Self-awareness

Adaptation

There’s a lot to read about adapting, redesigning, modifying and adjusting at the moment. This is the age of COVID-19!

Governments, schools, churches, businesses, artists, support and aid agencies, individuals and families, and of course health facilities and workers – physical, psychological, emotional.

One article I’ve just read was how Paralympians and their families are using their imaginations to keep training consistent for best results at the next games.

I found myself thinking that they’d be ahead of the ‘game’ though, as they’ve been adjusting and adapting for some time already. As have all of us who are not mainstream, or of groups/peoples who are least valued by the mainstream.

My adult children have lived their lives being blind, but because that is true of them since birth, it has not been a loss or adjustment for them – only everybody around them who is sighted.

Their life and mine, though, has been one of adjusting, modifying, redesigning and adapting to the mainstream, the larger group who resist any life other than the way it suits them. Now this preference for ‘life done my way’ is not unique to a few or a particular group, it is common to all including me (and my children). But a small few, either choose or are thrust into a new version of life where making accommodations is required.

The difference in this ‘age of COVID-19’, is that those who get by with minimal adaptation and modification are now the few.

And those who are already living lives of modifying, adjusting, adapting and redesigning have more of the like added to their load-bearing.

Some of the technology and systems main streamers are now using, the adjusters and modifiers have been using a long time. So, we’re waiting for you to learn to use it in the way we need to.

Some of us living a life of redesign and modification are further isolated by the technology and systems which the new mainstream finds connective.

Families who have already modified and redesigned their life/work/health balance to fit the mainstream’s order, are having to do this again – with parents, partners, children and grandchildren. Families who had different, demanding, changeable, unpredictable days before the ‘age of COVID-19’, will still live this once it passes and continue to live this on top of the current global changes.

My hope is that this generation will remember to consider who will be excluded, forgotten, disadvantaged or isolated by our choices and preferences moving forward and out of this crisis.

That we will not forget, that some of our crises within the overarching crisis of the virus, were born out of our unwittingness or unwillingness to consider those who are not ‘us’.

That we will learn and practice empathy, and the common thread which is our humanness.

That we will talk with each other, and future generations, about who and what we were before and during the ‘age of COVID-19′; who and what we are working toward being past the age of…’.

Hello, Is Anyone There?

I’ve just listened to an interview on the ‘Open House’ podcast with Dr. Christine Durham titled, Unlocking My Brain. Dr. Durham has an acquired brain injury as a result of a car accident, and talks about her recovery and experiences since her accident. She is clearly extremely diligent, insightful and in tune with herself and her surroundings, even amongst the confusion of brain injury and difficulty communicating. She completed her Master’s and a PHD after her accident!

A few things stood out for me as she described her experiences and journey thus far, and her altered but marvellous abilities and processes that have steered her toward such a magnificent level of recovery and insight. She mentioned more than once the shame she felt at not being “a proper person” and the all-encompassing pain not known or seen by outsiders, together with trying to find “Christine” (herself) either at home or at university or teaching at school.

Because she couldn’t communicate initially (and she nutted out her own forms of communication with half her tongue missing) things were done to her and expected of her without considering her pain may have been greater or different than another patient’s, or that she may not understand what was wrong with her brain, or that she was thinking and feeling things even when not communicating anything. It seems all but one doctor made Christine feel she had no hope. Her hope began to rise at her own accomplishments through her pain, ingenuity, and supportive husband, coupled with this one doctor who said she had the choice to learn independence or stay at home – acknowledging that whichever choice she made it was her’s to make. She sat in university lectures hearing gobbly-gook until something started to make sense. She returned to the classroom teaching without writing, guiding her students in other creative ways, and she began and completed a PHD on acquired brain injury profiting from the experiences of others along the way as well.

I’m not going to throw stones, because I can be guilty of assumption as much as the next person, but Christine’s negative experience seems to have been compounded, even exaggerated or extended due to presumption or transferring one’s own experience onto her as the patient rather than thinking outside the box in an endeavour to find out what her experiences and abilities might actually have been. If someone is reacting in a way that I would feel inappropriate for me, or even for them, perhaps I need first to consider as many of the possibilities as to why they may react this way. Possibilities that would never be true of me included.

When a child who might be classed as being on the autism spectrum is being “educated” in an open learning environment and is screaming and rocking or hitting from under a table, perhaps they are in excruciating pain and in sensory overload from the electric cooking equipment in one part of the building , the music in another, and reading aloud in another. As opposed to the presumed misbehaviour when compared to the teacher or another student. Perhaps the student who is blind is frustrated because they are constantly instructed to “learn to speak up” if not getting the teacher’s attention, when in fact other students don’t have to distract the teacher to get attention. Perhaps the person who has had a stroke would like to take longer to get to the next room independently rather than more quickly with someone pushing them in a wheelchair; they may also wish for you to sit and have a conversation with them that takes much of your time because you have to listen attentively and you both have to repeat yourselves, but they wish for you to know what they are thinking and feeling (or even that they do in fact think and feel).

Getting to know people takes time, lots of time. It requires letting go of assumptions, prejudices, insecurities and pride; and embracing vulnerability, humility, one’s own weaknesses, and an interest in someone else’s experiences, opinions, needs and desires. It’s a taxing thing, but much less of a destruction to one’s own soul than guarding, retaining, defending, justifying, focussing and absorption in one’s own familiarity without scrutiny and self-examination.

Oh to grow and learn every day I’m alive!