I could’ve been born at any time, and in any place in the history of our world. But I was born, at 2 am, on the 26th of August, in the year 1982 AD.
I can’t begin to calculate the astronomical chance that I would be born in the late-20th century to white, middle-america high-school sweethearts, (who were still desperately in love), in a country where women are free to pursue their deepest heart’s desires. Growing up, I remember constantly dreaming, writing, and exploring, though my super-sensitivity caused me at times to retract into myself. I was always encouraged by my parents to ponder and to wonder, and as a result, I have never lost my insatiable curiosity about the world. I was born free to be the open heart, the artist, & the student of life that I am, and I remain eternally grateful for that reality.
By the time I was in college, I had been writing music for about 5 years. I felt a stirring to move in an opposite direction than that of my peers, who were dreaming of marriage, kids, a house, and a stable 9-5 job. It wasn’t that those things were offensive to me. I dreamt of finding love. I wanted kids. But what I wanted most, was to live a life AWAKE, based on passion, travel and freedom.
I spent a decade struggling with truly listening to the inner workings of my heart. By 20 years old, I felt certain that I wanted to be a professional, singer/songwriter, but it was always two steps forward, one step back. I had the drive, the perseverance, and the musical skill to achieve it, and I made great strides through huge bursts of energy that propelled me forward. But I always got side-tracked (or what I believed was side-tracked) by my relationships.
Unaware until the last few years of my life that I was an Empath, and that I was built to “feel and heal”, I found myself drawn to every broken person that would come into my path. I would dive head first into the depth of their pain, and throw my life into alleviating it. It came so natural to me that I didn’t even realize I was doing it. And then, I would shake my head in disbelief when that relationship ended, and I was left with my career ice-cold on the back burner where I had left it.
Today, on the 4th of July, sitting in the lobby of my building, surrounded by tables with flags draped in red, white and blue, the idea of Freedom is naturally dominating my mind. Not so much the freedom of our country to live by its own ideals, (though obviously that as well), but rather the freedom of every individual to greet each day with a certain outlook; to choose joy or pain, gratitude or ingratitude.
TBI caretakers and survivors often feel like their freedoms have been taken away from them. Survivors are stripped of their mobility, cognitive abilities, social networks, careers, marriages, friendships and so on. Caregivers, whose lives are forever changed by TBI as well, find that their world is narrowed tremendously by their role as advocate, provider, and protector. It is so incredibly hard to not wake up and wish you could go back; wish it could be undone. It is so incredibly difficult to not feel jealousy when you witness seemingly “normal” couples doing “normal” things on a major holiday; so blissfully unaware of their good fortune. It is so difficult to stop staring at the closed door in your face, and turn your head towards the open window.
I’ve fashioned my life around working as a musician, so that I could always travel when I wanted, without feeling tied to something like a 401K or a raise. I’ve always rented a home so that I wouldn’t feel tied down to a mortgage. I’ve never kept expensive things that I would have difficulty throwing or giving away. And I’ve never cared that my lifestyle has somewhat isolated me; that I never had “work friends”, or “playdates” or got invited many places. It never bothered me that my life was so different from that of my peers. Until TBI entered the picture.
TBI keeps the life I had fashioned from being possible, and has a way of being extremely isolating as well. And so today, if I allowed myself, I could easily drift off to the “what if’s” and “should haves” that never do anyone any good. What if I had followed a more traditional path after college? Would I be like them? Would I be happier? What if I had worked harder to call Patrick back the hours before his accident? If he had spoken to me a fraction of a second longer, could I have prevented this? Truly, it is only when your life feels so far from normal, that a gypsy woman dreams of something as traditionally American as as going to a BBQ with friends, and watching fireworks. Those are the dreams these days. Simplicity. Normalcy.
But the reality is, that TBI demands that each of us make a choice. Its reality is so fierce and so blunt and raw, that we simply cannot live in an in-between state of existence. For as long as we draw breath, we are free to choose what we will focus on; the blessings or the curses, the suffering or the healing. And I have found personally that this journey towards living in a state of gratitude has been my most challenging thing for me. I have been, and continue to strive to become more aware of my thoughts, which always generate feelings. And that is the point I am trying to make: it is an act of FREE WILL to love, of FREE WILL to stay with our survivors, and of FREE WILL to choose to focus on gratefulness.
We must remember: Freedom lies in the open window, not the closed door.
This is not me preaching from the pulpit. I am impossibly human, and spend far too much time staring at the closed door. But we are given the choice to CHOOSE to be free. And that is insanely beautiful to me.
I’ve realized recently, that though I’ve always wanted to make music, what I’ve always wanted more was to make a difference. My heart lies in a quest to change the world for the better, one human interaction at a time. THAT is my life’s calling, and music is one avenue through which to do that. I have grieved my music. I have been angry and frustrated that I’ve not achieved my artistic goals. But if I had been the fierce business woman I wanted to be, and kept my nose to the grindstone, forsaking relationships left and right, instead of stopping to help the broken, I simply wouldn’t be who I am today, or have made the music that I made either.
Tonight, Patrick and I sat on the patio of our building and waited to watch for fireworks over the marina. We watched the sunset; a spectacular display of light, clouds and gulls over the beach. Then we waited in the dark with other residents. Patrick was too scared to stand up and hold onto the 6th floor railing (his fear of heights has increased since his accident), so he sat in his wheelchair, and I stood beside him.
As the fireworks began, the crowd got quiet as we all were reduced to children with an wondrous awe. I felt a chill pass over me, and swore I felt Patrick standing with his strong body behind me; wrapping his arms around me, nuzzling his face into my neck and whispering something to me. And there it was: A ghost. A melancholy pang to the chest. The closed door.
The closed door knocks the wind out of you every time you look at it. I always have to keep from buckling at the knees when faced with it. This time it seemed too much to bear, so instead of trying to stand, I simply lowered myself onto his lap and the wheelchair.
He put his arms around me anyway; first his strong right arm, and then his weak left. He pulled me close.
Open window, I told myself. This is the open window.