A Multi-Sensory Worship Experience – Really?!?!

20160726_104527A Multi-Sensory Worship Experience – Really?!?!

My guess is, if you were to to describe a multi-sensory worship experience you would likely give some variation of the following description.

You might picture a convention hall or auditorium with a stage large enough to accommodate a drummer with a full drum kit, a bass player, two electric guitar players, possibly a saxophone player, two pianists and six vocalists each with their own mic. I also see multiple projectors displaying lyrics against a video background. Oh, and there are over a thousand seats filled with enthusiastic worshipper raising their voices, singing from the heart and giving further expression through the rhythmic waving of their arms while dancing at their seat or in the aisle.

My Reality

This is my description. We have one pianist and one song leader who leads the singing for about 120 worshippers. The lyrics are projected on a 20 foot section of wall, usually with still backgrounds. The singing is a combination of young and old creating rich harmony.

Dissecting My Realty

Despite the apparent contrast between the two worship venue descriptions, the church I attend causes me to experience sensory overload. In the first couple months after acquiring a brain injury I would reach my threshold within 10 to 15 minutes. This would hardly allow me to take in even the first part of the service. Other times I would intentionally wait and come in part way through the worship service.

In addition to experiencing sensory overload during the worship service, it would take me a day or two to recover from the immediate effects. Needless to say, after a few attempts I decided it was best to stay away. I did not relish the predictable setbacks. The irony of not finding healing in a sanctuary was not lost on me.

After absenting myself for several months I thought I would see if I had experienced enough natural healing to more fully participate in worship. Having been absent for several months, I felt I had abandoned the community of worshippers who have shown me love, care, and support. This community, which I have been part of for thirty years, showed a desire to understand my struggles.

Sensory loading: Music20160726_104415

I now come armed with musician ear plugs. These are designed to reduce the intensity of the sound by about 15 decibels. This created the opportunity to participate in worship for an extra ten to fifteen minutes. It partially mitigates one aspect of my struggle with sensory loading.

The down side of wearing earplugs is that it makes me feel like a spectator. It puts me at a distance from the worship experience. The sense of feeling like a spectator is exacerbated by my choice of taking a back row seat so I can make an inconspicuous exit when needed.

Needless to say, the accommodations I’ve made makes for a worship experience that leaves much to be desired. To partially counter that, I will remove my ear plugs for one or two songs during the service just to remind me what it’s like to experience the full impact of the lyrics and music.

The sensory load is not only influenced by the intensity of the sound. Live music has a much greater impact than recorded music. Recorded music is flat. It lacks depth, resonance and emotion. Live music conveys a heart response to how the spirit is moving.

There are times when I don’t make it past the annex of the building. Those are times when, in simply approaching the sanctuary the music will hit me like a wall. It will stop me short in my tracks. I’ll immediately retreat from the sanctuary and need ten or fifteen minutes to recover from the immediate impact.

Sensory loading: cognitive

The sensory loading during worship is not limited to the music. It also builds while listening to the sermon. The cognitive demands add to the sensory load. I know I’m reaching my threshold when I start to lose focus. I find myself getting restless and can no longer follow the story line or the message that is being shared.

Sensory loading: empathy

The sharing of prayer requests also contributes to the sensory load. The sharing of requests can bring out a range of emotions. It’s the sharing of situations in which people are asking for prayer and support due to hurts and loss that are particularly difficult. Interestingly, prayer requests in which people share about healing of relationships and miraculous recovery, I find creates similar sensory loading. At times, following the sharing of prayer requests, I need several minutes to recover. This creates a break in my participation in the worship.

Each part of worship, the lyrics of a song, the text of a responsive reading, the message of the sermon, the petitions of a prayer, the confession, the giving of alms for specific ministries, each is meant to put us in touch with who we are and give expression to our life purpose. Each part of worship contributes in different ways to my sensory loading.

Managing my Time

To manage my sensory load, my strategy is to exit from the auditorium during some of the singing and selective parts of the service. At times it begins to feel more like a smorgasbord, rather than a wholesome worship experience.

Following the worship service I enjoy mingling with others over refreshments. At times the worship time puts me at the threshold of sensory overload. I will then look for a quiet place to give myself ten or fifteen minutes before joining others.

