I follow the deer tracks into the muck, every step tentative, continually choosing between the mud and the thorns bordering the path. My breath catches when I spot tiny hoof prints, a fawn’s tracks. I pause to examine them closely, then continue on my way, watching out for them until they veer off the path through a gap in the thorny bushes and disappear into the thicket.
I squelch on, picking my way, with every step weighing my options, mud or thorns. Should I risk slipping in the mud, or the assault of the thorns? I am taking the path of least resistance, like the doe and the fawn I shadowed.
We often try to take the path of least resistance. There are obstacles wherever we go, and we continually make choices to navigate them. Some are physical, like mud, snatching thorns, predators, others are not, like anger and depression, self esteem, social niceties.
Navigating social niceties may seem trivial for some, but a daily struggle for others. Solving mathematical problems is a welcome challenge for few. Hiking in the forest is an impossibility for far too many.
For me, like for most of us, navigating on my journey varies—I have good brain days and bad ones. I have days when the ground is firm beneath my feet, I am fully rested, and interacting with my students is pure joy and when I come home, after a nap, I can sit down at the computer and write to my heart's content.
There are days when I have a headache, but I can still function through it at an acceptable level. On such days, I choose to teach through the pain, draining my resources. I trip and fall into the mud, completely crippled by exhaustion.
Then there are the days when the headache is so bad that I can't leave home, when I am stuck in the mire and can't make any progress whatsoever.
Every day, whether good or bad, as a brain injury survivor, I stray from the path of least resistance. Every day, in order to avoid straying too far, I have to be mindful of myself and my interaction with my surroundings.
According to my neuropsychologist, during my waking hours, my brain has no groove. It doesn't have a path of least resistance. It is constantly at work, adjusting and readjusting in order to complete tasks, no matter how simple. When I talk, I frequently have to enunciate each word carefully to prevent slurring. Often, walking, I have to be aware of every step in to avoid losing my balance. When I'm tired, whatever path I try to follow, I find myself drifting to the left, over correcting to the right and back again.
If I want to live rather than merely exist, I have to persevere. I want to travel, take walks, continue teaching. I have to keep slogging through the mud and braving the thorns, all too often stumbling, tripping over gnarled roots. But I always pick myself up, pause to rest, then continue on my way, towards the high ground.