I don’t see myself as a bumbling, muddle-headed person but sometimes I feel like one.
Last Sunday at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, many of my brain injury challenges showed up. Twenty-three years after my TBI I still think of my challenges as separate from me rather than part of who I am. I wonder when that will change!
There are two services at GCPC; the first is at 8:30AM in the alcove outside the fellowship hall and the second is 10:45 in the sanctuary. I’ve been attending the class called “The Spirituality of Vulnerability” at 9:15 am. Participating in a class as well as attending worship pushes me cognitively which is why I like to attend the first service. It is shorter with fewer people and for some reason; I don’t get as overwhelmed when I go to class after worship. However, I often miss the liveliness and energy at the second service so I sometimes attend it.
As usual, I was late for class. I rushed to church not obeying the speed limit and parked in the lot across the street. This allows folks who need to park close to the door, to do so. Merrimon is a busy street with cars whizzing by. For some reason the stoplight seemed further than usual so I simply crossed without it.
The class is in the choir room with chairs arranged in a semi-circle facing a CD player. Since I knew the youth choir was going to practice in the next room, I wanted to sit on the other side of the room so the sound would be minimal but the door there was locked so I had to enter on the other side. I sat in a seat by the door in the second row. As expected, I wasn’t able to divide my attention in order to hear the presentation so I moved to the other side of the room.
Of course I had my purse and a bag with my books in it. When I settled in, the choir was softer but still bothered me so I put in my unobtrusive ear plugs which help minimize outside sound.
Prior to my TBI, I never thought about how hard one’s brain works every day. I had to manage the sound of rustling paper, group conversation, the singing next door and the class facilitator. As a result, I needed to “rest my brain” during the thirty free minutes prior to worship.
I went into a nearby office but even wearing my bright pink earplugs which blocks sound better than the other ones; I could hear the commotion out in the hallway. Plus there was a ticking clock that drove me insane so I moved it across the room. Looking back, I wish I had closed my eyes and rested my brain but instead I first checked my emails and Facebook until the hall got quiet.
I then closed my eyes and rested my brain. But it was difficult quieting my thoughts which seemed to come at me from all directions. This happens often and a cognitive therapist once suggested I go or do something else to shift my focus. Since there was no place to go I tried her second suggestion which is to internally yell, “Stop!”
I went to worship, late of course. I always sit in the front so as not to be distracted by rustling paper and other sounds. The service was full of energy and life giving. The children even helped with communion as pictured. I stayed to hear Jeff play the postlude which I don’t often do due to my weakened cognition. I knew I didn’t have much cognitive energy left so I quickly walked to my car. It wasn’t there.
A husband and wife were standing next to their car and the man said he arrived at 9 AM. This made no sense for when I arrived at 9:30 it wasn’t there. I know lots of folks with brain injuries who get confused but nothing like this has ever happened to me so I began questioning myself. The woman drove me through the parking lot next to the church but it wasn’t there either. “What is happening?” I thought. “Am I going crazy?”
Now I was really upset. I began thinking someone had stolen it and I was going to have to call the police. I spoke to John Legerton and he looked in the lot where I usually park. John is a very calm guy which was perfect since I was not calm.
“I better call the police because it has been stolen.” I wished I hadn’t stayed and listened to the postlude. I wasn’t sure if I had the energy to do all the necessary things when one’s car is stolen. All I wanted to do was lay down and go to sleep.
Finally John returned and told me he had found my car. I had parked in the parking lot NEXT to the bank not in the bank. Relief overcame me. John drove me to my car and I rested a bit before going home.
This whole event reminded me again why it is so important for me to concentrate on what I’m doing and on nothing else. Hopefully I’ll remember this lesson.