5 years ago today I woke up.
I don’t mean that in the sense of “I had a spiritual awakening,” although that too. I mean it quite literally: I woke up in my bed after a night of sleep.
That may not sound like a big deal, and that’s because it’s something most of us take for granted. But I didn’t take it for granted that day, and I haven’t since then.
What changed my perspective was what happened in the middle of the night leading to that morning.
I woke up in a room that felt too hot. I got out of bed and walked to the radiator to turn off the heat. The next thing I knew, I felt the hardwood floor beneath me. Disoriented and confused, I slowly opened my eyes. It took a few moments to realize I was on the floor on the other side of my bed from the side I slept on. My head was just below my dresser and partially under my bed. I wasn’t sure how I got there. Still not entirely sure, the best guess is that I fainted. Fainted and fell to the floor, my head narrowly missing the tall dresser or the edge of the bed frame and instead landing on the floor with the rest of me.
Slowly I got up and made my way back into bed. Had someone been there with me, or had I the presence of mind to think rationally in that moment, I might not have gotten up without a medical person to check on me. I was lucky I didn’t snap my neck or crack my head open. I didn’t think about those things until later.I got up off the floor and cautiously made my way back into the bed.
it was only when I was back in bed that I felt the blood at the back of my head. It was the middle of the night. I had no phone in my room, nobody with me. So I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. I head the voices in my head tell me I could have a concussion and I shouldn’t sleep.
I spent the night in and out of consciousness, wondering if I’d wake up. Wondering how long it would take for someone to notice if I didn’t. Wondering about a lot of things that I didn’t really need to worry about if I wasn’t going to wake up, because they would be someone else’s problem.
It’s fair to say that that night, and the subsequent months of recovery from traumatic brain injury, changed my outlook in many areas and altered the course of my life. The experience reshaped me.
In the weeks and months that followed, and in the years since, I’ve learned many lessons, about life, about the brain, about how we recover, about how little we know about the brain.
But one lesson recurs more than any other: we often take the most simple things for granted. Until something happens to make us reconsider.
Five years ago today, I woke up. I got out of bed and stood on my own two feet and didn’t fall down. I got dressed, all on my own. Things that I had, for the most part, taken for granted since I was old enough to walk and dress myself.
In the light of that new day, I no longer took them for granted. I was grateful for the ability to open my eyes, to stand up, to get dressed. All limbs and body parts attached.
It’s so easy to overlook what we can be grateful for.
Five years ago today, I woke up. Grateful for what I once took for granted.