Bear with me.
As I write it’s autumn.
Summer, over five-and-a-half years ago, I nearly died.
I was out cycling, as I often was. I was probably knocked off my bike by a deer. Huge brain injuries. I was on my own. A country lane. No-one saw it happen. A Post Office delivery driver found me. Air ambulance. Hospital.
I don’t actually know any of this. I’ve learnt it all later, from what people have told me. For me, the brain injuries acted as if someone had hit a re-set button.
Major emergency surgery – six hours. For the next 72 hours the main question was whether to switch the life-support machine off. Then it became clear I would live but no-one was sure if I’d come out of the coma I was in. A month and plenty of set-backs later, no-one was sure what I’d be like – physically or mentally – as I began to gain consciousness. Two weeks later, no-one was sure what would happen next.
Late autumn I came home from hospital. I was damaged but, supported by incredible love and care, I was just about functioning. I started to try to make sense of it all.
Come the new year I started looking back to get directions.
That was odd for me. Up until then, all my life I’d always, deliberately, kept my focus on what’s ahead. But I needed to find my way again.
I was looking for what I had been, up until the accident, and I was looking for what had made me that person.
I’m still looking.
Only recently, I realised that absolutely everything I think now is being remembered and understood through my damaged, distorted prism.
But I also realised that that’s OK. We – you, me, all of us – are in this together. Everyone’s thoughts and memories are damaged and distorted – by time, context, culture, beliefs, experiences, accidents, genetics and more.
So, yes, I’m still looking. ‘Getting Directions’ is about what I’ve found so far.