Even when I think I’m doing quite well by the end of a worship service, friends have noticed that I look tired, or my complexion lacks colour. For me Monday is my recuperation day. I generally will not schedule anything significant.

Worship is still part of my life. Worship is not confined to a building with a structured set of activities. Life provides many other times and places to experience God’s presence.  The presence of God and the fellowship of Christians can be experienced when two or three people meet.

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At Risk of Over Planning

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600 ft cliffs at Blomidon Provincial Park, NS.

At Risk of Over Planning.

Not having been on a holiday since my ABI a year and a half ago prompted some questions.

Do I want to take a holiday? I kind of think so.

Should I take a holiday? Possibly.

Where to go? Find a place that’s worth the effort and not make me regret the likely side effects of my brain injury.

The common sense choice

What kind of holiday should it be? Bus excursion? Yes, that looks like it will fit the bill. Choose a destination and it’s all planned out. The details are all laid out, a predictable schedule. Minimal work in getting ready. Just need to decide what to put in my travel bag. Accommodations arranged with room service and restaurants booked ahead. A professional driver, just sit back and relax.

Oh wait. Taking a bus excursion means there will be many other people in close quarters. That means dealing with conversations all day, reading social cues, dealing with sensory loading of all sorts.  Since there’s a daily schedule I can’t ask the bus to pull over just because I’m experiencing sensory overload from the constant movement. The schedule means I need to be up each morning by a certain time. If I couldn’t get to sleep or my sleep was disrupted I would not be able to sleep late. Starting the day after a short night means I

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Sensory Overload makes both hard to do

haven’t cleared my sensory loading from the day before. I would most certainly start the day with a headache.  In short it would be a tough day or worse. The restaurants often are environments for creating sensory overload.  Being in a different place every day is cognitively demanding since familiarity and routines help to mitigate sensory overload.

The obvious and impressive first choice was on second thought guaranteed to be a catastrophic failure.

The intensive planning choice

I decided that yes, I very much want to take a holiday with the two of us. I never realized how much planning it would take to not have the holiday turn into a Punishing Experience. To prevent a repeat of a weekend away the holiday needed to be flexible, planned, slow, deliberate, low demands, options for quiet time, and more.

The OT (occupational therapist) worked with me over a five week period. Between planning the obvious and obediently carrying out the seemingly absurd requests, the plans gradually took shape. The preparation involved sleeping in the tent in the front yard for a couple nights. This would determine whether tenting was still a viable option with ABI. The first attempt to sleep in the tent was aborted. This would have meant disaster if we were already on the road. After making several adjustments I successfully managed two good nights in the tent.

We always thought we had camping well planned. The conversation fragment below had me wondering.

The OT asked, “Do you have a camping list of supplies, equipment etc?”

“Yes we have one,” I proudly told her, “We have a list that’s been fine tuned over the years.”

“Show me the list.”

“Okay,” I said pleased to show her the print out.

“Which things are you taking care of?”

“These,” I said, pointing to some of the items.

“I don’t see your name by those items.” “Do you need to buy anything on that list?”

“Yes.”

“Did you make a list?”

“Oh yes.”

“When do you plan buy the items?”

What I realized is that planning had to be much more detailed than pre-ABI. Not just a general plan that served as a general guide to doing things on the fly. Rather it had to be a plan with details like, who is going to do it, how is it going to be done and when is it going to be done. What the OT wanted to avoid was the last minute packing panic. That could be a significant setback before even starting our holiday.

The OT asked about many aspects of the planning. What day were we leaving? What time were we planning to pull out? How were we organizing the packing of food, cooking utensils, tent gear, cycling equipment, etc. When would all the camping gear and food be loaded? How many nights were we staying at the bed and breakfast place? Was a bed and breakfast better than a motel. How far did we plan to drive in one day? Were the bed and breakfast reservations flexible? Did we have the campground information written down – address, phone number, and directions? Did we have the route mapped out? What was our

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Personalized “Tour Bus” packed and ready

goal for the holiday? Did we have a backup plan if we were delayed due to not being able to drive four hours? Did I have my medication sorted for the trip? Was I planning to go to the Canada Day Parade the day before leaving? (Correctly implying that it would not be a good idea)

Needless to say, the questions felt like an interrogation. More to the point, I felt like it would be my fault if this trip did not go well if I couldn’t give a good answer for each of the questions posed.

