Potholes in the Road.

Lalande Rd Sturgeon Falls

No matter what road you travel, there’s bound to be a pothole at some point. Potholes can serve one faintly useful purpose, namely testing the resilience of my car’s suspension.

Today was one of those days. I hit some personal potholes. Being short changed on sleep due to the hot weather tested my resilience. I’ve learned by now, the shorter the night the greater my resilience is compromised.

I got out of bed after a 5 hour fitful sleep. My inability to sleep was probably accentuated by the whirring noise of the fan. Don’t know why people call it white noise. For me it was a black hole that zapped every thread of sleep right out of me. At four am I turned the fan off. Why didn’t I figure that out sooner?

After as slow morning I looked forward to taking a nap. If you can call a three hour sleep a nap. It’s not that the three hours cleared up the sleep deficit created by the previous night. Rather, it was a stop gap measure. However, it did little to reduce my physical fatigue or quell my mental fatigue.

The sleep deficit continued to wreaking havoc with my memory. Several times I found myself half way across the house, completely forgetting what I intended to get. Really? In recent months I had progressed to a point where I was able to retrieve two different things without forgetting one or both. Not exactly multi-tasking yet.

The sleep deficit continued to compromise my ability to review and compile a mental list of what needed to be packed for the weekend. The effort was putting my brain into overload. After about 15 minutes I gave up. My mental list read like a shredded to do list.

The sleep deficit continued to block my ability to focus my attention. The more I fought it the more my head rebelled.

It soon became evident that I could not change gears without my body grinding to a halt. Shortly after waking up I had gone to the garden to pick some tomatoes. While I was there I realized the tomatoes needed the soaker hose treatment. While getting the soaker hose I took care of some resilient weeds. Everything was going fine.

Suddenly I was called back to the house. It was time to head out for supper. Somehow I had failed to process this part of the plan a half hour earlier.

Abruptly I had to abandon picking tomatoes. But they were only half picked. I needed to switch my shoes. I looked for a book to take along. While rushing to get ready I felt the pressure to not leave others waiting. I tried to think what else I should take with me. My mind registered a blank. So I quickly ran to the car.

No sooner did I get into the car and buckle my seatbelt when I fell apart. My brain rebelled. I couldn’t see my way through the next block of time. It was like looking into a void. A void lacks a roadmap.

Jane kindly suggested that I not go along. I could stay at home and she would bring home some supper. A practical solution. A workable solution.

From my vantage, I had bailed. I was disappointed. It was the realization that my body could not do what my heart desired.

At this juncture I needed to choose a small world. I needed the familiar; familiar place, familiar routine. Familiar meant less cognitive demands. Familiar meant less chance of meeting the unexpected. I didn’t have the reserves to deal with change.

Being on my own schedule was what I needed; taking my time, switching gears when I was ready to. What I needed was some repetitive physical activity. No instructions to comprehend. No deadline to meet. What fit the bill was taking the next step in making an oversized Jenga game.  Forty eight pieces to be sanded. Pick up one piece. Hold it against the belt sander briefly. Four sides to sand. Pick up the next piece. A repetitive physical activity, unhurried, minimal exertion, the satisfaction of doing something constructive, seeing tangible results. That was the tonic that provided a measure of healing. That served as a stop gap measure to prevent a further drain of my reserves.

For the rest of the day I needed to coast. I wanted to avoid any more potholes at all cost.pothole3

Navigating the potholes is inconvenient but tolerable. I’ve accepted them as part of the journey. While they are not the ‘look forward to’ events, bouncing through them, gives me a reality check. It reminds of my limitations and an indication of some activities that I need to tag as sensory overload culprits. It also gives me a glimpse of the areas in which I am realizing gradual healing.


Author: Jasper Hoogendam

After 36 years as an educator my career ended due to a TBI. Renewable energy as part of 'walking lightly on this earth' has been and continues to be my interest since my teen years. Since early 2015 I have been learning to live with ABI (Acquire Brain Injury). I don't want to let my ABI limit the goals I set for myself. I'm living with a different brain, not a lesser brain. In sharing my day to day successes and struggles, I am better able to understand how my life had changed and begin to accept the change. In sharing my experiences I'm hearing from caregivers and fellow ABI's. I'm encouraged when my experiences are helping others understand some of the complexity of living with ABI.

9 thoughts on “Potholes in the Road.”

  1. Bit by bit I am gaining understanding into your world. Sleep deprivation doesn’t simply mean tired in your case. You have a wonderful person to help you navigate those potholes and keep your suspension from total breakdown.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would venture to say, my understanding is not very far ahead of yours. It’s the setbacks that are the most helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of what my person (it’s not just my body or my brain) can handle. The beauty of sharing my journey is that others give me insight into my own experiences. Thanks again for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As you know, I have been struggling with insomnia and a weariness beyond fatigue. When confronted with “too much,” a meltdown is our bodies’ way of short-circuiting our plans in order to get us what we really need. I love the pothole analogy. They are a way to get us to slow down and take things easily. Thank you for sharing this with us. You have a gift.


    1. Sorry to hear. In my experience, fatigue affects the whole body – my physical, emotional and spiritual (there’s probably some additional dimensions) well-being. In those cases a simple acknowledgement from a friend or spouse goes a long way.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Making the oversized Jenga game is therapy. Seeing it being played late into the night is like getting a big ‘thank you’. I’m making another one. If I make a third one it will be with even bigger pieces.


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