Sounds in the night

Pop-pop . . . pop-pop-pop  . . . pop . . . .

“What was that?” my wife asks from the other side of the bed?

“I’m not sure . . . fireworks?”

It was nearly midnight. The muffled sounds, unwelcome strangers, shocked our room. It was hard to tell where they came from: inside a neighbouring house? . . . from a nearby park?

Pop. Pop-pop . . . .

We stopped thinking and listened. “Maybe it’s kids setting off firecrackers in the nearby park?” I said.

“Or gunshots. That doesn’t sound like fireworks,” she said. My love grew up in Mexico City and she knows the sound of late-night fireworks set off in celebration.

We waited in silence for more of the sounds. Nothing. The furnace turns on and we hear a fan pushing warm air into our home.

“What should we do?” she asks.

“What can we do?”

It was March 28, 2020. We were two or three weeks into the COVID-19 crisis. Where we live, everyone was hold-up in their houses. We stood six feet apart. Owners had closed their stores. Municipal enforcement patrolled the streets and businesses to ensure the “apocalyptic” scene didn’t result in mass break-ins and community discord.

My wife stood, moved to the bedroom window, pulled back the drapes, peeked out. There were lights on in a few houses, but no street traffic, human or mechanical. She asked again, “What should we do?”

“I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” I said.

I moved to the window, looked out at the dead of night.

Then she moved away, leaving our room and walking toward the front of the house. I followed, and saw her sneak a quick look out the front window, at the streets. They were deserted. Ominous.

I felt disorientated. Maybe it was tiredness. Maybe It was stress from the impending collapse of the world’s economy? Maybe it was “cabin fever?” We could call 911, I thought, but I dismissed the idea, thinking: if it was gunshots inside a house there’d be nothing to see; if it was fireworks in a park, they – probably kids – would be long gone; what would I report? “Let’s go back to bed,” I said.

Staring at the ceiling, I half-listened for a scream or laughter or anything. Then I thought about how our government has deemed alcohol an “essential service.” Alcohol is, then, equal to food. I thought this must be partly to do with the revenue it generates for the government, partly to do with the addictive qualities of the drug – those reliant on it would be in crisis without it – and partly because many people take comfort in a glass of wine, a beer, or a snifter of brandy. But then I thought about the years I worked in bars as a youth, and the effects alcohol had on patrons: I’d witnessed many brawls, most fueled by alcohol. And then I wondered if deeming it essential was a wise move during the COVID-19 crisis when nearly everyone is doubly, or triply stressed? Would it be calming, or gasoline poured onto open flame? I determined quickly, that I didn’t have the answer.

***

While making coffee the next morning, I look out the window at the houses surrounding us. They are still. Leafless aspen trees sway in a morning breeze. Yet through this morning calm I think about last night’s sounds: pop, pop, pop . . . .

I dial the RCMP administration number. It’s Sunday. The office is closed. I leave my name, address and contact info. I tell what we heard, and invite them to call if they want more information. Then, I think I should have called last night.

After pouring myself a cup of coffee – black – I sit down at the kitchen table and look, again, outside. Snow has melted some during recent warmer spring days, but there’s still a blanket of it covering most of the back lawn. Our fence needs to be re-stained. And I consider trimming the cotoneaster before the buds appear.

I lift the ivory coloured cup to my lips, take a sip, looking again at our neighbour’s houses . . . and hope it was fireworks.


Please like and share.

Copyright © Allan Boss, 29 March 2020

Image by dayamay from Pixabay 

What to do, what to do

It’s a bit eerie at work these days. The facility I manage is closed, but it doesn’t matter. No one comes to check the door, presses the handle, shakes it, peers through the window, then stands back, scratching their head and wondering why we’re no open until they read the COVID-19 sign on our door: “FACILITY CLOSED: Due to the latest announcements from the provincial health services, the gallery, theatre, and museum are closed until further notice.”

Things are weird. No on is on the streets. The grocery store shelves are sparsely filled.

This morning, one of our team members flew back from a weekend in Vancouver. It’s a domestic flight, and she’s not symptomatic, but still, everybody kept a safe distance. Three metres. She runs our education programs and all her classed have been canceled, but she still has work to do, so we decided she’d work from home for a couple of weeks.

That’s good. Let’s keep her working. She can stay home. Do her work from there. It’s ok. The more we stay away from each other, the better off we’ll all be.