The Trip

Being on the road was the hardest part of the trip, whether I drove or was the passenger. We limited the first day on the road to no more than three hours. After that we limited the drive to no more than four hours a day on the road. Some days four hours was too much. We found that a break every hour with a longer break at the two hour mark worked the best. The break served one main purpose. It was intended to minimize and hopefully shed some of the sensory loading. The break involved getting respite from the constant movement, walking around, and eating a snack or meal. Signals such as fatigue (even as a passenger), headache, nausea or double vision were indictors that we were on the road too long.

Highlight of the trip

Camping for four days at Blomidon Provincial Park in Nova Scotia was the most successful part of our holiday. Maybe it was the campsites at the top of the spectacular 600 ft cliffs, or maybe the fresh air off the Bay of Fundy. During our stay at the park I could do a full day of

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Awesome campsites at the top of the 600′ cliffs.

activities without experiencing any ABI symptoms. Our stay there involved hiking about 8 km a day, cycling, reading and rock hounding. I was very reluctant to leave the park. It was the first time in a year and a half that I felt ‘normal’. I went through four days in a row without experiencing reminders of my ABI. The only subtle reminder was the ten hours I slept each night to balance out the day time activities.

The day following our stay at Blomidon Provincial Park stands in sharp contrast to the previous four days. We drove to PEI, a trip of about 4 hours. It took me two and a half days to recover from the drive. In PEI we were in a house with four people who I should mention were very pleasant company. However, being around three other people and the more complex social dynamics that come with larger groups likely slowed down my recovery. Four of us living in a house was a major change from two of us camping.

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High Tide from a 600 ft vantage point

It was worth it

Five weeks of planning for a three week trip made for a successful holiday. We met our goals of relaxing, biking and visiting specific historic sites. This three week trip has increased my understanding of living with ABI.

I Lost My Duck Feathers

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What duck feathers?

I Lost My Duck Feathers

Having lost my duck feathers I find it necessary to develop strategies so I don’t get caught in the rain. Many social situations require one to disregard hurtful comments or insinuations and let them slide off like water off a duck’s back. Having an ABI the social filters, just like the sensory input filters don’t work well. This can be annoying for someone with ABI and potentially annoying for anyone dealing with a person with ABI.

For many people with ABI, their circle of friends and in many cases the family members who will associate with them begin to shrink. People with ABI often have a difficult time with impulse control resulting in hurtful comments being made. The difficulty with emotional control, particularly if it results in violent bouts of anger can further alienate friends or family members. And so, for people with ABI find that it sometimes doesn’t take much for matters go into a downward spiral. This can be rather disconcerting and can in turn accelerate the downward spiral.

Being aware of this potential challenge with social interaction, I have been mindful of not getting myself into situations or saying things that increase the risk of alienating people. I have also been able to avoid the risk of the downward spiral largely because of several family members who are pro-actively supportive and being part of a caring community.

Living with an ABI condition, I have lost much of my ability to filter sensory impressions. This includes sensory impressions that add to my cognitive loading and sensory impressions that add to my emotional loading. I’m learning how to avoid places and situations that are likely to accelerate my sensory loading. Dealing with sensory overload is exhausting both physically and emotionally. If I know I will be entering an environment which has an increased risk of sensory loading, I will plan my strategies in such a way that I can make an inconspicuous exit.

The exit strategies do not work when it comes to dealing with urgent matters involving other people. Daily living presents situations in which matters need to be addressed and no exit is convenient till the matter is dealt with.  Life doesn’t happen in a bubble. And living with ABI doesn’t mean I have the option of requesting a bubble. To address situations that are beyond my direct control, I have learned to be intentional about planning how and when I will bring up the matter to another person. I have the privilege of working with an occupational therapist to assist me in developing effective strategies.

  1. Is it important?: I first assess the situation to decide if it actually needs to be addressed. If the matter is something that will negatively affect my health or my ability to deal with ABI, creates a potential financial penalty, affects my safety or that of my family than I need to follow through.

