be doing a whole better for one another. I pay a little closer attention these days to the tragedies in our world and I’m both appalled and shocked by the cruelty in people’s responses. We are so quick to judge a person’s character or situation based on a nugget of potentially accurate information. We accept secondhand knowledge as if it were concrete fact and we rarely follow the old adage of “putting one’s self in another’s shoes.” We see blatant injustice in front of our faces and we choose to look the other way. There is so much potential for kindness in our lives. And, as a whole, we’re simply not living up to it.
Life is complicated and ever evolving. I write now with the understanding that my opinions are subject to change at any time. But, as I try to unravel myself from the web of insanity that has characterized the past twelve months, I’d like to use the next year to not simply become unstuck, but to move forward. We can do better for ourselves and for each other, but it begins with honest self-reflection. We can afford to give more. We can afford to give more meaningfully. And I know, without doubt, that we are all strong enough to be more than who we are presently. I’d much rather spend my time on this planet advocating for compassion and kindness than perpetuating cycles of negativity and ignorance. So, I’m aiming high in the year ahead and I encourage others to do the same. Let’s make it happen.