Big Record, Small Turntable (31 Month Update)

June 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Our Recovery Journal

Big record, small turntable - 31 Month UpdateAs a kid, I remember being fascinated by my parents’ record player.  As an inquisitive child, I never did figure out how a record could spin around and produce music and voice from all the tiny little grooves.  There was something magical about sliding a record out of its sleeve, placing it on the turntable, and then having the freedom to physically move and place the needle wherever I wanted.

The average record player has three speed settings.  Every record is formatted to either 33 1/3, 45, or 78 rpm’s.  For it to sound right, the record must be played at the right speed.  If the wrong speed is chosen, the record sounds completely different.  Songs played too fast or slow are so different from the norm that they upset our human sense of order and balance.

Play a record too fast and voices transform into a gang of caffeinated chipmunks.  A song at chipmunk speed may seem entertaining, but most adults cannot stomach the chirpy voices and loss of rhythm for more than a few moments.

A slower setting results in and even more unnatural rendition of the song.  Voices are slowed down and deepened.  At this setting, every word lingers past the point where it has meaning.  Human ears have grown accustomed to the typical pattern of listening to sounds and immediately interpreting the information.

In today’s autocorrect world, we have become accustomed to our surroundings automatically adjusting to our lifestyle.  Modern living has refined our lives to the point where we have a hard time dealing with situations that are out of the norm.  Uncomfortable situations have become intolerable to more and more people.  Today’s technology is intuitive and obvious… much different than a record player that has no interest in adjusting itself to suit our ears.


The Fast Speed of Our Previous Life

Once upon a time, my family’s days were filled with activity.  Local parks, bike trails, and pools were a staple of our existence.  The zoo, museum, and science center injected new experiences into our typical schedule.  The days where the car stayed in the driveway were few and far between.

Life felt normal and natural.  On the record player of life, our record had found the perfect speed.

When we were a family of four, we were quick and agile.  A family who was able to choose an activity, pack up, and leave all within minutes.  Each member had an intuitive knowledge of what needed to be done in order to get ready and go.  Transitions were accomplished without argument or fuss… and often without any words at all.


Adjusting to Change

The days of agile living now seem like an eternity ago.  In our previous life, complaints like “I’m SOOO bored” could be neutralized with a quick trip to the park, pool, or field.  The ability to pursue spontaneous action helped keep life flowing smoothly.

Such trips are now frivolity.  The effort needed to get the car rolling has placed these trips beyond the threshold of worthwhile.  Preparation at the house now takes too much energy, and when we do get out things still do not feel normal.

My tribe is pigeonholed by the limits of slow walking and limited access.  Activities that once came naturally now move at a pace that we still have not learned to embrace.  Time creeps slowly, and memories of our previous life fill the vacuum.  We are living life on a record that is far too big… either that or our turntable is far too small.

The reality of handicap is that our previous game plan must be crumpled up and thrown away.  Discarding spontaneity and replacing it with a highly structured schedule may not suit our personality, but it gives us the best chance to maintain our sanity.


Slow Healing

The broken hand has highlighted the turtle-like speed of our new life.  A normal person can expect the x-ray to show healing after a week or so, but Jess’ body now heals at a much slower rate.  It has now been several weeks and the bone has just now begun to calcify.

Until the bone is healed, use of the right hand has been limited.  Jess can no longer carry an item from counter to table or go up and down the stairs while holding her cane.  The original injury resulted in a few sedentary days, and those days weakened her body and her resolve.  She has regressed into an overreliance of others.

Additional injury has resulted in an internal war between fear and will.  Fear argues against attempting even the simplest of tasks.  It leads to paralysis of spirit as obvious actions are now second-guessed in lieu of asking for help.


light switch - 31 month updateThe Price of Relearning Movements

Before the injury, Jess had developed comfort with a number of organizational and managerial tasks around the house.  The responsibility for each of these tasks was given to her little by little, and after months of success she had now reached a solid level of proficiency with them.  She had entrenched herself as the responsible provider when it came to doing the dishes, folding laundry, and managing her nighttime routine.  When the hand fractured, so did her confidence in completing these tasks.