 

  1. Find a delegate: I assess the situation to see whether I need to address the matter myself or whether I can delegate it. In some situations I might delegate part of it to someone else. At the same time I realize the need to take charge of matters myself and not hide behind someone else while they do the ‘dirty’ work.
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Wild rabbit at Blomidon Prov. Park Nova Scotia
  1. Buy time: I make a point of not charging directly into a situation. I will find ways to buy some time so I can be properly prepared. If I’m expecting a phone call about the matter and am not ready, I will let the call go to my answering service. That can buy me a day or several days.

 

  1. Know the facts: Before directly addressing a specific matter I make sure that I have collected the necessary information. Since my mental flexibility (see Case for back seat driving) is compromised it would be difficult to assimilate new information in the middle of discussing or debating a matter.

 

  1. Have a script: I prepare a script in which I outline the information that I need to convey. I rehearse the script till I am thoroughly familiar with the information. This minimizes the risk of tangential comments, a consequence that comes with my ABI. If there is an option of dealing with a matter by email then the process becomes much more manageable. I can wait with my response if I need to track down additional information. I can review what has been discussed before giving a response. If I’m dealing with sensory overload, I can let it wait for a day or so.
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Blomidon Provincial Park Nova Scotia
  1. Ignore ‘rabbit trails’: When I speak with the person I will only share the necessary information. I will not comment on or address diversion tactics. I try not to respond to emotional reactions thrown at me. I ignore any comment that I think doesn’t deal with the matter. An unscripted response from me will likely have me confuse the matter and have me going down unproductive ‘rabbit trails’.

Even with careful planning there is no guarantee that things will be resolved in a satisfactory manner. Sometimes the strategy doesn’t work out because I’m dealing with a person that is not aware of my ABI status. Other times the strategy doesn’t work because the person I am dealing with doesn’t understand how ABI affects me. It is difficult to explain how my ABI is affecting the situation when I’m negotiating a matter. Giving explanations in the middle of a discussion is difficult because it’s hard to point out aspects of ABI that have a direct bearing on the matter being discussed.

In situations where the person’s lack of understanding creates problems, I need to remind myself not to blame the person for their inability to grasp the challenges I’m dealing with. It has taken me a long time to understand the impact of ABI on my daily living, so I shouldn’t get too bent out of shape when someone else is left baffled.

I am heartened when I come across people who understand the challenges of living with ABI and are pro-active in helping me with accommodations that help me avoid sensory overload.

Two ABI’s Went Cycling

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Ready to set out

Two ABI’s went cycling… If you think it sounds like “Two lawyers walked into a bar…” let me start again.

Two ABI’s went cycling to check out a railroad bridge and enjoy the scenery. That would be me and my friend Sijmen. Being ABI’s our 15 kilometer event needed some careful advanced planning. I can’t just decide to bike 20 or 50 kilometers on a whim as I did pre-ABI.

Doing the trip with another ABI made me more mindful even though Symen has many more years of experience with ABI.

Let me name six things that stood out for me as I look back on the (rather short, very successful, most enjoyable, heart warming) bike trip.

  • While I might have just headed out the next morning with little thought about the weather, I asked Sijmen if he was fine with the weather forecast of the next day.
    • Fortunately the weather turned out ideal – 21 C partly cloudy.
  • While I might have overlooked the need to pack a lunch, I reminded Sijmen to have snacks, lunch and drinks with him.
    • That left me scurrying to put my stash together.
  • While I might have biked the whole 15 km without stopping, I asked Sijmen several times as we were biking whether we should stop for a break.
    • I would have been done the ride much too quickly.
  • While I might have biked too fast for my own good on my own, I suggested Sijmen set the pace and I would adjust my speed.
    • I would have averaged an extra 10 km/hr and needed time to recover.
  • While I would likely have decided to bike back after arriving at the end of the trail because I still felt fine, I agreed it would be better that we not push the limit on this trip. We accepted a ride back to the trail head.
    • I would otherwise have arrived back at the trail head worn out and challenged to drive myself home.

