12
Nov
09

The Dance

November 12, 2009

The Dance

Coping with the loss of a significant part of your identity, whether it is the loss of a limb or the loss of intellectual or physical functioning, is a difficult journey. Although each of these losses are different, people experiencing them understand the common feelings of anger, depression, and social isolation from being “different” or “changed.”

Last week a friend shared with me a video of a performance by one of 7,000 teams who entered a Chinese modern dance competition in 2007. This particular dance team won a silver medal and received the highest number of audience votes. What is so amazing and unique about them is what they have in common…. they both have lost a limb. Definitely not your typical dance couple!

Ma Li, who is now in her 30s, lost her entire right arm in a car accident when she was 19. She had danced ever since she was a little girl and had been training to be a ballerina. After the accident, she fell into a state of depression – her one passion in life, dancing, had been callously taken away from her. Along with the loss of her arm, she lost her center of gravity and balance. Attempts to do  simple spins and turns ended in crying bouts on the floor.

After a friend asked her to coach a children’s dance group, she realized how much she loved and missed dancing. Watching the little kids move and laugh, rekindled Ma Li’s desire to dance again. She began to practice again, learning how to compensate for her lost limb – how to be graceful and fluid and strong in a different way from before.

In 2005, Ma Li met 21-year-old Zhai Xiaowei, who has lost his left leg in a farming accident when he was four. Ma was determined to persuade him to dance with her. Xiaowei had trained in cycling, swimming, diving, and the long and high jump, but never in dancing.

As they began to train together, it was evident that perhaps this was not meant to be. Zhai Xiaowei who had no concept of using muscle to control movement, became easily frustrated and angry. Ma Li, who had such a high level of training, quickly lost patience with Zhai Xiaowei. They broke up several times, but eventually came back together and start training together seriously. A choregrapher was hired to design routines for them.

Their performance at the dance competition was amazing – thoroughly incredible! Though I know nothing about dance, I do know what it feels like to be different, to be socially isolated, to feel like you have lost such an important part of yourself that you will never be able to re-gain your balance in life. Their actual dance is amazing and beautiful, but what I responded most to were the emotional messages expressed within their dance.

Click here to watch their dance; this is from a Centre Stage CCTV 9 broadcast.

Below is a poem I wrote after watching Ma & Zhai’s performance.

The Dance

I am lost and angry.
Ranting and raving,
I beat against life
And the cards I have been dealt.
You reach out to me.

But how can you help?
You are an incomplete person
Just like me.
I am alone…
Afraid to trust…
Afraid to love…
Afraid to dance…

Yet your touch comforts me.
It knows the pain,
The looks and stares,
The murmurs that keep us
Locked away from the world,
Locked away from the normal people,
Locked away from the beautiful people
With charmed lives.

Our souls merge as we embrace.
You provide a safe haven,
A place to rest my head.
You soothe away my fears.
I am no longer alone.

Joy has returned.
Hope has returned.
Courage has returned.
The courage to love and be loved.
The courage to dance.
The courage to fall
And to get up again.

If I fall,
You are there to catch me.
Or, we fall together
And help each other.
Together we weather life’s storms.

No longer alone,
You raise me up,
Beyond my expectations.
Through you I see beauty
That once was hidden.
I find grace and balance
To dance
To live
To rejoice.

And the world sees our courage
And our strength.
The world joins with us to celebrate
Our beauty,
Our life’s dance.
The world rejoices in our being.
/p>

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009
Clip art is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009  http://www.clipart.com

30
Oct
09

Lame Excuse for Halloween

October 30, 2009Pumpkins01 2009-10-18

Lame Excuse for Halloween

I was looking for ways to keep from worrying, so I decided to go to a Halloween party. It’s been years since I’ve gone to any kind of party and I really wasn’t in much of a fun mood – wasn’t going to dress up, due to lack of money.

My best friend called me complaining that she had to go to a party and dress up like a character from a movie but didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a costume. So I looked up some simple Halloween costumes for her. As I explored some ideas for her, I began looking for something I might also be able to pull off without spending much money.

