Starting Over All Over Again
In late October 1984, I found myself sitting in my Lower
East Side living room with two close friends only six weeks after Id been
held up and shot in the head, which left me with a brain injury and a bullet
lodged in the frontal lobe of my brain.
In six weeks time, Id been shot, lost my
ability to work, learned that I had no health care coverage and, last but not
least, had my girlfriend, overwhelmed through no fault of her own by the
vicious realities of the shooting, end our relationship. I was also living with
an injury that, then and now, could abscess at any time and, in doing so,
inflict more damage to my brain, or kill me. It felt as if Id lost
everything, including my sense of being safe in the world. But, as I pointed
out to my two close friends, if indeed everything had been lost, that meant the
slate had been wiped clean, which in turn meant I could rebuild my life any way
I wanted. And so, I told them both, I planned to leave the city, live in the
country, in as secluded a setting as possible, work on a farm, and write.
I was starting over, and as my closest friend, Michael
Sulsona, said to me then, Hey, how many people get a chance to start over
in their thirties? He was right.
I am happy to report that all three components of my plan
came true. I left the city in 1987 and soon after worked on a horse farm
mucking stalls and, soon after that, began landing work as a freelance
journalist. I did not, however, relent on my commitment to live in as secluded
a setting as possible. I never did, until now.
While I am not in a position where I have again lost
everything, I am, for the first time in nearly 25 years, willfully moving back
to a community setting. I will be taking a ground-floor apartment in a
seven-apartment building in the Berkshires. In other words, I will have
I am 58 and, once again, I am starting over and planning
change. And, as Michael said, how many people get the chance to start over? I
am a lucky man.
And what are these planned changes? First and foremost is
a rigorous daily writing schedule. Second, and perhaps most important of all, I
plan to become involved with the community. Am I scared? Yes -- out of my wits,
or nearly so. I live with brain damage and a hefty dose of PTSD. Fear of being
shot again is very real, but it is time to relieve this fear of some of its
decision-making power. It is OK to be afraid; dont let it scare you. I
tell myself that nearly on a daily basis.
I know many people who live their lives with at least one
hand tied behind their back, meaning they dont give themselves permission
to be who they are, at least not fully.
While I do not know what awaits me in the coming weeks,
months and years, I do know I want to live them all as me, as fully me as
possible. And if starting over is the on switch, then so be it.
What will or wont get published is not up to me. What is up to me is what
will or wont get written. And as for community involvement, there is no
doubt I will form new friendships, and that is a good thing.
I know of no one who wakes up in the morning complaining
about having too many friends in life.
is an advocate for people with disabilities and writes a blog on disability
issues. He resides in New York state.