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      Trestle Bridge Near Omemee
  • While I would have forgotten to monitor so many things had I done this cycling excursion on my own, riding with a fellow ABI made me much more aware.
    • I would otherwise not have been mindful of monitoring how things were going and setting reasonable limits.

I was surprised by my ability to be mindful in a way that allowed me to not lose track of time. I did not get caught up in my own space and forget to remain hydrated… to take a nutrition break… to eat lunch.

Biking with Sijmen, I was continuously pulled out of my own space. I would see him biking. Seeing him was the visual reminder to be mindful of monitoring how things were going. Being mindful of Sijmen meant I was automatically being mindful of myself and engaged in the necessary habit of self-monitoring.

When I got home I knew I had done well. I had started the bike trip with a low grade headache and by the end of the ride my headache had eased a bit.

For Sijmen, the trip was memorable because it was his first experience of joy with such intensity in a long time.20160623_113232

Making Memories, Renewing Memories

“Thank you for sharing your memories of what I meant to you and your child.”

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Celebrating Ten Years of Memories

Making Memories, Renewing Memories

I responded to an invitation to attend the grade eight graduation. I had left the school in my role as principal a year and a half ago. I arrived at the school with mixed emotions, because I had left the school very suddenly due to an acquired brain injury (ABI). I felt like I had just dropped out of sight. A short step from, ‘out of mind’.

From the moment I walked into the school my fears were put to rest. The first parent I met greeted me with open arms and mentioned they were just talking about me. They were hoping I would show up for their son’s graduation.

As I met some of the graduates, prior to the ceremony, they openly shared their appreciation that I had shown up for their big day. It was wonderful to see how they had grown up and matured in the year and a half since I had seen them. It reminded me of the connections I had developed with them at various levels even though I hadn’t been their classroom teacher.

At the start of the Principal’s Charge to the graduates the current principal acknowledged my presence and mused that I probably had a stronger connection with the graduates in the nine years they knew me than she could achieve in one year. The round of applause from the parents in response to her comments was heart warming and overwhelming. It was a clear expression of appreciation for the service I had given for almost eleven years.

One parent after another shared their warm memories of the support I had given to their son or daughter and the work I had done for the school. Several students wanted to make it a two person photo op. One student who graduated four years ago, tracked me down and wanted me to pose with him. “For old time’s sake,” was his explanation. Very touching.

For me the trauma of the ABI and the slow and continuing recovery of the past year and a half has made my time at the school a distant memory. I had gone from working fifty or more hours a week at a job that I found very exciting and rewarding only to have it come to an unexpected grinding halt. It’s the ABI and struggle to find healing that has pushed my time at the school far out of sight for me.

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Ready to move on

I expected to need the next day or two to recover from the sensory overload of the graduation experience. While I was able to cope during the grad evening, four days later I still needed to take breaks to manage situations that would put me into sensory overload. All I can say to each parent who spoke with me that night, “Thank you for sharing your memories of what I meant to you and your child.” “Thank you for reassuring me that I will not be easily forgotten.” You reminded me of having enabled some pivotal decisions and how your child has grown and matured. Giving hope for the next day and year.

I wanted to attend the graduation to give my blessing to you and your child as they move on to high school. May they flourish and use their skills, and nurture a Christian world view as they continue studying and growing.

I Totally Missed What You Just Said

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Mime ‘Statue’ in Victoria, BC

For someone with an acquired brain injury (ABI), sharing a story or relaying an experience has its challenges. It might surprise you what factors can make it hard to share a story. It takes extra effort to not mess up.

Story Telling

I used to take the factors below for granted. The different parts of telling a story just seem to have their own way of falling into place. It now takes extra effort.

  1. Deciding what details are relevant and making sure they are included
  2. Recognizing what details are irrelevant and making sure I don’t go there
  3. Bringing details into the story in a proper sequence
  4. Be aware of your audience i.e. Getting to the point of the story without losing the listener’s attention

ABI requires greater focus and effort to make the story work

  1. Is that relevant?

Deciding what details are relevant in relaying a story is complicated by the challenge of finding the right words. Finding the correct nouns seems to be my biggest challenge. Often I can picture the object, what it looks, feels or tastes like but I am unable to name it. Needless to say it interrupts the flow of the story, not to mention the awkwardness felt by the listener.