I decided to go as a “Lame Excuse.” You probably can’t see it in the picture, but there is a Gryphon on my shoulder with a sign that says, “Lame Excuse. Need one? Take one.” I put fiberfill around my leg, wrapped an ace bandage around it and carried a cane. Then I cut a garbage bag into a vest and taped excuses all over it.  (Click here for directions on how to make a Lame_Excuse_Costume)

It was a fun way to break the ice with people I didn’t know. One woman followed me around reading off some of my excuses. That produced giggles and comments like, “That sounds familiar,” or “I’ll have to remember that one!” I didn’t spend any money on the costume, just pulled together things I had around the house.

Cindy-Lame Excuse01 2009-10-25I actually won an award for one of the Best Halloween Costumes. At the end of the party, I gave my costume to the woman who had so much fun following me around reading the excuses. A friend of mine told me that was an indication of what a good person I am. Though I’d like to accept the compliment, it sounds a little odd: “Gee, you’re such a good person, you’d give a stranger the garbage bag off your back!”

Thought you’d have fun reading some of the excuses I taped to my vest:

I can’t come to work today because my car ran out of gas on the way to work. While I was pushing it to a gas station, I got a stomach hernia and now I have to go see my doctor.

I can’t come to work today because I’ve used all of my sick days and I’m calling in dead.

I can’t come to work today because I am stuck in the blood pressure machine down at Wal-Mart.

I can’t come to work today because constipation has made me a walking time bomb.

I can’t come to work today because I tried to dye my hair blonde, but it came out green!

I can’t come to work today because my front door fell off my house and I was afraid someone might steal my stuff!

I can’t come to work today because my cat is lonely and stressed out and if I don’t spend quality time with him, he will keep peeing on the furniture!

I didn’t come to work because I forgot to.

I can’t come to work today, or maybe never, because I just got a letter saying that I may have won 20 million dollars.

I can’t come to work today because my toilet exploded and I have to wait for a plumber!

I’m sorry I was late because I was stuck in the bathroom without any toilet paper.

I’m sorry I was late because while I was brushing my teeth I squeezed too much toothpaste out of the tube and it took me a long time to get it all back in.

I was late because I feel like I’m in everyone’s way if I show up on time.

I was late because my dog ate my underwear and I didn’t have any clean ones to wear. I’ll be in after I do some laundry!

Sorry I was going so fast, officer, but my wife ran off with a state policeman and when I saw your flashing lights I didn’t stop because I thought you might be the trooper who is trying to bring her back to me.

Sorry I was going so fast, officer. I was leading in the Indianapolis 500…but I think I took a wrong turn!

Officer, thank you so much for stopping me; it was the only way I knew to get tickets to the Police, ticketTroopers’ Ball. (Hopefully, he will tell you he can’t give you any tickets because state troopers don’t have any Balls.)

Sorry I was going so fast, officer, but I have to go to the bathroom sooooo badly that I’m about to explode! Do you know of a restroom really close by that I can get to in the next 60 seconds?

Sorry I was going so fast, officer, but I was trying to get to the gas station in a hurry before I ran out of gas!

I have metal fillings in my teeth. My refrigerator magnets keep pulling me into the kitchen. That’s why I can’t lose weight.

Sorry my taxes were late…I thought it was my accountant’s job to file the tax return.

I didn’t file my income tax returns because I was unable to determine which tax form to use

I didn’t know that I was required to report the money I embezzled as income on my tax returns.

I made a mistake and really believed I wouldn’t do it again. It must have been a brain fart thing that caused me to do it again.

I can’t pay you in regular money but I was wondering if I could do so with MONOPOLY MONEY.

Sources:
About.com: Family Crafts (http://familycrafts.about.com/od/thingscostumes/a/hclameexcuse.htm)
MadTBone.tripod.com: The Mother of All Excuses Place (www.madtbone.tripod.com)
TheWorkBuzz.com: Lame Excuses (www.theworkbuzz.com/fun-stuff/lame-excuses)

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Photos are the property of Angela Cramer.
Clip art is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

09
Oct
09

Leap of Faith

October 9, 2009Walker1

Leap of Faith

Although it makes sense logically that a person will function differently after surviving a brain injury, the biggest challenge is to let go of the expectations of one’s old self and to accept a new ‘normal.’ Two of my greatest challenges include mobility difficulties and problems with extreme fatigue. Before my brain injury, I used to be able to push myself very hard to quickly accomplish goals I set for myself. Now I have to pay attention to my fatigue level and force myself to rest frequently in order to function at my best. I find this very frustrating because I often feel like my life is at a standstill. I become upset when I don’t feel like my life is progressing the way I want.

