It is early morning and I am looking out my living room window.
The sun is appearing through the trees for the first time in a day.
There is a light morning dew lifting off the ground.
The grass, which has recently been dormant, is once again turning green and coming alive.
The weatherman projects today to be 70 degrees and sunny.
Flowers are in full bloom.
It is December.
In New York.
Sometimes life is weird and unexplainable.
The way things happen in life aren’t always the way they have happened in the past.
Last winter, New York was bombarded with snow.
Piles of snow were plowed higher than houses.
The ground was white for so long that the color green nearly became extinct.
The thought that winter somehow had become a permanent season dominated conversations.
One year later, and the sun’s warmth has extended well past the point which it normally does, or ever has.
I am currently wearing shorts on the eve of Christmas Eve.
The pendulum swings both ways, I guess.
And that gives me hope.
Sometimes when things are at their absolute worst, you can actually feel the pendulum reach its zenith, stop for a second, and then start to change direction and swing the other way.
The other day, right before the recent winter heat wave, I had that exact feeling.
That the pendulum wasn’t moving anymore.
I felt a stillness and then a shift.
It was followed by a feeling of warmth.
The same feeling one gets on a stormy summer day when the storm clouds decide to disperse and the sun magically reappears.
There was no event that made me feel this way.
My feeling was succinct, but significant; as if there was going to be such an event shortly.
It was the exact opposite feeling that I had in 2006, when I closed my eyes late in December and played the game I had always played before each new year, the “What do you think the upcoming year will bring?” game.
In this game I would close my eyes, sit still in silence, and wait for a feeling to come to me that would define the upcoming year.
Up until 2006, the feelings that came to me were always all good.
“It’s going to be a very good year coming up,” would often be the message I would feel.
But in 2006 the feeling that came to me was quite different.
As I looked ahead to 2007 I felt the zenith of the “It’s going to be a great year” pendulum.
I tried to shake the feeling and start the process all over again, but to no avail.
Each time I tried, I got the same result.
So I thought to myself “Ok, a bad year – every now and then you are going to have one,” and I moved on to see what the next year would bring.
When I looked into 2008 in my minds eye, the feeling of darkness overwhelmed me.
I quickly tried to fast forward in my minds eye to 2009, to see what it had in store for me.
“Do not enter.”
I remember getting the feeling “For your own good you are not allowed to go there. You will be better off if you didn’t know.”
What does that mean?
Like someone playing with a Ouija board who didn’t get the answer they wanted, I quickly put a halt to the game.
What could be so bad that it would be best that I didn’t know ahead of time how I would feel?
In time, as a financial advisor, I soon learned the zenith of the pendulum of 2007 and the darkness of 2008 was the looming Financial Crisis.
The worst financial markets since the great depression.
Pillar companies crumbled.
The world’s assets were halved.
Human spirits were shattered.
A near total collapse of the financial markets around the world.
But the world got through it.
In early 2009, in just a few months, the markets rallied nearly 40%.
The world was starting to heal.
At this time, I actually thought the darkness was over.
So for the first time since playing the game in 2006, I once again attempted to go back into my minds eye to play the “What do you think the upcoming year will bring?” game.
“Surely the upcoming year couldn’t get any worse than the one the world just went through with the Financial Crisis,” I thought to myself.
I attempted to look forward into my mind’s eye again, thinking that the worst was over.
I was wrong.
“Blocked off. Off limits,” was my answer once again.
“For your own good, don’t go there.”
In John Green’s book, “The Fault in Our Stars”, Hazel Grace tells of a nurse who said she knew she was a fighter because she called her pain level a 9, when every other patient would have called it a 10.
Hazel said that wasn’t quite right, it was just that she was saving her 10; she knew there was more to come.
It was at this time when I realized the Financial Crisis was only my 9.
My 10 was still to come.
And come it did.
On August 21st, 2009 my 10 arrived. My 19 year old daughter, Jess, lost oxygen to her brain for six minutes.
Calling it a 10 doesn’t due it justice, as it was exponentially so much more than any 9 I had ever experienced.
The difference between a 9 and a 10 is the difference between pain and suffering.
You see, pain is in the body.
Suffering is in the mind.
And it feels infinite.
I went back into my mind’s eye for answers, and how my future would feel. I went through years without getting back any feeling. As I brought each year into my mind, these are the feeling that were transmitted to me:
2010 – nothing
2011 – nothing
2013 – blank
2014 – nothing
2015 – nothing
2016 – I felt the warmth of the sun. Growth. Rebirth.
There is nothing more frustrating to someone who is decorating a Christmas tree than to have one light bulb go out on a string of lights.
We all know if one light goes out, they all go out.
You have to find the bulb, fix it, and then they will all go back on.
One can spend hours searching for that one bulb.
I have spent more than six years in search of it.
A brain injury is like having that one bulb go out in your brain.
Find the one connection, fix it, and everything goes back on.
Connections in the brain are generated by neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters transmit signals across a chemical synapse from one neuron to another.
Neurotransmitters mostly come from Amino Acids.
Amino Acids can be found on the shelf at Vitamin Shoppe.
“Can I help you find something?” a Vitamin Shopppe employee asked me as I was reading every bottle’s label on the shelf in the neurotransmitter section.
I hesitated for a few seconds, almost to the point of awkwardness, as he knew I was thinking about letting him know why I was reading everything in the neurotransmitter section. I usually would make up a story in this situation, it was just easier, but today I decided to overshare with him what I was doing and why.
“Yes, I am trying to learn everything about neurotransmitters. Which products have what neurotransmitters, and what is the safest levels to take.”
“Can I ask why,” he asked me.
“I have a daughter who has been in a non-mobile and non-verbal state and it is my belief that if I provide her with the right neurotransmitter, in the right amount, that it will provide the spark that will travel over the synapses of her brain to allow it to function properly again.”
It was then I knew that I had made a mistake in oversharing.
I will never forget what happened next.
It almost made me lose any and all hope.
“Sir, I hate to tell you this, but there is nothing on any shelf in this store that will help your daughter recover. I’m sorry.”
I left the store feeling like a moron, with nearly all of my hope lost.
What was I thinking.
Did I really think there was a solution to my daughters condition that was in open sight, sitting on the shelf of a Vitamin Shoppe?
Yesterday I was watching an episode of “Saving Hope”.
It is a show about a female doctor whose fiancee was in a car crash and is currently in a medically induced coma.
In this episode, the female doctor tried to use sensory stimulation to help her fiance, Charlie, regain consciousness. She joined him in his hospital bed, got on top of him, took off her shirt and took his hands and placed it on her breast, and at that exact time, another nurse walked in.
She was embarrassed beyond belief and doubted herself to no end.
But the final outcome was that Charlie moved his finger.
I saw myself as that doctor.
My doubt and embarrassment that stemmed from my Vitamin Shoppe visit disappeared.
My hope returned.
I started researching neurotransmitters once again, this time online.
Life is weird and unexplainable.
Sometimes flowers bloom on Christmas Eve in New York.
It does happen.
Knowing that the pendulum swings both ways gives me hope.
Hope that I will endure everything necessary to find that one bulb.
My mind’s eye believes that I will.
It is 70 degrees in December for a reason.
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