Sunday, May 20, 2012

More interpretations of what is inspirational

As I ponder this subject, my ideas begin to crystallize. Picture rock candy forming on a string as the water evaporates. Maybe not.

Maybe it is more like my ideas are becoming purified like water through a Brita filter.

What is it called when something goes from opaque to translucent to transparent? I think that is the process I mean. My concept of inspiration is becoming clearer or at least easier to articulate.

April 26th, 2002 my brother Tim died. This is an excerpt from my words at his memorial:

            When we were kids there was a huge snowstorm in New York one winter. The schools were closed and Matt and Tim and I went to the park together. Matthew, always the adventurous one, convinced us to jump from the high brick wall separating the different levels of Riverside Park. He said the snow was so deep it would catch us. It would be soft and fluffy when we landed. We sat on the wall and looked down and it seemed much too far. Tears started to run down Tim’s face. Matt said let’s jump and he did landing in a roll and laughing. By then Tim was really crying. I knew I had to jump next or I would lose my nerve. My foot got caught in a vine and I fell head first. (Yikes, another blow to the head.) Still I landed okay although much harder than I had expected. From down below we egged Tim on, “JUMP! JUMP!” we shouted over his wails. Trembling and sobbing, he finally did. Tim's tears froze on his face and we all laughed together. Years later I realized that he was the bravest one of all of us because real bravery is to do what you are afraid to do. 

I think that is why I do not find inspiration in portraits of smiling brain-injured people. It is not because I do not think they should be smiling. It is because for the most part, the ones who are smiling were smiling even before the injury. 

Far more inspirational is the person who never really smiled, even when she had plenty to smile about and now with a brain-injury must fight so hard to smile. 

The face I see has an expression of determination not resignation, dried tear stains, and a smile revealing a glint of arch humor. It is a face that is mourning the loss of the old self while embracing rebirth. Not unlike a baby, entering the world and leaving the safety of the womb, crying at the outrage. Those cries, gasps, screams reveal the struggle but also serve the purpose of allowing oxygen to enter the blood stream. 

I shake my fist at the reality while I struggle for air. The face of brain injury that inspires me is the one that reflects survival. I do not need a face that says: I am happy even with a brain injury. I want a face that says: 

I AM even with a brain injury.

(Maybe, I do kind of want to be an inspiration, just the way I am.)

1 comment:

Elizabeth, John and Jack said...

It takes a ton of courage to accept your new self, as you are today. That is inspirational and encouraging. And smiling is good for everyone. I've had probably equal smiles to tears along the way. I try to keep smiling no matter just feels better.