So connect online. Skype. Call your family. Hug your partner, your kids, your hamster.

And if your bored? Try doing something you might not have done before. Spend some time exploring some amazing sites on internet. For example, Google Arts and Culture has a multiplicity of exhibits, like the super cool Peek at Frida Kahlo’s Diary and you can also tour the place she wrote it, her blue house, or the Museo Frida Kahlo. And if you get bored of Netflix and Youtube, check out the 1500 free films at openculture.com where the even have my favourite film maker, Stanley Kubrick’s first feature, Fear and Desire.

I say, work from home. Self distance. Stay healthy, and use the opportunity to see something you haven’t seen, learn something you haven’t learned. Write a diary. Draw a picture. Meditate.

Remember, this too shall pass.


Copyright © Allan Boss

Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay 

Support

I sent a draft of my book The Memory Box to a doctor who spent her entire career helping patients recover from brain injury. She had been my doctor, so I trusted her. She suggested that whereas I had seven ways of recovery, I should add an eighth: support.

I’d already dedicated a chapter to support, but didn’t identify it as way number eight. It felt as though support was – in some cases – outside a patient’s control, so it wasn’t clear that it fit. I thought about it a fair bit and decided she was correct. Support is critical to recovery from trauma, and there are many ways to get it.

Here’s a segment from The Memory Box where a friend supported me:

Ron picked me up and we went to play squash. We’d played a fair bit before the accident, and although the games were competitive, he nearly always won. Because of that, I expected us to have a good game, lots of volleys, a close score.

Ron won the toss and served first. The ball smacked into the front wall, bounded off the side wall, and flew toward me. I had the intention of dropping the ball softly at the front. I figured he’d have to run to get it and then maybe I could win the volley. I swung the racquet at the ball, imagining how it would behave after impact, and swoosh. I missed the ball. Ron laughed and moved to the other side of the court to serve again. When he did, I swung at the ball to returned it and again, swoosh. I missed it completely. Ron slowed down his serve and directed the ball toward me, making it easy to return. I swung, and hit the ball. He returned volley, and I ran – half limped – to the ball, and again, swoosh, missed it. That’s how the entire game went. I didn’t get a point. And it wasn’t because he didn’t try to help, giving me easy shots, serving to volley, but I couldn’t hit the ball. As I lay on the floor after diving and missing one, I started laughing. Ron looked at me and said, “Al, you’re not good.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I know.”

“I mean, you’re really not good.”

“I don’t …. I mean, I can’t … I’m trying, but I can’t hit the ball,” I said, confusedly.

Then Ron held out his hand. I took it and he helped me to my feet. I glanced at him – half smirking, half grimacing – and we laughed which made me feel better because truthfully, I was devastated.

“Let’s get out of here, Swoosh. We can find something else to do.”

The thing about Ron was, although I couldn’t do the things I used to do before the accident, he was still there. He stayed by my side, and helped me. He took me to the bar, even though I didn’t drink. He took me to parties even though I was a social misfit, and in the days before I got my license back, he knew he’d have to drive me home early. He adapted to changes. He supported me.

If you’ve got a friend or a loved on recovering from any kind of trauma, reach out to them. Help them. It can make all the difference.


In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He recovered and finished three university degrees including a Ph.D., has written/edited four published books and his CBC Ideas docudrama “Updrafts” about recovering from brain injury won nominations for multiple international awards including the Peabody and the Prix Italia. He is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to the book, The Memory Box.


Copyright © Allan Boss

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Way Five

Way five was exercise. It was key to my recovery. Just after the accident I couldn’t run to the end of the driveway. I didn’t stop, though. I started riding my bike. Within a year or so I ran 10K without stopping. I wasn’t fast, but I did it without limping. I was relearning how to use my body.

Chapter 26 of The Memory Box is all about how exercise helped my recovery, backed up by peer reviewed research. So I wasn’t surprised to see a new study called “Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Gray Matter Volume in the Temporal, Frontal, and Cerebellar Regions in the General Population,” which basically states that “Aerobic exercise helps your brain.”

Simply, exercise will help your brain heal. Read the article, and if you can, read it while riding a stationary bike.


