Missing it already…

If you’ve been following along on my journey recently, you’ll know that I’ve decided to give up my car for a year to save some money. This week is my final week of using my vehicle and I think I will have used my car more in the past week than I have the past three months! 

This morning I had to make a quick run back to a store I had been at on Saturday, where I had accidentally left part of my purchase. Luckily, the ladies set it aside for me and it was waiting for me at 9am just as soon as they opened today. Had I not have had my car, I would have had to leave at 8am instead of 8:30am. Yes, the store was still on my way to see my client (by bus OR by car), but that 30mins extra in the morning can mean the difference between eating and not eating, or rushing and preparing for my day in a mindful way. 

Also, having my car will mean a significantly shorter travel time between clients which will end in a “shorter” day overall so that I can have supper before I go off to my evening elective. This is exciting! While I practice mindfulness tricks throughout the day using transit (to keep me calm and to deal with the many mishaps along the way), I find that I am more mindful when I am allowed extra time in my day. I HATE rushing and do everything in my power to avoid it where possible. But whether I’m finding more time for mindfulness on the bus, or finding more opportunity for mindfulness in my quiet home/car, I guess the main point is that I’m consciously being more mindful through this entire exercise. So that’s kinda neat.

As I think about how handy it’s been to have the car this past week, I also recognize that I’ve been able to do some shopping without that extra physical stress and exertion, and I’ve had less backpacking pains from carrying my life around on my person throughout the day. It’s been kind of wonderful, actually. I really am going to miss this freedom and ease over the next year. 

One Year Without My Car

So…the decision has been made. After a summer of the #transittrial #multimodaltrial, then realizing that selling my car was not really something I wanted to do or COULD do easily, I’ve made the decision to simply postpone my use of it for one year. That will give me some time to catch up on my debts that are piling up, and will make life a bit more manageable financially. If all goes well, I will be able to pay down one line of credit almost entirely. 

What began as an idea to save “some” money has now become a very necessary exercise in saving a BUNCH of money. It just feels right. I hate carrying around the debt that I do, and it will help me to continue advocating for better public transit as well as the local cycling community. 

I also have a second personal goal of becoming healthier and dropping some weight, so I’m sure these two things will go hand-in-hand. As I sit here preparing myself physically, emotionally, and mentally to face the day (and my week), I wanted to compile my thoughts and make this official announcement to my followers.

So, starting next week when my insurance renews, I will officially be without my vehicle. I will be using my bike as much as I can until the snow flies, and once that happens I will get a really clear picture of the transit experience. I plan to continue posting thoughts and reflections on my car-free lifestyle – good and bad – and we’ll see how it goes. Stay tuned for more!

Stress & My “Wheat Baby”

Life gets away from us. More than anyone with an uninjured brain, those of us with modified brains can attest to that. Stress and lifestyle have a HUGE negative impact on your body’s neurological function. So, for the injured or atypical brain that is already at risk of overwhelm because of decreased function, the lifestyle details of food and activity and overall psychological wellness are incredibly significant. The main problem being, of course, that anyone with an altered brain is likely less able to attend to these details. It’s a “catch 22” so-to-speak.

This has been my life for coming up on 22yrs. Ironic that the number matches up. As I think I’ve mentioned in the blog before, my brain injury causes problems with executive function – that involves the brain’s ability to plan and organize. It’s not that I can’t do those things, it’s more a matter of the quantity of energy it takes to do them. And of course, every day requires that I perform these types of functions in some capacity.

So, here I am…having found my rhythm finally, in work, in my social life, and in my home life. I’m saying “no” more often and getting better at communicating my needs, while honoring the needs of those around me. It’s a lot of back and forth, ups and downs, and “trial and error” really. That’s my life.

Along these lines, I’ve always struggled with boundaries. Knowing how much is too much or maybe not enough. Because of that, I’ve always struggled with my weight and physical composition (being consistent in any way). That, in turn, plays into my psychological insecurities and social struggles. Having found my stride in my late 20’s, early 30’s, I dropped a ton of weight, and began working on my psychological struggles with a brain injury psychologist. But then I had a series of unfortunate events (one after the other) with work and I lost my momentum altogether (“fell off the wagon”, you might say).

