A discovery, found tucked away inside a long-forgotten folder, under a pile of old papers, at the back of a drawer, filed under nothing in particular. I thought it was a piece of mine from years ago but I quickly realized it was not. My friend Alyson Vega wrote it in 2012, and posted it on her blog, T.B.I. To Be Invisible. As I read, I understood why I was compelled to keep it, why I decided to type it up, and why I left it in a folder to rediscover one day. I’m glad I did. Thanks, Alyson, for letting me post it here.
Alyson Vega, from T.B.I. To Be Invisible
I want to be an inspiration, said the liar*
A philosophical question came up when I went to the art exhibit with the BIANYC group. Elliette was describing why she chose to make a portrait of one little girl from a famous nanny/shaken baby case over another equally famous case. She said something about the positive vibe she got from the first family. It probably affected the girl’s recovery, she posited, not focusing on the loss and the anger.
I understand the sentiment and I do my best to see the positive in every situation but… sometimes it is annoying. I don’t mean that it annoys me to be positive or that positive people annoy me. What bothers me is that the poster person for any ailment is the inspirational individual who overcame the worst circumstances and emerged a ray of sunshine.
Okay, don’t jump on me just yet. I love puppies and birthday parties and sunshine. I am human. It’s just that sometimes when I am really angry, I would like to hear about someone who had a crappy day. I want to read about someone who woke up in the morning and realized they still had a brain injury and it still sucked. Do I want them to wallow and suffer? No, but I’m calling bullshit on the happily ever after story.
There is beauty in the pain and the ugly side to the struggle. I think I just wanted to see a portrait of a real person on a real day facing brain injury without a smile. It is hard. It takes a lot of effort to maneuver the day remembering to eat and rest, to leave the house without pissing someone off or forgetting something important. A person who faces obstacles and endures, with or without a smile, is pretty good in my book.
After my brain surgery, people called me “brave.” I do not think it takes bravery. What was the alternative? I guess I could have taken my chances and risked living with a bleeding cavernoma in my brain stem. I could have kicked and screamed and cried with fear as they dragged me into surgery. I just lay their on the table oblivious while they cut off my ear and peeled it back so they could burrow in and take out the tumor. I woke up and that was how I knew I was alive.
It was five years ago today. It is my second birthday. I lived and here I am but it has not been fun. It has been a nightmare that I could not believe at times. I lost my joy in my job. I was loved as a teacher and then I was loathed. It made no sense to me. I was trying so hard. I do count my blessings and I am grateful for what I have. I have made some really wonderful brain-injured friends who get it. I am still frustrated, still working at being okay with what happened. That struggle, that reality, is what I find a comfort and that is what I want to see in art, in life, in memoirs, in documentaries. Who is representing that guy? I feel inspired to find a way to tell my story, not to inspire others, but to acknowledge that I am.
Alyson Vega, April 2012