  1. Where did that irrelevant comment come from?

At times I find myself including too many details that don’t necessarily enhance the story. I cannot explain why irrelevant details aren’t recognized before the words come out of my mouth. I’m told it’s called tangential thinking. It might simply be a matter of a particular detail suddenly finding its way into my thought path.  It also wouldn’t surprise me if I repeat some of the details because I can’t remember whether I had already shared it. Kind of like a story detail making a u-turn and ending up on the same thought path by mistake.

  1. Does it matter what actually happened next?

Recognizing a story’s natural structure takes additional effort. In telling a story certain details come to mind that belong in an earlier part of the story. When certain details are missed, the puzzle is how and where to fit it into the story. If I’ve already missed putting it in the right spot once, I want to include it as soon as possible else I run the risk of completely overlooking it. It’s tough to end a story and see the puzzled looks only to find myself saying, “Oh didn’t I mention at the beginning how the… ?”

  1. Are you still with me?

I have on occasion found myself quite frustrated a few minutes after relaying an event only to realize I had gone on too many tangents and then missed the main point. This happens when it’s too difficult to hold more than one thought in suspension.

An additional distraction in telling a story is reading body language. It’s important to know whether the listener is still with me. This actually poses a double challenge. One is being able to recognize and interpret the body language. The second is responding to the body language in a timely manner. At times I recognize the body language is conveying the message, “You’re losing me,” or “I need to be going now.” The problem is, not knowing how to bring the telling to a rapid conclusion. The easiest is to suddenly stop talking but that would be awkward for everyone.

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I lost you. Sorry

Conversations

Conversations are more difficult than simply telling a story. Conversations are rather complex activities. They become exponentially more complex with every additional person who joins in.

Telling a story or relaying an event is rarely a one way talking experience. One always has an audience of at least one person. Hopefully.

When sharing a story with a friend, comments and questions are to be expected. You want the person to be engaged in the story. When comments or question are interjected it’s easy to get side tracked. When there`s been too many comments or interjections, that’s when I’m most likely to miss the point of the story.

When conversing with one person, things generally go well. The conversation can wander a bit and go on for quite some time. If I miss something, it’s easy enough to ask the person to repeat. I am quite comfortable telling someone that I just lost track of what they were sharing. It’s the pleasant meandering of stories and events that makes a visit interesting, informative and at times amusing.

When the conversation includes several people, it becomes difficult to follow the thread. The frequent change of speakers makes it harder to follow what is being said. It gets even more difficult when the conversation splits into separate conversations. As the conversations morph between single and multiple conversations I quickly lose focus. That means I’ll miss even more of what is being share. It is much harder in these situations to tell a person, “I missed what you just said.” I definitely wouldn’t ask someone to repeat what they said.

In larger groups I might experience cognitive overload within 15 or 20 minutes. Either I just quietly listen or I find a way to inconspicuously exit the group.

Participating in a group conversation

At times when there’s a group of people talking, it can be difficult to get a word in edgewise. There are several factors that compound the challenge. At times I experience a time lag in processing what I hear. If I choose to respond, the delay in formulating a response will make the comment seem out of sync with the conversation.

My attempt at helpful hints

It would be beneficial to list some pointers. But the social decorum of conversations is that they are organic. They morph as different people have their say.

For that reason I don’t think the helpful guidelines below are achievable or should even be expected of others.

Helpful guidelines?

  1. Have only one person speak at a time.
  2. Invite the quiet person to contribute their thoughts
  3. Offer clarification if someone`s body language communicates confusion

This sounds more like guidelines for a skillfully chaired meeting.

Question to you the dear reader

Do you have some helpful hints? Maybe I overlooked some obvious things.  Would love to hear from you.

Thanks for a great birthday

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A double chocolate cake instead of the traditional carrot cake with cream cheese icing.
I was bombarded by birthday wishes from all corners: cards, phone calls, Facebook, text messages and visits from both friends and relatives. Birthday wishes this year have been particularly appreciated. Let me explain.