Take the act of operating a light switch.  It seems like it should be automatic, but the process of relearning this task involves many individual motions.  We take for granted the act of standing, balancing, extending the arm, reaching out index and middle fingers, making contact with the switch, and pushing it up or down.

This process was not learned in a day or even a week.  Automating it into a single motion required thousands of repetitions.  Most importantly, it required exceeding patience from everyone around her.  It would be easy to simply walk ahead of her and turn the switch on… the 5-10 seconds it took her to complete this task seemed like an eternity.  Months of repetition resulted in smoother and quicker motions.  It also insulated against the frustration of failure… and the fear of trying.


The Psyche of Fear

The fear that results from brain injury is the greatest obstacle in recovery.  When a patient slips into learned helplessness, massive effort is needed to get them to think about doing for themselves.

Although Jessica’s body may be capable of regaining everything in a few short weeks, her mind will seduce her into the role of a patient.  Investments of time and energy will have to be made all over again to re-attain goals we had previously surpassed.  Function will return, but only after the purgatory of weighing her own fear against the demands of those around her.

Fear is a tether that attaches her to her support system.  It demands that she be in close proximity to another capable adult before attempting any action.


Overcoming Fear

Fear represents an expansive roadblock to recovery, but it is a temporary nuisance that can and will be overcome.  A life of fear is a life where everything else in life is placed on the back burner.

We have had a great deal of practice dealing with fear.  Jess’ mind is accustomed to the internal struggles that come before deciding to pursue accomplishment.  Her spirit has become accustomed to her new realities… ones where even small goals require massive motivation.

The antidote for fear is need.  When she needs something for herself and her children, the indecision fades and the fear is overcome by the will to accomplish.  Fear is quickly vanquished when there is a need to get up and settle an argument or provide a child with food or drink.


Looking Forward

The path of life is largely determined by the decisions we make.  We cannot control the limitations that God and has placed on us, but we can choose focus on the things we can control.  Whatever limitations we face, it is comforting to know that there are others out there that are able to make due with even less than we do.  It is our responsibility to make whatever adjustments we can to continue pursuing life of fulfillment.

The changes we face have been a long time coming.  After 31 months, my family is beginning to develop a tolerance for the new realities present in our lives.  The record player of our life now plays our music on a slow setting.  We are finally beginning to tune in and appreciate the rhythm and cadence of the current song(s) of our life.

Every month that goes by seems more natural and normal than the month before.  Each day my family becomes more accustomed to the new demands that circumstance has thrust upon us.  We make life worth living by focusing on what we do have and doing our best to appreciate it.

Jessica and I still make mistakes.  Our kids are still prone to misbehavior.  In that sense, life has not changed.  The thing that has changed is that we now look for joy in the small things we do each day.  We look for small moments of happiness in all the mundane activity of our typical day.  Stopping to smell the roses is no longer a choice for us.  The only choice is deciding to appreciate the aroma.


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2 Responses to “Big Record, Small Turntable (31 Month Update)”
  1. Barb says:

    I experienced a TBI when another car struck mine. In my injuries, I was alone: A widow with 3 young adult children in distant cities pursuing their own lives. My friends stepped in and helped. One became my driver and took me to all of my doctor appointments and testings for several years. A cousin travels several thousand miles to care for me for 6 weeks after my first surgery. Many meals, and prayers were provided for the first few years. Largely today, I find myself alone. Most people will not tolerate the slowness, my lack of understanding, and the pain limitations that are my world today. I think that your wife is amazingly blessed to have your continued love and the busy needs of your children to amuse her. I find that gratitude and forgiveness has helped me reach toward healing. Your story makes me smile. I know exactly what it is like to be where you are now. I wish you well.

  2. jturka says:

    Thank you so much, Barb. Jessica and I are glad to have the opportunity to make you smile!

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