A Purposeful Blog Post

“Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty.” – Elie Wiesel

I’ve decided I want to make it public knowledge that I’m writing a book about my recovery. The book has gone through many differences in the way I talk about it. At first, I was going to make it a memoir; then I was going to make it a memoir with very little mention of my accident; then I decided I wasn’t writing a book at all—mostly due to the fact that I realized that I didn’t want to be tied to my traumatic brain injury (TBI) for the rest of my life. I didn’t want TBIs to be my thing.

Then, the more I reflected on it and the more miraculous I began to realize my recovery is, I began to think that I had been given a remarkable story. It would be selfish to keep that story to myself. And as I began thinking about writing a book about my recovery, I realized how much it would have helped me, my caregivers, and my family. There have been some very dark times for me, my immediate family, and those who are close to us. And when you are in a dark time, you feel alone. What would it have been like to have a book that told me that I wasn’t alone—that others had traveled a path similar to mine?

Writing my book (which is a little short of twenty pages now) is why my blog posts have been few and far between recently. My motivation for writing this post is because I figure that someone who reads my blog either knows someone at a publishing company or knows someone who knows someone at a publishing company. I’d really appreciate it if you could put in a good word for me wherever you have a connection.

A Short Reflection on Icelandic History

I am at a Medieval and Renaissance Literature Forum this weekend. It’s pretty official.

Academics depress me, though. Especially when they are all talking about the same things.

But I went to this panel discussion today, and one of the presenters was talking about Icelandic literature. I don’t know much about Icelandic literature, and I don’t care to know much more than I do, but something this woman said blew me away.

In the 13th century, the Icelandic Commonwealth dissolved, leaving Icelanders to fend mostly for themselves. As a result, much of the literature the Icelanders had written down on animal hides were used as clothing.

People were  literally  walking around with stories on their backs. I wonder if we do this, too. I wonder if we  wear stories of our past on our back. I think we do.

Sometimes walking around with our story is really difficult, but what’s encouraging about the Icelanders is if our stories are clothing, we can change clothes at any time.

Righting Texts

When friends get in a relationship, one of my favorite things to say to them is that they are in a “honeymoon phase.” That lovey dovey feeling? Not going to last forever. Those feelings aren’t “real” love. And I am completely qualified to say things like that. It’s true.  Because single 21-year-old males are easily the most qualified to make claims like that.

I’m in this class on the psychology of narrative this quarter. And I was reading an essay by Michael White today about the analogies psychologists use to explain human relationships and stories. For a long time, beginning with Freud, the only analogies used by psychologists were that of science – either machines or organisms. These analogies do a lot of things correctly, but they have a major short-coming: they pathologize any deviation from what is considered the norm. If there is a break down in a machine, it stops working. If there is a break down in an organism, it gets sick.

Ironically, as White points out, the biologic and machine analogies are static. A scientific system can only be one way. It does not allow for multiple truths. So when the “honeymoon phase” passes, the assumption is that the objective reality of the issue is that there was always some glaring problem in the relationship.

White thinks we can reject this position by using another analogy. If relationships are seen like a text, then the “honeymoon” phase and the phase after become competing texts. Neither is any more true or any more real than the other. Thus, White suggests, the couple can identify the text they like the most and why and construct a relationship that involves those things.

There is an idea floating around out there that genetics is much more intimately influenced by our choices than we ever thought. Some people think that genes that we activate during our life time are more likely to be passed on to our children. That’s incredible to me. And it seems impossible. That’s how I feel about changing stories, or “texts.” It feels impossible. It feels like someone telling us “Just change your story” is simplistic and overly reductive. And that’s true: it is overly reductive.

You can’t just wake up one morning and decide that you are never going to leave your honeymoon phase. You have to make a commitment to incorporating the story you want into the reality of day-to-day life. But it’s possible.

Your life is not a machine. One messed up thing does not ruin it. That wrong thing is just a story that doesn’t have an end yet. Write (right) it.