Celebrating the Wins, Big and Small
I’m recovering from a brain injury. But there’s more to me than that.
Last night, I baked a cake. A glorious flour-free chocolate cake filled with fresh dates, hazelnuts, a whole (!) block of Lindt 90% chocolate and orange rind. I served it slightly warm, topped with fresh berries. It’s gooey, divine, like creme brulee, but better.
So divine my sister asked me to make it for her wedding in a few months. This won’t be a problem, I said confidently, I don’t know how anyone could not like this cake.
When my illness passed the year mark, I began to lose my sense of time. My calendar was cleared. As I was (and still) unable to work, I had no career deadlines nor social events lined up. I had nothing to look forward to except my next doctor’s appointment.
My progress has been at a snail’s pace. I would creep forwards, backwards and then forwards again. Even the doctors can not give me a timeframe. If indeed, I would even recover at all. My future remains open ended. I hang onto the thread of the miraculous day (indeed if I ever get there) of recovery.
As I keep that thread of hope in my grasp, the days seemed to blend into one. A saga of pain, fatigue, confusion and grief. In the messy chronicle of illness which is my life, I’d forget how far I’d come. I’d forget the baby steps that inched me forward. I realise how easily I let the big picture slip, before diving nose deep into despair. I needed something to separate the endless days that morphed into one. How do I celebrate the small wins and mark the milestones along the way?
As I’ve discovered, chronic illness can be like an endurance race. I’ve been an endurance athlete and represented my country at the World Triathlon Age Group Championships in 2017. There were many steps to making that dream happen. Just as there are on my health journey.
In the early days, I realised my goal was to simply get through the day. This may have involved lying in bed all day. On other days, I might get up, make my bed and take a shower! At first it was an effort to twist my head around. In my previous triathlete life, running or cycling for an hour or two before breakfast before heading off to running my business was the norm. I realise, now, these small things have become my big things. It takes the same amount of energy and mental focus to get myself dressed and showered.
If I focused on the past these comparisons of my pre-injury life they undid me mentally. I needed a ritual. I decided a monthly cake-baking ritual was in order. It would be my chance to pause, stop and acknowledge my progress. Yes, I thought that would work well. And besides, who doesn’t like cake?
I made a google calendar event and now it’s official. For the first one, I sat my family down. We ate cake. We talked. We discussed the previous month, how I’ve been; the wins, setbacks and bounce backs. Most of all I use this time to remind myself I haven’t given up. We’ve been doing this for over a year now.
Yesterday, my phone altered me with a ding! Cake baking time. Another month had rolled around. I barely noticed. I’ve had my head down, bum up; busy with rehab, treatment, symptoms that flare, caught up in the chaos of chronic illness. Finally, I finished writing this post. There is cake left over from the night before. Why not celebrate some more? I log off here to eat another damn slice.
Y’all gonna ask, here’s the recipe from my favourite bloggers, Green Kitchen Stories: Flourless Chocolate Cake.
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