Do I Wear a Helmet?

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Cedars in Snow

Hide ‘n Seek

It was my turn to hide while my 4 3/4 year old grandson (he doesn’t let me forget the 3/4) counted to 20. That didn’t give me much time to get into a place where I could be reasonably obscure. I hurried over the stone wall a mere two feet high. I stepped over it knowing the count was close to 20. I moved between some mature cedars eyeing some young ones that I hoped would give some good cover. One more quick move and I would be well hidden.

That was one move too many or rather one move too quick. I was wearing a winter jacket with a hood. They’re warm and comfortable, but, potentially  uncomfortable when they block your peripheral vision. It was a low 5 inch cedar limb that blocked my path. The branch made contact with the side of my head. The game went into sudden death (Not the best choice of words).

The pain was instant. The sensory overload was instant. The sense of confusion was instant. I knew I was in a bad way. The game was over. I knew better than to tough it out.

My grandson was thrilled to find me almost immediately after reaching the count of twenty. I explained to him that the game was over. He was not thrilled about that. I went inside and lay down for an hour. All I could think of was, “Oh, I hope I’m not starting all over again.” Almost two years down the road of recovery and now this.

Living a Flashback

Having the symptoms and effects come back was a strange experience. I experienced both serious disappointment and familiarity. The familiarity was like having an old friend visiting, not polite and mannerly one instead gruff and ornery.

In a strange sort of way the next few days had something comforting about it. The familiarity of the symptoms didn’t leave me with the sense of confusion and denial that I experienced the first time around. And yet confusing. A different kind of confusion. I was experiencing something comfortable and frustrating at the same time? Call it comfrusting.

I must admit it’s comfrusting to walk into a room and once again forget the second and third thing I planned to do. It’s comfrusting to not be able to recall the noun that I needed while explaining something. It’s comfrusting to experience headaches for the better part of each day. It’s comfrusting to experience mental fatigue trying to problem solve household situations. It’s comfrusting to find my sleep even more disrupted, not to mention the restlessness that comes with trying to distract myself from the pains, aches and muscle tension. Tears are once again too close to the surface.

Over the next couple days I experienced a mix of emotions. Disappointment in being thrown back several steps on what is a slow enough recovery. A feeling of my recovery being stalled, testing my patience. Reaching my physical and mental limits too soon in the day. Making it hard to feel useful or productive.

I once again recognized the physical symptoms that had faded away but still too familiar. I realized I had to renew my efforts at managing my limited personal resources. It was time to reintroduce some of the earlier strategies I had been taught. It was time to analyze the activities that would unexpectedly catapult me to my limit. I have to trouble shooting  each day to avoid repeats where possible.

I’m praying that this is the condensed (think quick read) recovery version of my initial injury.

Risk of Re-injury

What happened while playing hide ‘n seek was one of my greatest fears about living with ABI namely the risk of re-injury. A re-injury can be particularly nasty because while one is dealing with post-concusion symptoms the brain is only partially healed and lacks the internal protection that most people have. I hear it all too often that someone compounds the challenges of recovery because of an additional injury. There’s a difference between set backs which actually can be helpful and injuries.

With a brain injury the risk of getting into a situation that causes re-injury is statistically higher. Let me give you one illustration even though there are many others to encounter risky situations. The risk can be due to slower brain processing, through a compromised sense of judgment or the result of living with fatigue.

The risk of tripping is high due. You’re walking across the kitchen and you see a box beside the counter. You know it’s there but your brain is processing too slowly to realize that it’s an obstacle, that you need to step around it. Before all that information gets processed you have a higher than  usual risk of bumping into the box and losing your balance. The risk is further compounded by the brain responding too slowly after contact is made with the box increasing the likelihood of not recovering one’s balance on time.20161217_141304

Decision

So, do I wear a helmet that next time I do an outdoor game like Hide ‘n Seek? Maybe. Or I might abandon the parka with a hood in favour of a winter coat and tuque. Besides what’s more Canadian than wearing a tuque with a maple leaf?

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Potholes in the Road.

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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.

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.