During that short time of success, I had been gathering all kinds of helpful knowledge about my health and neurological function. Thanks to those lessons from the brain-injury psychologist, I was aware enough to self-reflect and recognize what was happening to me as I fell further and further away from my healthy routines. The frustrating part, of course, was knowing what I needed to do but not having the energy or emotional strength to do what needed to be done.

When it comes to eating healthy and staying active, the ability to plan is essential. “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail” I believe is how they put it. With less time for myself, I’ve had less time for planning and prep, and less cognitive ability to handle my mental and emotional stresses. With high levels of stress comes higher levels of cortisol, and increased “off days” in the eating schedule. In fact, the cheat days become the average or regular occurrence instead of the once in a while “treat” that it started out to be. Hence, the “wheat baby” came back (note the “before picture on the left, below).

But, after some time away from the health and wellness world, I am finally stepping back in. I am almost a month into better lifestyle choices and I’m feeling much much better. I am prioritizing my psychological wellbeing, which has given me the strength and emotional focus to create better routines, which in turn sets me up for success in my eating and active lifestyle. I have discovered a healthy eating program that is scientifically proven to improve brain function and to show almost immediate results. And that’s what I’ve been needing for the psychological skill of “Mastery” – which is essentially just the momentum we experience as our brain experiences that feeling of accomplishment.

So here it is, folks…my first of the comparison photo series.  It’s hard to believe, but in both photos I am just standing in a relaxed position – I am not pushing my belly out in any way. This is me after 10 days of following the ketogenic diet (with a few exceptions), drinking more water and less coffee. I will continue to check in here with photos and reflections, as well as tips and tricks that I’m trying. Thanks for following along!

Brain Drain

Overwhelmed. Out of breath. Paralyzed. Cognitively drained. All brain processes have returned to auto-pilot or coping-strategy-mode. Emotions are high, physical strength is low. 

I’ve currently hit another low and have to take one day (even one MOMENT) at a time. Outings outside of work are fewer and farther between – if at all. Light and sound and movement are abrasive to the senses.

Social engagement is a lot of work and exceptionally draining. Though my face lights up with my auto-pilot smile and bright personality, on the inside my brain is working overtime to find the right words and put on the calm facade holding back the raging emotion which lies just below the surface. In the quiet moments of the morning, or as the day is ending, I can’t hold back the tears that bubble up from that same place. 
When I’m in my lowest of low places, this is my life – every day – struggling to figure out how I will pay my bills, struggling to look after my basic needs so that I can also look after some one else’s (for work and in my own home). I don’t want to have to think about anything or anyone. My brain just wants a break, a day to shut down completely and reboot. If only…

2 Important Principles for the New Year

In the eighties there was this super-groovy tune called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.  It has been a long-time favourite of mine as it brings back fond memories of my childhood and still provides the same warm fuzzies that it did when it first came out.  How can you not smile and groove along when you hear Bobby McFerrin whistling away and singing in his fun island accent (with those cool sounding back-up singers)? 🙂

Well, my post today is a summary of some of my most recent thoughts – and there have been many! LOL – which, funny enough, this song more succinctly does.  At the end of the day, my reflections can be best summarized by the phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy!”  And, as I exegete this little phrase, watch me take all the amusement out of it. 🙂

Firstly, I think it is already evident from my previous posts that since my injury I have been consumed with the concept of balance.  For me, that looks like a daily battle with honouring my “challenges” while striving to optimize every ounce of my capabilities.  For you, it may be as simple (or not so simple) as making time for both work and rest, efforts dedicated to both self and others.  Everywhere we look, we are faced with the idea of balancing two polar opposite entities – yin and yang, light and dark, positive and negative. So let’s look at how we can use a bit of effort and a bit of ease, to “not worry” but “be happy”.

