Muscles I Never Knew Existed

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I started a new exercise regime – two days a week, my backyard is transformed into a gym and three of my neighborhood friends and I work out with Coach D. The lawn area is for ropes, agility ladders and hopscotch. The patio is equipped with benches, mats, ab wheels, bar bells, weights and agility balls. For the next hour, we grunt and sweat and laugh as we do squats, jumping jacks, skull crushes and reps. Coach D. urges us on, counting off, encouraging, and introducing new exercises for muscles I never knew existed. The next day, I am a little sore but feel great, knowing that I am awakening muscles that have lain dormant for many, many years.

I thought about Coach D. last week when I accompanied my husband to his brain injury class at Santa Monica College. The teacher, our dear friend Jami, led them through a thought exercise, imagining that they were on a desert island and asking them to draw what they would take with them. Jami questioned my husband, patiently waiting for his responses, tapping into knowledge that seemed like it didn’t exist in his mind. But then he was able to name and draw objects – blankets, water, flashlights and glasses.

I think of my husband’s speech therapist who comes every week to do crossword puzzles or read through articles in the paper and how she is constantly questioning him, getting him to speak. “It’s all in there,” she tells me. “It’s just filed into different cabinets in his brain that he can’t retrieve easily.”

And that is why we all need a Coach D. in our lives, someone who is relentless and pushing to work long forgotten muscles. Someone who is patient and encouraging, even when I feel like I can’t do another rep or crunch. And that is what Jami and the speech therapist do for my husband, patiently questioning him over and over, tapping into his reservoirs of thoughts that aren’t easily retrievable anymore.

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