Busy, Busy, Busy

My experiment to try to be more involved with things is certainly a bit of challenge for me now. When I was in Atlanta, I often became overloaded cognitively which meant too much information was coming at me and the only way I could handle it was to shut out the world for a few days. I also experienced mental fatigue since I have fewer neurons in my brain now. I vividly remember being so tired I had to lay on the sofa for a couple of days until I could function again. So when I moved here to Asheville, I dropped out of everything. The problem? I got bored. Now I’m trying to find some balance.

Next week, I have something four nights in a row. On top of that, I have other things I need to do on Sunday. My responsible side wants to do it all but because of my TBI, this no longer is posssible. The realty is, in our society everyone is too busy. Those of us who have brain injuries and other disabilities have to slow down and I believe we can teach the rest of the world this wisdom.

As for my schedule, I’ve made the decision to skip some events. I do understand folks tend to give me a “pass” because of my disability but I think everyone needs to really stop and ask themselves why they are so busy. Does it make us feel more important if our calendars are full? Are we afraid to spend time with those we love? Do we think we are following God by having a packed schedule?

One of my Facebook friends posted the following prayer by Thomas Merton today in celebration of his birthday. It’s a prayer I need to hear just now.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I do not know where I am going just as I didn’t know back in 1996 when I had my TBI. But it’s not just me. Many of us don’t know where we are going. I need to make choices so I can enjoy what God has given me and not have to spend my days sleeping on the couch! Like before, God will lead me through this wilderness. As Merton said, I may have no idea what is happening but it will happen. I do believe that God is always with me, and I will not be left alone.

Do you feel you’re too busy? How can you adjust your schedule so this isn’t the case? If you have a brain injury, do you struggle with your limitations?

“On Our Way”

Funeral Procession of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, April 9, 1968

Funeral Procession of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, April 9, 1968

Mark Ramsey and Kristy Farber, the two pastors at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church here in Asheville, NC are doing a sermon series on communion, baptisim, funerals and marriages. Last Sunday the day before Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Mark preached about funerals. I couldn’t help thinking, “Now how in the world is he going to preach about Dr. King and funerals in the same sermon?” Somehow, he managed to do so and I must say I was impressed with his thoughts.

Sermons are funny things. Mark preached this neat sermon about Dr. King and funerals and somehow I connected it to my own personal issues. I think this happens a lot which is what is great about sermons and worship services. God speaks to each of us through them often in ways the worship leaders do not even imagine. To hear his sermon, click the following link:
(There’s a real good chance I put this in wrong so in case I did, go to the web side http://www.gcpcusa.org then click on sermons on the right side. Next click on “On Our Way.”)

In it, Mark said that funerals call us to do three things. 1) Tell the truth about our lives 2) Lift up the promises of God 3) Due to this opportunity to look back, we are propelled forward. As I thought about his words, I realized that having a brain injury calls us to do these very same things. In the beginning, I would never share that I had a brain injury. In fact, I was advised by folks to keep it quiet. Since you wouldn’t know I have a TBI by looking at me, this was pretty easy. .

The problem? I was miserable. I didn’t like hiding the fact that I couldn’t remember someone’s name or I got lost all the time. I hated having to find a place by myself where I could “rest my brain” by putting in my ear plugs for a few minutes and closing my eyes. I do know that our world is set up for us to hide our true selves in order to “make it” and be successful. I’m fortunate that I receive disability benefits so I don’t have to fake it and boy did I ever fake it. I so wanted to be like everyone else by earning my own way in this world.

However, now that I’ve stopped “faking it,” I’m much happier. I recently had an expereince when I was talking to a man about his wife. I know both of them fairly well but I couldn’t remember her name and had to ask him what it was. Five years ago I would have faked it but then I just blurted out “Tell me your wife’s name?” He looked at me a little funny but I suspect he figured out it was an example of my TBI challenges.

I’ve also had many opportunites to tell folks what God has done in my life. Oh I may not do so directly but it is clear that God has been with me all throughout this journey and God is not going to leave me now! When I look back and see what God has done in my life, I am driven to serve God in the future.

Along with the picture printed above in the bulletin was a quote from one of Dr. King’s prayers. “O God, we thank thee for this golden privilege to worship thee. We come to thee today, grateful that thou hast kept us through the long night of the past and ushered us into the challenge of the present and the bright hope of the future. We thank thee for thy Church founded upon thy Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon thee. Then, finally, help us to realize that we were created to shine like stars. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day whan all God’s children, Black, White, Red and Yellow will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and our God, we pray, Amen.”

