The other night as I was settling into bed, I turned on the radio to check the alarm volume and heard this song. I had never heard it before, so I grabbed my iPhone from my bedside table and typed the first line of the chorus into a Google search. From there I found the artist and name of the song, which I then punched into the iTunes Store. After listening to other tracks from the same album, I purchased it, and in minutes I had the Avett Brothers’ new album on my phone. This all happened in less time than it takes to fall asleep, and honestly, I felt guilty for how easy it was.
In conversation with a friend, I was reminded of this clip, and the sentiment here partially explains the conviction I felt.
Comfort, today, is held up as the ultimate goal, governing our decisions, driving innovation, and creating a culture that, despite all the resources at our disposal, continues to spiral downward through self-promotion, entitlement, and instant gratification (read: thinly veiled reference to the Vancouver riot) to an ever-deeper level of discomfort. Instead of ultimate harmony, this unparalleled level of convenience and empowerment has succeeded only in spreading a plague of passive thinking and mindless living. And this illustrates another reason I’m grateful for living with brain damage – the deliberate effort life requires now is, for me, a most fulfilling and edifying advantage.
I’m not claiming to be immune to stupid decisions, personal shortcomings, or selfish motives. If this were “TheDirtyLaundryDiairies” I could air enough of it to make any looter seem downright saintly (there would be fewer YouTube links, I imagine). No, I mention this only to highlight again that brain damage gives me immeasurably more than it takes, and that the line between disability and ability is perhaps closer to faint smudge than solid line.
Athletes, actors, and other performers will tell you that being slightly nervous before a game or show is a good thing, that a twinge of stress keeps you on your toes and actually improves performance. Too much anxiety, and you freeze at the big moment; not enough and the performance becomes staid and ineffective. With eight years of brain damage behind me now, I feel I’m zeroing in on that prime level of daily stress. For the first few years, the stress and anxiety I experienced emotionally, psychologically, and cognitively was astronomical. It wasn’t that I sporadically froze back then, I was completely frozen in a personal Ice Age. If anything, I thawed and functioned for short periods of time. In contrast, the stress I feel today is minimal and only intermittently reaches the point of interfering. But what if this near-optimum level of stress stops simmering in the background of my brain? What happens if I master my brain damage to the point that I don’t feel it anymore? Ironically, after years of pushing myself to expand my comfort zone post-brain damage, I find myself hoping I don’t overdo it. I don’t know if that is even possible, physically or psychologically, but I’ve decided that even if the stress in the back of my mind disappears altogether, everything I’ve learned will remain in the front of my mind.
And I take comfort in that.