I’ve been interested in Native American spirituality for a long time, particularly observing animals and nature and learning important lessons learned by engaging in this practice. I pay attention to animals which are present in my environment and reflect upon their behavior, how they move and survive, their strengths and challenges, and how these things might relate to what is going on in my life at that particular time.

While I was feeling upset with issues of fatigue, mobility, and how slowly my life now progresses, I saw a grasshopper resting on top of a sunflower in my backyard. As I thought about the grasshopper, I suddenly realized how similar I was to it. Because the grasshopper had no comparison of life pre- and post-injury, I began to see how I now move through life in a much different way. Comparisons to others or to how I progressed previously are not helpful.

grasshopper, wings

The way I move through life now is simply different. At times, I engage in resting, enjoying the beauty that surrounds me and making important revelations while others seem to surpass me. However, like the grasshopper with its powerful hind legs, I am in touch with my surroundings, know when to quickly draw upon my inner strength and can leap extraordinary distances to get to where I need to be as long as I take time to rest and reflect.

Click here to read the poem I wrote as a tribute to lessons learned from the grasshopper: Leap_of_Faith

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clip art is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

Although it makes sense logically that a person will function differently after surviving a brain injury, the biggest challenge is to let go of the expectations of one’s old self and to accept a new ‘normal.’ Two of my greatest challenges include mobility difficulties and problems with extreme fatigue. Before my brain injury, I used to be able to push myself very hard to quickly accomplish goals I set for myself. Now I have to pay attention to my fatigue level and force myself to rest frequently in order to function at my best. I find this very frustrating because I often feel like my life is at a standstill. I become upset when I don’t feel like my life is progressing the way I want.

I’ve been interested in Native American spirituality for a long time, particularly observing animals and nature and learning important lessons learned by engaging in this practice. I pay attention to animals which are present in my environment and reflect upon their behavior, how they move and survive, their strengths and challenges, and how these things might relate to what is going on in my life at that particular time.

While I was feeling upset with issues of fatigue, mobility, and how slowly my life now progresses, I saw a grasshopper resting on top of a sunflower in my backyard. As I thought about the grasshopper, I suddenly realized how similar I was to it. Because the grasshopper had no comparison of life pre- and post-injury, I began to see how I now move through life in a much different way. Comparisons to others or to how I progressed previously are not helpful.

The way I move through life now is simply different. At times, I engage in resting, enjoying the beauty that surrounds me and making important revelations while others seem to surpass me. However, like the grasshopper with its powerful hind legs, I am in touch with my surroundings, know when to quickly draw upon my inner strength and can leap extraordinary distances to get to where I need to be as long as I take time to rest and reflect. Below is a poem I wrote as a tribute to lessons learned from the grasshopper.

25
Sep
09

Echoes of Sadness

Sept 25, 2009sad01

Echoes of Sadness

A source of difficulty for many who have a disability is how their social life changes. Some lives change because it is hard for family or friends to understand the invisible nature of a disability such as brain injury. Other’s lives change because they are removed from the work community or the physical community in which they lived or have transportation difficulties. These kinds of changes can lead to an incredible sense of social isolation.

Although I have this kind of social isolation in my life, I have felt very lucky to have home companions who help me combat the effects. My home is in foreclosure and my future is very uncertain at this point. I have tried to capture these feelings in a piece I’ve written for today’s Writers Support Group. Thanks to Terry, and if everything goes well, I will be able to participate for the first time via Skype.

To read my writing piece for today, click on Echoes of Sadness

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Photo is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

19
Aug
09

TBI Writers Support Group

August 19, 2009writing, hand

TBI Writers Support Group

One of the things that started me thinking about a TBI Skype Support Group, was an incident that happened last month. While at our local center for brain injury, I visited with their medical librarian whose job is to help doctors, therapists, TBI patients, their caregivers and other TBI survivors in the community. I went to see if she could find information about a complex condition I have….Basilar Artery Migraines. When I do a search on the internet, I find very little. I wanted to see if she could find more information about it and was pleasantly surprised when she announced over 5,000 hits to her search!

During my time with her, I told her about my website which I created because I found it so therapeutic for me to write. She told me about a TBI Writers Support Group offered twice a week that she facilitates at the center because she thought it would be very therapeutic for TBI survivors to write — an activity which might go along nicely with their other types of therapy. I have been having a difficult time writing (as you may have noticed my decreased postings here) because of the things that are going on in my life. Yet at the same time, that is when writing seems to be most helpful. I wanted to participate in the group, but transportation to the center is a problem for me.