God has called those of us who have brain injuries to walk together and work so that others will not have to experience this same trauma. And if we meet someone who is a survivor, we are called to walk together with them for this is not an easy journey. However they,nor are we, ever alone.

What do you think about Mark’s three things we do in funerals? Telling the truth about our lives, lifting up the promises of God and being propelled forward? Can you relate to any of these in your life? I think this applies specifically to folks who have a disability or other challenges but it could also apply to anyone.

A Way in the Wilderness

My favorite Scripture is in my head today.  “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert , to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” (Isaiah 43:18-21)

This Scripture has been important to me ever since I sustained my brain injury back in 1996.  After many months or rehab when I began volunteering at a hospice and then at the Open Door Community – which is considered a “Protestant Catholic Worker House” in Atlanta – I thought of these words.  When both things didn’t work out due to my brain injury challenges, I began volunteering as a Chaplain at a retirement community in town.

Working there was quite a journey through the wilderness for me.  First I couldn’t drive so I took the bus.  I wore my tennis shoes to walk to the bus stop and when I arrived at the center, I changed into my dress shoes, putting my tennis shoes into my Lands End bag.   I met some wonderful folks there and was able to participate in some significant ministry.

I struggled with depression then.  In fact, I have  struggled with depression my whole life.  Sometimes I think creative folks experience the darkness of the world to a greater extent than other folks do.  I believe depression is a physical issue and I’m just one of those people who’ve had to learn how to live with it.  I do think I feel things, both good and bad, more deeply than other people but as hard as it is, I do so see it as a gift.

Depression is part of any brain injury.  I don’t really understand the mechanics of it but I do know that many, many brain injury survivors must battle it.  Although it certainly is not fun, I have learned techniques to manage it.  Writting helps me immensely.  I’d be embarrised if folks read some of my journal entries since this is where I let my darkness out but I write none the less.

Music is another outlet for me.  I often will sing at home when I’m alone and this really helps me express my emotions.  Swimming helps as well.  I take a pretty intense water aoerobics class and this past Tuesday I really let the water have it.  I pounded my arms into it and kicked my legs through it.  It wore me out but it felt so good!

So yes, I’m on a journey through the wilderness. God gives me water  and I’m not alone.

Do you experience depression?  If you do, how do you deal with it?  Do folks understand you or do you feel very alone with it?  If you have a brain injury, have you noticed it is worse not than before?  Feel free to comment here – I think commenting on WordPress is much easier than on Blogger.  I will have to figure out how to use WordPress though so it will probably be a while before I figure out how to post pictures!

A New Year

WordPress for Dummies

I finally made the switch to WordPress. It is much easier to comment now so I do hope folks will take advantage of this. One doesn’t need to have a brain injury to comment but I really see this blog as a place where brain injury survivors can share their struggles as well as their joys and get support from each other.  I’m having difficulty figuring out how to add a picture correctly though.  I think this will get better with time.

For this first post on WordPress, I want to share a poem by Jan Richardson from Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas.

In the center of ourselves
You placed the power of choosing.
Forgive us the times
We have given that power away,
When we have sold our birthright
For that which does not
Satisfy our souls.
And so in your wisdom
May our yes be truly yes
And our no be truly no,
That we may touch with dignity
And love with integrity
And know the freedom of our choosing all our days.

When I first read this, I thought about how when I lived in Atlanta, I pushed myself way too hard. I chose to do things because I thought that’s what was expected of me. As a result, I often spent days simply laying on the couch “resting my brain.” I didn’t even need to use ear plugs for this because I was so tired, I simply slept. I always bounced back after resting but I did the same thing over and over again.

When I moved to Asheville, NC I decided to not become involved in anything. What happened when I did this? I got bored. “Why am I even bothering to stay here in this world?” I asked myself. “I’m not doing others or God any good at all so I should just leave and do everyone a favor!” However when I was having my better days, I realized doing this would hurt too many folks. Plus it wouldn’t be a good reflection on God for a minister to just check out of life!

So I made the choice to be as involved in my life as I can while being honest with what I’m able to do. I don’t believe God wants me to spend my days exhausted because I pushed myself too hard and got over stimulated. Nor do I believe God wants me to have to rest all the time due to cognitive overload.

You know what? I’m much happier now than I was before. I’m trying new things like singing in the choir at Grace Covenant Presbyterian and I’m taping into my creative side again. I’m taking an intense water aerobics class and I’m trying to write again. So who knows what this New Year will bring. I must say, it is rather exciting.

What sort of things are you looking forward to this year? If you have a brain injury, write about some of your struggles. Let’s see if the commenting part on this system is easier. It really is true that those of us who have brain injuries and other disabilities, need to share our joys and struggles with each other.