As a part of my process of enlightenment, I have been blessed to encounter several “experts” in different fields who have contributed to my personal awareness and education – one of whom is my friend and boss who owns and runs his own gym and holistic health corporation.  Tommy teaches people to be resourceful, be a sponge in learning new things, but discerning in their application.  One of his common recommendations of late has been that each person should become his or her own experiment.  What that means is, each of us is responsible for observing and reflecting and interpreting the data for ourselves, then applying the appropriate adjustments and “solutions” as necessary for our situation.

Inspired by this piece of advice, I have more enthusiastically taken the initiative to begin the regimented task of creating change in my life – one step at a time.  Sometimes this endeavour is so big that it becomes overwhelming.  But with a focus on one item at a time, one DAY at a time, I am already seeing positive change.  Whether it be in my attitude, daily routines, or relationships, I have discovered the following two principles to be a key part of my establishing and maintaining the elusive state of “balance”.

Principle #1 – Don’t Worry.  This principle is ironic for a few reasons.  It is generally an empty exclamation used in situations that are clearly worrisome to some degree or another.  The phrase is set in a negative tone, warning not to do something of a negative nature, which in turn intends to emphasize the positive.

My interpretation and application: we can positively contribute to our life by avoiding the negative.  As I reflect on my life over the past year – my jobs, friendships, and personal “life stuff” – I can see in retrospect that so many problems could have been avoided (or altered) with the simple choice of NOT doing something.  For instance, I chose to eat something I shouldn’t have, engaged someone when I could have said nothing, or perseverated on a worrisome thought (about money) rather than immersing myself in a more positive investment of time (like writing a budget).  Overall, I think we can create more ease with a little effort in NOT emphasizing the negative of a given situation – and, so, increase the positive!

Principle #2 – Be Happy!  This principle is also a paradoxical balance of effort and ease.  The concept of “being” has the connotation of having no effort, yet in this context the speaker is giving instruction.  Ironically, we really cannot “instruct” another person how to “be” as that contradicts the essence of the word.  The phrase, however, has only the best intentions as it is usually used in the context of encouraging someone.

My interpretation and application:  due to the very personal nature of this phrase, I believe it is the responsibility of each of us as individuals to invest in our own happiness.  Contradictory to the passive nature of the verb “to BE”, I don’t think we should fall victim to living life with our emotions (or the seemingly natural state of “being”) when we were given brains to direct them.  So while my last point was more passive in recommendation, this point is more active.  I believe we need to actively participate in our lives more – as I mentioned Tommy recommending above.  Whether it be investing in time with friends, or allowing for quiet times of reflection to rest and recharge, we can choose!  Whether it be taking on a second job to pay the bills, or scaling back expenses to make the budget more manageable – it is within our power!  Whether it be sulking at home feeling sorry for oneself watching mindless t.v, or cleaning and organizing the house to achieve a sense of accomplishment – in the end, it’s up to us!

I speak from lots of experience, folks.  I am so grateful to sit here on this end – having struggled with bouts of depression, anxiety, overwhelm and utter despair – now feeling a sense of relief and empowerment as I see for myself the difference I can make in my own life.  The balance is different for everyone, and it’s ever-changing, but let me tell you with certainty that the balance CAN be found and it’s up to us to honour it.  All it takes is a little effort…and a little ease.  Be good to yourself.

…this is my life…

Hello world!

So…here I go…my very first blog post.

It’s funny, this has taken some time to work up to, strangely enough.  I’ve already mapped out several planned posts, and have put quite a bit of thought into this process.  I am using it as a venue for creative expression, connecting with community, and a means of developing some type of routine.  My intent is to write weekly – we shall see how successful I am.

Let me begin by introducing myself.  My name is Amanda and I have a story to tell.  Having been very near to death and back, I feel I have a unique perspective on life and its many facets.  As a teenager, I acquired a brain injury from a serious car crash which left me in a coma for 11 days.  Having now out-lived my former self, I can say with confidence that “everything happens for a reason”. 🙂

I live to serve a risen Lord, forever indebted to God for my second chance at life.  For this reason, I have entitled this blog after 2 Corinthians 4:6-10

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

My life is my jar of clay…broken though it may be.  I pray through my sharing my struggles and successes, you will see His light in me…that you will be inspired and encouraged.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

“I implored the Lord three times that it (hardship) might leave me, and God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”