Monday, January 23, 2012

Giffords Resigns from Office…But Not from Life


I’ve just watched the Gabrielle Giffords video posted on her website - http://www.gabriellegiffords.com/ - and I have two diametrically opposed thoughts about it.

First, she seems to have come to terms with her handicaps in that she acknowledges the severity of them and limitations she has.  That’s a good thing. After a traumatic brain injury or brain tumor, we are changed and usually for the worse. And if you shouldn’t drive or cook or manage the high-stress and important job you used to have, you need to acknowledge that handicap. Her resignation tells me that she has. 

It’s hard.

It’s humiliating.

It’s depressing.

But pretending that you can see as well as you used to, when you can’t, is in some ways a lie.  And, to quote Richard Bach (author of Jonathon Livingston Seagull), “the worse lies are the lies you tell yourself”.

At the same time, she has not resigned herself to being anything less than she can be. Her objective seems clear – she wants to return to work as a congresswoman for the state of Arizona. And to do that, she needs to spend 100% of her time in rehab. Will she be able to recover to the point that she’ll be able to run for office?  Who knows? Having read her book - Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope - I wouldn’t bet against her.  (Here’s link to her book: http://www.amazon.com/Gabby-Story-Courage-Gabrielle-Giffords/dp/1451661061/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327341870&sr=1-1)

For those of us who’ve had brain tumors or traumatic brain injuries, she’s the role model. She’s the one we can all know and say to ourselves “If she can come back from a bullet to the head, I can come back from my brain tumor.” “Come back” may mean different thanks to different people, but to me it means never giving up and, like the army ad, “being all I can be”.

And just as importantly, it means never letting the tumor consume your life, your personality, or your attitude.

Almost every time I go to the gym I see a guy from church who’s in an endless cycle of rehab. Every time I ask him how’s he’s doing, he gives me a laundry list of his latest illness woes…and then walks away. His illness consumes him and imprisons him. What is so refreshing and motivating and inspiring about Gabby – or at the piece of Gabby that we can see – is that she hasn’t fallen into that trap.

I hope I never do too.

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