A year ago I was still coming to terms with a brain injury and actively focusing on recovery. It was only four months after my acquired brain injury. At that time I understood that healing takes time. I wasn’t surprised that healing was progressing slowly. However, a year later it feels like it’s taking too long. It feels like the world is passing me by.

A year later and things feel worse. The challenge is greater. Not because things are digressing. Actually, the opposite is true. Because I’m experiencing healing the result is a growing gap between what I want to do and what I can do. Call it the ‘frustration gap’. Even though I can do more than I could do a year ago, that’s not what is most noticeable. At this time, my eagerness to do more accentuates my limitations. I’m willing to endure a certain level of pain or

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Vintage John Deere 165 with hydrostatic drive

discomfort just to be involved in an activity. I’ve become accustomed to living with a certain amount of discomfort. It’s become a given.

Following my injury, my mantra was, “Use it or Lose it”. This approach was supported by the neurologist who worked with me last summer. She told me there is a growing body of evidence that supports that approach. Recovery takes work. In my estimation, that method beats sitting around waiting for it to happen.

However, a new point of reference has been imposed on me. A different professional is guiding me. It’s a different time. It’s time to take a different approach. I now need to live with a different set of rules

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Dandelions are great in the right place.

The change comes with having an occupational therapist (OT) take charge. It’s no longer my decision to push ahead with the mantra of “Use it or Lose it.” I must no longer engage in an activity till my body signals that I have reached a reasonable limit. Invariably the signal meant, I’ve gone beyond my limit. The signal actually meant, I’m pushing the limit beyond what is helpful. Now I’ve been instructed to stop for a break before my body sends me a warning signal. My imposed mantra is, “Avoid the ‘red light”. As a result it feels like my endurance has been reduced. It’s like my abilities are more restricted.

Following the guidance of the OT means I have some extra work ahead of me. I need to track every type of activity I do. That means making a list of different activities; be it cycling, driving, hoeing, planting, mowing the lawn, reading, writing, helping a neighbour with a chore, washing dishes, worshipping, visiting, playing cards etc.  For each activity I need to determine how long I can do it without hitting the “red light”. That means planning a break at the proper intervals. If the intervals for a break were the same for each activity that would just be too simple.

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Looks like a ‘call two’ hand!

Avoiding the ‘red light’ is putting extra demands on my ability to remember. That means when I’m mowing the lawn, I must remember to take a break after 40 minutes. But when I’m mowing I don’t think about taking a break, I think about making the lawn look great. To help me stop on time I figured out a failsafe reminder. Put only enough gasoline in the mower so that it stalls after about 40 minutes.

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Trek touring bike

Stopping activities before I get the ‘red light’ is harder than it seems. For example, how far should I drive before I stop for a break? Well, it depends on whether the driving involves going through Toronto. It depends on how heavy the traffic is. It depends on how many visual distractions there are along the road. Taking a break then requires a place that is not busy. An En Route stop along the 401 hardly fits the bill. Too close to highway noise. Too much commotion in the food court. So a bit of advance planning is required.

Stopping an activity before getting a ‘red light’ can be interesting when visiting. Actually, it’s quite simple. I would just walk away from the visitors or just walk out of the room. That’s fine if I’m not visiting alone. The length of the visit before needing a break will depend on how many people are in the room. The noise level in the room. The number of different conversations that are happening at the same time. Even the time of day makes a difference.

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The hoe was a gift from my mother-in-law

Stopping an activity before getting a ‘red light’ can really vary while gardening. Considering how strenuous the activity is, how much lifting, how much bending down, the amount of planning or attention to detail is needed, even how hot or sunny the day is, are just some of the factors to consider.

Stopping an activity before getting a ‘red light’ has very different variables while cycling. The first thing I’ve learned is not try setting any personal speed or endurance records. The additional variables includes the number of hills and the steepness, the temperature the strength of a headwind, the volume of traffic and familiarity with the route.

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Seldom by Dawn Rae Downton

Needless to say, the high number of birthday wishes were a real boost to my morale. Thanks so much. The quick acknowledgements on Facebook was significant. It was like someone popping their head in the door for two seconds to say hi. It’s great. It’s encouraging. It’s a sense of not feeling abandoned. A big thank you!

P.S. If you still want to send me birthday wishes… it’s never too late.