Prior to December, 2010, I enjoyed a successful professional career as an active trial lawyer, primarily representing physicians in medical malpractice litigation, and municipalities in many forms of civil litigation including employment matters, civil rights, alleged police misconduct and others. It was a rewarding and, in retrospect, an all consuming life adventure.
In December, 2010, although I have no memory whatsoever, I experienced a traumatic brain injury in which I was apparently unconscious for 22-24 hours. Spending six weeks in various hospitals, including RIO at Good Samaritan Hospital, I then spent three months in a foster care home specializing in brain injury patients. Then, thinking I was healed and would be returning to my trial practice, I was confronted with multiple medical opinions that, given my permanent memory impairment, it was not wise to place a client’s interest at risk, and the strong suggestion was that I not return to work. Subsequently, the Social Security Administration determined that I was disabled for purposes of receiving disability benefits. Then, the painfully slow process of attempting to return to normalcy followed.
By this time, early 2013, my children were young adults and moved on to other cities and countries to pursue their dreams. My wife, at the time, had relocated her retail business from Portland to Bend, and the social network which had been created over 30 years was evaporating. In addition, in part as the result of the accident which lead to the traumatic brain injury, I also experienced the need for what has amounted to seven surgeries since April, 2013.
Consequently, the physical limitations exacerbated the memory and concentration impairments such that only with the benefit of encouragement by a counselor, and few remaining friends, was I able to sustain motivation to volunteer at a local hospital, the Alzheimer’s Association, and as a Mentor in the Oregon State Bar Mentor/Mentee program, the latter of which permitted me to share my previous experiences and maintain contacts with several other lawyers, judges, and friends in the legal community.
More recently, I’ve become more active in a support group for brain injury survivors, which has permitted me to address the potential effects and complications of returning to practice. For example, with the potential risk of developing earlier than normal onset of dementia, regardless of cause, I needed to be very aware of the potential effects on clients, but as importantly partners, colleagues and staff.
Nonetheless, despite seemingly contributing and being somewhat helpful to several individuals, I also recognized that apathy was prevalent in perspective of my external world. Stated differently, I perceived that I lost my identity of who I was, the significance my efforts were making for others, and engaging in self pity.
Throughout the past five years post accident, and even more recently, I’ve come to realize the importance, for me, in sustaining hope, which has been described for me as follows:
Hope is born while facing the unknown and discovering that one is not alone.
Hope is not a concept easily defined. At times, in fact, it may not be a conscious thought but rather, in hindsight, can be recognized as having withstood challenge after challenge whether they be physical or emotional, the latter of which encompasses a variety of life’s experiences. For me, it was only recognized after persevering for several years.
Stated differently, perhaps, I’ve been successful in achieving a sense of contentment, which was defined for me, as:
Contentment is an awareness of sufficiency, a sense that we have enough and we are enough. It is appreciating the simple gifts of life – friendship, books, a good laugh, a moment of beauty, a cool drink on a hot day. Being contented, we are free from the pull of greed and longing. We trust that life provides what we need when we need it.
Contentment allows us to experience satisfaction with what is. We are fully present in this moment. Being contented does not obstruct our dreams or thwart our purpose. It is a place to stand and view the future with a peaceful heart and gratitude for all that is and all that is to come.
Surely, my life is at least 180 degrees from where it was prior to December, 2010. Personally, professionally, and physically everything is different. But, in recognizing this period of time as one of transition rather than change has allowed me to maintain a sense of balance and realize that there may yet be productive and beneficial opportunities which lie ahead and may afford me an opportunity to be effective in some other manner, the nature and extent of which is not yet evident. Balance in this context means, for me:
And if we do “fall short”? That very awareness of “falling short” implies two related realities: First, we am trying, and second, we need to try again.
There is no failure here, for spirituality involves a continual falling down and getting back up again. *** The great need is for balance – when we are down, we need to get back up; and when we are down, we need to remember that we have been, and certainly will be again, “down.”