In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He recovered and finished three university degrees including a Ph.D., has written/edited four published books and his CBC Ideas docudrama “Updrafts” about recovering from brain injury won nominations for multiple international awards including the Peabody and the Prix Italia. He is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to the book, The Memory Box.

Happy New Years!

My family talks about the streams of friends who visited while I was in the hospital. The visits were seemingly non-stop, providing support during a difficult time. They helped prevent loneliness and provided companionship. The visits gave me a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, boosted happiness, reduced stress, enhanced confidence and helped me feel better about myself. Friends and family helped prevent loneliness and provided companionship. The visits gave me a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. Visits boosted happiness, reduced stress, enhanced confidence and helped me feel better about myself. They helped me know I mattered, which enhanced my desire to recover.

But if you don’t have friends or family around on New Years eve, what can you do? Well, for one, “Being alone is a great thing. It gives you time to get familiar with you.” Enjoy yourself.

But what if you want to do something else?

A quick Google search will give you some ideas. In fact, when I clicked on Kieron Walker‘s great article, 11 Ways to Spend New Year’s Eve When You’re Alone, I found some answers. And Kierston Hickman‘s article How To Spend New Year’s Eve Alone Without Feeling Any FOMO gave me more.

What ever you’re doing tonight, new year’s eve, I wish you all the best for tonight but for 2020. As Neil Gaiman said, “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”


In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He recovered and finished three university degrees including a Ph.D., wrote/edited four published books, completed four marathons and his CBC Ideas program “Updrafts” about recovering from brain injury won nominations for multiple international awards including the Peabody and the Prix Italia.

He is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery. 

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to his book, The Memory Box.

Crumbs

Today was a good day. I woke up early, made coffee, and listened to some news. I nibbled on a slice of homemade bread. The crumbs scattered about because it was a couple days old, but the bread tasted wonderful.

After driving my kids to school, I went to work.

I can work and am happy to have a job. It helps support our family. For that, I am grateful.

I completed three nagging projects (or bits of them) without interruptions. Then a staff member and I met for a one-on-one and there wasn’t much to report. Our team is accomplishing all goals.

I made a couple soy hot dogs for lunch and ate at my desk. I know, the soy thing might make you want to hurl, but I like them. And the truth is, I have something to eat.

Then I went to another meeting, and our CAO thanked us all for a productive year. She said, it’s been a tough one – she’s right – but we had positive results.

Tonight, I have a Christmas concert at my son’s school, and before it we’re going out for dinner. Just a burger, but it’s a great treat for the family.

After the concert, we’ll come home, change and crawl into bed. I’ll read a few chapters of Beast Quest with my boy. (My wife and I take turns, so tomorrow night is with my daughter. We’re reading The Wizard of Earthsea.)

The point of this post is this: I am lucky to have these opportunities. To some, they may not seem like much, but to me they’re everything.

I think the key to finding joy in your life, is finding joy in the little things. If they make you feel good, relish them.

Be Grateful.

con·fi·dence /ˈkänfədəns

Sometimes it doesn’t come easy. Confidence. It gnaws at a foot, stops me fast.

Sometimes I feel as though I can conquer the world. Sometime the smallest thing makes me cower.

Something I laugh at mistakes. Sometimes they hinder me, like hemiparesis.

I’m not sure if it’s childhood, or the brain injury, likely a bit of both.

And in those times, confidence shuddering, and retreating, I step up and ask myself these questions:

  1. When have you felt confident, successful? What got you there?
  2. What qualities make you confident?
  3. What are your three greatest strengths? Why are you grateful for them?
  4. List your three greatest challenges. What can they teach you?
  5. What three things did you do well today? Write them down.
  6. Have you given yourself a moment to be Mindful? If not, write down five things you see, five things you hear, three things you can touch, two things you smell, and one thing you can taste.
  7. Think of a time you thought you “failed,” and came to realize the moment was actually a door opening to something better.
  8. What are three things are you good at that you take for granted? Write them down.
  9. Who are the people that support you and your goals? How do they bring out the best in you?
  10. If you had all the confidence in the world, what would you do today? Or in six months? Or in a year?
  11. A confident person accepts helpful feedback without getting defensive. Have you ever taken criticism without it stopping you? When?

Remember, confidence helps you handle life’s difficulties and failures. The more you’re willing to fail, the more you’ll succeed. So fail big and let the experience help you grow.

