The Beauty in the Slow Down

Currently, as I write, it is Sunday morning, September 3rd. I just came home from a run near my house where the crickets and birds were celebrating to an extent I've rarely witnessed. It seems like they were louder and more joyous than ever before, though perhaps it has something to do with my current perception. 

Just a few days ago, I returned to my home after a week in the beautiful state of Maine where I participated as a volunteer for the organization Love Your Brain (LYB). This was the third time donating my time at one of their retreats. If you didn't know, these retreats are offered by LYB to those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and I became involved with LYB back in late 2021 (check how that all started here).

In the time during my trip back home (an 8+ drive), and the time since, my brain has been in a metaphorical fog. The week in Maine, although exceptionally rewarding, it is also exceptionally draining. I was struggling with my thoughts and definitely what to write for this newsletter (which is now a few days late, but it's a self-imposed deadline to do this on the first of each month). 

There are also so many stories that have surfaced from this past week that my brain is working with an exorbitant amount of information. Doubling my fatigue as I sort through the ones that resonate the deepest to me. 

Right before I ran this morning, I stood near the trail and listened to the birds, and definitely the crickets that love to show off during the month of August. That combination, along with the down time since my return home, allowed my brain to trigger a series of endorphins that woke me up just in time to go for that run. Luckily, it also reminded me of a moment on the very first day of the retreat. 

I was talking to a group of participants and one of them said they had always been an adrenaline junky and they had their TBI while doing some daring moves on a snowboard. Not uncommon at these retreats since LYB was co-founded by one hell of a snowboarder. Anyway, this made me curious how they filled that gap to their addiction to adrenaline, probably because he seemed a peaceful, chill person without a ton of worry. 

The participant said they had to take different paths down the hill, or not seek out the jumps, etc., and they chose the longer and flatter runs to take in the surroundings more. This route or behavior would allow them to enjoy the different trees or how the sky looked from a different perspective. To notice the sounds of how the snowboard glided over the snow. To listen for the occasional bird or enjoy the chatter from others on the slope. To look at how the snow was sitting precariously on the tree limbs. It may be no surprise that their response made me smile. 

If my reaction to their answer isn't apparent, this is precisely the topic of my first book. To find wonder in ordinary situations, so obviously this was really satisfying to hear. Their response eventually made me travel back to my own injury and the person I was before. 

I wouldn't say I was an adrenaline junky, but I certainly found joy in going fast on a bicycle (which would be my downfall, too), along with various other activities that had me rushing through life. Once I became more in tune with my own surroundings and started to see the wonder in every single step of my journey, that's when those gaps started to fill in for me, too. Which brings me back to how this participant found that same connection through a similar injury. Could the simple interaction with the little things in life trigger the same adrenaline in our brain as when we participate in higher-impact activities? Without doing research, I would say that it does...and it may do it on a deeper, more meaningful level. 

As I finished my run and listened to the birds and crickets again, I came to the conclusion that this moment of wonder must trigger all the areas of the brain the same as adrenaline...AND it may trigger other areas that adrenaline doesn't touch, allowing for more cognitive development...and for more of a connection to it all. I've said for many years that like it or not, my TBI experience has placed me front row and center to the power of the brain, and situations like these prove themselves over and over. Something I'm grateful for each day, and in that gratitude grows love, acceptance, joy, happiness, etc. Yeah, quite the dichotomy that slowing down, and enjoying each and every second of the day, can fill a gap that a desire for adrenaline created. But, then again, when has life ever made perfect sense?

I'm coming off a very busy time and look forward to the slowing down as we enter the next few months. There's a magic that starts to happen in Autumn that Summer doesn't know. I love every simple, little quality in the change, and the shift in the pace is welcome.

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