I asked her if they had the ability to use Skype so that could participate. After explaining Skype to her, she approached her supervisor who gave approval to try this out. I am hoping they will have the program up and running for this Friday’s group, but if not, I will post what I’ve written on my website and participate via speaker phone…not the greatest way to participate, but it feels wonderful to have someone be willing to find ways to overcome obstacles so that I might participate. Thank you, Barbara!!!

Last week’s writing topic was: Changes & Recovery (click here to read what I wrote).

This week’s topic is: The best advice you’ve ever received. Click here to read The Sage Within.

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Photo is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

13
Aug
09

Looking for 3 People to Assist Me in Starting a Skype Brain Injury Support Group

August 13, 2009Computer screen with Skype

Looking for 3 People to Assist Me in Starting a Skype Brain Injury Support Group

Problem(s):

Many people with TBI experience an overwhelming sense of social isolation. Some of this is due to a lack of transportation to allow the survivor the opportunity to participate in existing support groups within their community. Other survivors who may have transportation may not have access to a community of other TBI survivors who are able to understand and appreciate the challenges we face.

Solution:

Since 20 years of my professional life as a social worker involved developing and organizing support groups, I am looking to draw upon that knowledge and experience to tackle the above problem. I plan on developing and offering a Brain Injury Support Group using Skype and am looking for about 3 other individuals who are interested in working with me to develop such a group.

Qualifications:

  1. You must be a TBI survivor
  2. You must have or be willing to obtain a webcam and learn how to do a video call using Skype

Interested?

If you are interested in helping me make this a reality, please send an email to me at: twilightinsight@gmail.com by Tuesday, Aug. 18th

Please include the following information in your email:

  1. Your name and brief description about your TBI (i.e., how acquired, when)
  2. Why you are interested in doing this
  3. What special abilities or experiences you have to offer

**If more than 3 people respond, I will find a way to include you in this project. I anticipate that a core group of about 4 people is an ideal number to begin with while first undertaking such a project.

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

10
Jun
09

Take a “Bird Talk” Walk

June 10, 2009Birdfeeder 2007-07

Take a “Bird Talk” Walk

In addition to my container garden which is right outside my back door, I also have a bird feeding area. I love watching the different birds who come to my feeders – goldfinches, a downy woodpecker, tufted titmouse (I wonder what the plural is…titmice?), chickadees, sparrows, starlings, purple finches, brown-headed cowbirds, mourning doves, cardinals, mockingbirds.

When I first put out my feeders, I knew many of the birds but not all of them. It was fun, and therapeutic, looking through my bird book trying to identify birds that I didn’t know. (Click here to learn more about the therapeutic benefits of Bird Feeding and Watching) What made it even more fun was that another friend of mine had also set up bird feeders in her yard.

We would call each other and talk about what kind of birds we saw, the kinds of seed we put out, how to tell the difference between a starling and a grackle, how to attract woodpeckers, etc. We’d look up information about different birds in books or on the internet and share interesting facts we learned.

Birdhouse 2007-11For example, did you know that starlings are not native to the United States? In the 1890s some Shakespeare enthusiasts decided to introduce all species of birds which appeared in Shakespeare’s works. One-hundred starlings were released in New York. Anyone who recognizes a starling can attest how well they have thrived here in the US.

This hobby has created a multitude of therapeutic activities for us. We also put up a couple of nesting boxes which have doors you can open to look inside and watch the birds as they build their nest and lay their eggs. I use the nesting boxes to encourage me to go outside and walk around my yard and explore. My physical and occupational therapists have helped me figure out where best to place outdoor chairs so that I have places to rest.walk in park

This year I’m expanding on the therapeutic benefits of my bird watching hobby to include learning to identify bird songs when I am outside. (Click here to learn more about the therapeutic benefits of taking a “Bird Talk” Walk) The next time you’re outside, take a few minutes to listen to bird songs. If you live in a place congested with noise pollution, go to a park with a friend or family member to listen to the birds. Listening to the various songs can be uplifting, and learning which birds are singing is a great way to exercise your brain cells!

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Last photo is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

Other photos are the property of Angela Cramer, © Angela Cramer, 2008-2009




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