*****

In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. His family learned he may never walk again or talk again. yet, he went on to achieve three university degrees, has written/edited four published books, has run four marathons, and is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to his book, The Memory Box.

TBI and Ways to Recover

“Other methods that worked well for me, and would likely prove beneficial for others, were theatre and memorization. [My] sister Peggy found an advertisement in the local paper. It was a call for open auditions to a musical stage play, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.

I remember the play made me anxious, but the audition didn’t. I had already memorized the songs and a poem used as a monologue. Recognizing my short-term memory was hindered, I’d begun memorizing texts and songs. I felt it was important for a successful recovery. For somehow, intrinsically, I knew I could retrain my brain.

The book, The Brain, Cognition, and Education, states, although humans as organisms have a specific and pre-determined nervous system structure defined over generations, they also have the potential to adjust after life-changing events. These experiences can modify the nervous system and alter behavior. ‘This ability to change gives organisms the capacity for learning and memory.’ (Sarah, Kenneth, & Rita, 2013) 

During rehearsal I successfully learned a few lines, blocking (or on-stage movement from place to place), small segments of choreography, and many songs. Rehearsing with other actors and then sharing the stage with them helped me with social interaction; and it was a particular area I needed to improve. Truth was, I was extremely nervous about the entire process as I had trouble with short term memory and learning lines without music was terrifying.

Our brains can learn, change and adapt. If people survive an initial trauma, they will likely improve over time. Re-learning to read and write is one crucial way to improve recovery.” — Excerpt From, The Memory Box.

*****

In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. His family learned he may never walk again or talk again. yet, he went on to achieve three university degrees, has written/edited four published books, has run four marathons, and is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to his book, The Memory Box.

The Retreat

Sometimes I need to be alone. You know, grab a cup of coffee, find a quiet space and reflect. The opportunity comes about once a year when I visit my in-laws in Mexico. I only speak a little Spanish (Solo hablo un poco de español), so I can’t immerse myself in conversations. I typically find a project during these visits; they become a creative retreat.

My father-in-law’s office is in the front of the house. The white walls are lined with bookshelves filled with an assortment of titles related to his career as a school principal. There are a few darkly framed, darkly lit pictures on the walls at various heights. He offers the space freely. (Mi oficina es tu oficina.)

Five years ago I started writing an essay about my recovery from a brain injury. The first essay led to a second essay. A structure materialized. This book didn’t begin with a plan; I began with a desire.

Last year, I finished the first draft of the book, got feedback from the Alberta Writer’s Guild, and this year I completed the second draft. The book has a new structure and an additional 20,000 words. This year will be about editing and finding a publisher.

Wish me luck!

The Gift

December brings gifts. Some are wrapped in sparkling green and red paper with bows and ribbons and reindeer and elves. Adorned with tinsel and filled with trinkets and toys, they bring joy to those who open them and those who give them. Often they are filled with surprises. Sometimes surprises are overrated. This year, I know my gift and it can’t be wrapped.

We spend every second year with my wife’s family. They live far away so trips last a couple of weeks or so. For the most part, we stick around the house and may go for dinner in the afternoon. Occasionally, we visit other relatives, or some come to visit. Days are calm, sedate, simple.  

My routine is the same most days:

  • wake up
  • make coffee and read a chapter or two of some schlock novel before anyone else wakes
  • share breakfast with the family around a large kitchen island surrounded by apple-green coloured chairs. (In this stark white room, the chairs feel like a photograph from an urban architecture magazine.)
  • excuse myself to the dining room where my computer awaits on the glossy, exotic wooden table. 
  • turn it on and begin writing.

This is my gift. Time to write. 

This 2018 holiday I will finish the second draft of The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain  and a children’s book — tentatively called Harriet’s Halloween, or the True Story of Halloween’s Origin — I’ve been developing on with collaborator Jennifer Stables.  We are planning to release the children’s picture book in time for Halloween 2019 and I’m working towards publishing The Seven Steps memoir, and self help book in 2019 or early 2020.

I’m so looking forward to this break and this time to spend time with family and to write.

What are you looking forward to this Christmas?

*****

In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He recovered and finished three university degrees including a Ph.D., has written/edited four published books and his CBC Ideas docudrama “Updrafts” about recovering from brain injury won nominations for multiple international awards including the Peabody and the Prix Italia. He is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to the book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

%d bloggers like this: