Worry wart

worryI am such a worry wart!  I’ve been a worry wart my whole life.  I don’t want to even think about all the joy worry has stolen from my life.  When I played violin, I remember spending hours and hours practicing until I got a passage just right.  However when the time came for me to perform the piece, I was often too busy worrying about the passage to actually enjoy playing the piece!  Sometimes I wish I could go back to the past to those days and try not worry so much.  However,all I can do now, is not let worry steal any more of my life.

I’ve been worrying so intensely about things I didn’t even notice the nest of finches on my front porch.  My husband Michael has been in deep thought as well so it was sort of a surprise when we noticed yesterday the nest contained five little birds.  They are almost ready to fledge which means I missed watching the mother put food in their beaks as they grew.  I’m mad at myself for missing this because I could have looked right out my front window and watched.  So again, worry has stolen me seeing an amazing part of God’s creation.

While my tendency toward worry doesn’t have anything whatsoever to do with my brain injury, all my worrying wears me out much faster now than before.  I’m sad about missing the finches but I don’t want to miss anything else God sends my way.  I can’t help remembering the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:31-33 (The Inclusive Bible):

“Stop worrying, then, over questions such as ‘What are we to eat,’ or ‘what are we to drink’ or ‘what are we to wear?’  Those without faith are always running after those things.  God knows everything you need. Seek first God’s reign, and God’s justice, and all these things will be given to you besides.”

Thinking about how I can help bring God’s justice and reign to this world is certainly more valuable than letting worry steal joy from my life.  I think I’d better go watch those finches on my front porch before they fly away.

Pentecost: Institute on Theology and Disability

""We never become truly spiritual by sitting down and wishing to become so."  Phillips Brooks

“”We never become truly spiritual by sitting down and wishing to become so.” Phillips Brooks

One thing I like about worship at Grace Covenant Presbyterian (GCPC) is, there’s so much to experience.  This past Sunday was Pentecost and the picture in the bulletin was the one above.  I remember thinking, what does a piano with flowers on it have to do with Pentecost?  The quote below gave me some clues but it wasn’t until later when I could see the relevance. (Actually I never did figure out what the piano had to do with Pentecost but I did figure out the quote.)   I suspect everyone in worship had different thoughts with some not finding any relationship at all. This is why I believe the Spirit is active on Sundays at GCPC  for it is there that the Spirit speaks to each one of us differently.

A couple of things the pastor Mark Ramsey said hit home.  “In the Gospels, even though we have these post-Easter appearances of Jesus, his followers don’t really stop long enough to enter a whole new life.  A slightly remodeled life, perhaps, but like all of us, it appears they didn’t like their routine disrupted.” Brain injury certainly disrupted my life.  I was a pastor, waltzing through the call process when wham, I ended up in intensive care in one hospital while my husband Michael ended up in another.

As is often the case in brain injury, I had no awareness of what had happened.  I figured I’d go through rehab and get back into the call process.  I WAS forced to stop and enter a whole new life but I didn’t really enter it for I figured I would go back to being a pastor again.  I knew things would be different – that my life would be remodeled – but I figured it would essentially be the same as before.

It took me several years before realizing my life was more than simply a remodeled one.  It was a whole new one – one I didn’t want but I was stuck with, for better or for worse.  The years went by and I worked as a volunteer chaplain at a retirement center in Atlanta and I continued to improve my cognitive function.  In fact even now I’m still improving my cognitive function.  I suspect this will be a life-long journey.

Mark shared a reflection of Shane Claiborne’s: “The more I read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination.”   Mark expounds on this, “Pentecost is the gift of Fascination, Renewing, Enlivening, Delighting-”  The idea of Pentecost as the gift of fascination never had occurred to me. However, the voice of Pentecost – the Spirit of the Risen Christ – is guiding me along my journey.

So where is that Spirit taking me?  I really don’t know.  I do know that Spirit brought me first to the UMKC Conservatory in Kansas City followed by work as a freelance musician.  The Spirit then brought me to Columbia seminary in Atlanta.  I wasn’t able to find a call so I worked at Barnie’s Coffee and Tea before finally serving a church. (In the process, I learned how to make cappuccino with the best of them!)  Now that Spirit has brought me here to Asheville, NC where I attend both Grace Covenant Presbyterian and Circle of Mercy congregation.  It has been a fascinating journey.

It seems the Spirit of the Risen Christ is taking me on a new journey.  I don’t know where this path will lead but I can’t help but remember the words in Isaiah 43 “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.”

Institute on Theology and Disability

Institute on Theology and Disability

I have an opportunity to attend the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability in Toronto this summer.  It’s expensive, traveling is difficult for me and it’s not a good time for me to be spending $1600.  However, for some reason, I’ve not been able to give up the idea so I booked the airfare, and paid for the conference and room and board fees. Following the Spirit is sometimes difficult to do.  Am I hearing the Spirit of the Risen Christ or am I hearing my own wishes?  I don’t know.

In case I’m not hearing God correctly, Michael and I have committed to pay for this. Since we don’t have children’s shoes to buy and what-not, we don’t have many financial obligations so we’re able to make this commitment.  However, if you’d like to help me cover my expenses, you can do so. I’m a bit uncomfortable asking for financial support since I’m aware that many brain injury survivors are just making do with very little.  For them, the thought of going to a conference in Canada is not even an option.  While I don’t believe I’m better or more deserving than other brain injury survivor if you feel led to support me with this, you can send me a check for any amount.  If you need my address, email me directly at puffer61@gmail.com .

The quotation of Phillips Brooks in the bulletin seems to apply here. “We never become truly spiritual by sitting down and wishing to become so.” Mark said in his sermon that Christ always takes us places.  I can’t help but wonder where the Spirit of the Risen Christ is taking me as I continue this Spiritual journey.

God’s Spirit

Richard RohrThis past Sunday was Pentecost. I love reflecting on the movement of God’s Spirit. I’ll write some about worship this past Sunday later but today I want to reflect on Richard Rohr’s words from Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction.

“As a people, we are afraid of silence. That’s our major barrier to prayer. I believe silence and words are related. Words that don’t come out of silence probably don’t say much. They probably are more an unloading than a communicating. Yet words feed silence, and that’s why we have the word of God – the read word, the proclaimed word, the written word. But that written and proclaimed word, doesn’t bear a great deal of fruit – it doesn’t really break open the heart of the Spirit – unless it’s tasted and chewed, unless it’s felt and suffered and enjoyed at a level beyond words.”

I’ve been doing a lot of unloading rather than communicating recently. I know I do this often but my TBI has made it difficult for me not to do it. Sometimes I just talk and talk and I can’t seem to stop myself for it feels so good to unload. I’m trying to journal more which helps but in spite of this, I still seem to unload a lot.

Today I spent time in silence. In a sense I was chewing, tasting and feeling everything at a level beyond words. I also sang. There is something about singing that frees my spirit to play with God. Only when I do these things am I able to communicate rather than babble as Jesus’ followers did on that day when the Spirit came so long ago.

iPad Mini

IpadI bought an iPad Mini today. I recently saw a webinar about devices which will help make life easier for someone who has a TBI. It was really for folks who work with brain injury survivors and not for the survivors themselves. It’s funny because while I have many, many challenges now, I still can do quite a bit but  I’ve discovered I need to get better organized to do so, which is why I got this device.

I am not computer literate at all. In fact, I don’t even know how to turn the iPad on which I discovered as I took the picture above. Michael and I went to the store together. He really knows computers which was so helpful for I didn’t even know what questions to ask. I depended on his brain this morning because mine wore out pretty early while we were there.

I also went to an Android training that was offered by U.S. Cellular earlier this morning. I’ve already attended several. In fact at the last one I attended a couple from Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church had just bought one and wanted to learn about it. I think most people go to those classes pretty soon after they buy their device but it takes me so long to learn new information that I’ve attended several.

The man this morning told me to come in any time for help which I’ve been doing. Due to my “worry-wart” personality, I worried the salespeople were bothered by my constant questions as well as having to take the time to write the information down for me. Over the years I’ve learned I must have things written down and go over it over and over again.  I’m developing new pathways for my neurons to travel which makes learning challenging.  It’s possible but it just takes a lot of time now.

I’m getting much better about asking for what I need. This morning as we looked at the iPad, I could feel my brain getting tired. I felt a bit woozy and I knew I needed to go somewhere, put in my ear plugs and “rest my brain.” I excused myself and went to the car as Michael continued with the salesperson. After fifteen or so minutes sitting in the car with the windows rolled down since it was hot, I returned.

It seems I have come a long way with this.  I’m trying to constantly ask for what I need because I don’t look like I need anything at all.  People haven’t known what to do to help me because I haven’t told them. I’m trying to be better about doing this.

If you have a brain injury, is it hard for you to describe what you need?  I have discovered that so many people just “don’t get it” and I’ve become committed to people “getting it.”  Folks will understand only if I tell them.  However, I am quite aware that unless a person has a TBI, it is very,very difficult to understand. Some folks never understand and I’m learning how to deal with this.

Depression Again

Tamara wearing her sling

Tamara wearing her sling

I haven’t written any posts during April. I had my sixth eye surgery on April 12 and I haven’t felt much like writing.The muscles in my eye were pulled out of wack in the car accident and I’ve had to have surgical corrections several times since. At first I had no problem recuperating from it and was right back in the thick of things a day or two afterwards. However, due to scar tissue and other factors, these past two have been more difficult with this one being the worst.

The right eye is constantly blurry and it’s driving me insane. Dr. Pollard, my surgeon in Atlanta, told me on my two week follow-up that the blurrness shoud disappear over time. I had hoped for a quick fix but it isn’t going to happen. This fact sent me into depression but while walking Sparky this morning, I noticed my vision seemed clearer although it is blurry now.

The day before my eye surgery, Michael and I went to Charlotte for an appointment with a hand surgeon. I have arthritis in my right hand and my first surgery here in Asheville failed. I don’t have any cartilage between some of my bones because arthritis has caused it to wear away. Bone rubbing against bone causes me pain when I use that hand. The surgeon told me this has nothing to do with my accident but I suspect my having to relearn how to use that hand irritated it. The surgeon wants to wait before he performs surgery again. The first surgery had a 95% success rate while this one has only an 80%. I hope to avoid having it again so in the meantime, I need to minimize it’s use. I bought a sling at the drug store yesterday because it help the pain when my hand s elevated plus the sling reminds me not to use my hand.

I’ve decided to use my left hand which is a bit of a challenge since I am right handed but I think I can do it. I had a Presbytery meeting last week so during some of the boring parts I practiced writing my letters with my left hand. So now, I’m able to sign documents with it. It’s funny because my left handed signature is neater than my right.

The combination of the two things has pushed on my tendency toward depression. Depression after brain injury is much different than before because I now have to use behavioral techniques to work through it. I know the signs and it’s a little like getting nearer and nearer to a cliff. When I fall off the cliff, it’s too late for then I spend days laying on the sofa moaning and complaining about life. I’m certainly not very fun to be around. (You can ask my husband!)

I’ve found some interesting things I can do now that doesn’t bother my eye. I’ve also allowed myself to withdraw from activities for a little. I must say, it does feel like quite an accomplishment to avoid going off that cliff. I have come a long way with it, and for this I am grateful.

If you have a brain injury, how do you manage the depression? Even if you don’t, managing it is a real challenge. Do you think the analogy of the cliff is an appropriate one or can you suggest something different?