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Calendar Envy: Strategies for Living

14 Sep

It takes two weeks of repeating a behavior to form a habit.

Those new habits can, in some cases, change how you see yourself and how you interact with the world.

Think about this: After two weeks of repeating a behavior, perspective and approach can fundamentally change. Repeat that behavior long enough, and that new way of acting and reacting becomes part of who you are.

The facts of life about fundamental change came up for me in a recent planning sessions with my co-author, co-conspirator, and confidant Mary, as we got out our “calendars” to schedule one of our upcoming, live and in person, book events. Mary reached across her desk for her Franklin (old school, paper, bound calendar) and I pulled out my phone….

That book, holding a pen in her hand, and writing something in ink on a specific date at a designated time has great meaning for Mary. As I watched her (on my computer screen via Skype, across the miles) record the date, I remembered how significant the act of scheduling a meeting or an appointment or even recording someone’s birthday in my book used to feel.

In that moment, recording my daily tasks, my appointments, my meetings, and my events in the calendar on my phone felt so much less meaningful and powerful.

I started thinking about when and why I moved from my trusted pocket calendar that I carried with me (that once held all the emotional value I saw in Mary’s simple actions of saving a date for an event) to using my phone as a method to organize my life and my day.

I think you know where I am going with this….

During recovery from brain injury it is necessary to develop strategies that make life more manageable or at least not as chaotic. After a couple weeks, those strategies really do become habits and those habits, especially the ones that make life easier in the moment, become part of how we, as survivors, approach situations or cope or manage our moments.

In the midst of the fog of my brain injury, I lost pieces of paper whether they were in a book, a calendar, or hanging out on their own. I simply lost anything paper related. I rarely, however, misplaced my phone.

My cell phone was not just a way for me to communicate but it was also a tool I used to walk into rooms without having to engage with other people, a distraction during agitated moments, and a lifeline to someone who could bail me out of my own mind. I rarely misplaced my phone because it held so much emotional value and was so tied to my safety and well-being.

I don’t know how many appointments, meetings, and phone calls I missed before I realized I needed a better way to keep track of my schedule or even if it was my idea or someone else’s, but moving my calendar to my phone helped me get a grip on a huge piece of my life.

Creating the habit of keeping my important events on my phone gave me peace of mind and helped me calm the feeling of not know where I was “supposed” to be.

So, next time I look at someone else’s Franklin longingly and nostalgically, I will remind myself how good this habit – one that I established when I was pretty darned vulnerable – is for me and breathe just a bit more easily.

I guess the point is this: A compensatory strategy – a method employed to address a condition that is keeping you from functioning at your best – is not always a crutch that you will remove once the condition eases. Compensatory strategies can become habits that help you function better. Period. No need to lament.

What strategies have you employed in your life that remained long standing habits.

This piece originally appeared on

#BrainInjuryAwarenessMonth: March Musings on the Brain Injury Journey

17 Mar

 Every March, I find myself thinking about the brain injury journey. Right now the whole idea of recovery is front and center for me and so many I speak with.

I was at a brain injury event a couple weeks ago and a young stroke survivor who, pre-brain trauma, was a teacher at a community college, asked me how long it took before I felt I recovered. Without hesitation, I surprised myself and replied:

You know what? I still feel like I fake it every single day.

Using the word recovery to represent an epic journey filled with big shifts that lead back to some idealized state makes me uneasy.

I guess some have miraculous healings and sudden flashes of recovery.

My brain injury journey was never about those big changes or the Earth-shattering breakthroughs. It was about small, breathtaking moments – ones that just seemed to materialize that represented another step forward.

I imagine that at one point I realized that the key was paying attention and noticing all the tiny shifts that added color, quality, and a bit of humanity back into my life. If I blinked I missed them. So, more than anything else, I needed to be present, with eyes wide open, to use these small shifts to move forward.

Meme.steps forward CO path.rec

As Mary Lanzavecchia, my valued writing partner and co-author, and I prepare to release our first joint effort, An Insider’s Guide to the Injured Brain: A workbook for survivors and those who support them, we have been diving deeply into recovery and what that means. We know that the process of writing An Insider’s Guide and creating the exercises to support the concepts lead us both to a new level of recovery however, that too was slow and sometimes painful.


So this March here is where I am.

I am more than good enough for today.

Tomorrow I anticipate being even better.

Imagine what next March will bring.

How do you view recovery?


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