After I swam at the Y this morning, I stopped at Earthfare to pick up seltzer water. After shopping, I always have difficulty finding my car. (spatial orientation) It’s become natural for me to always find some sort of landmark on the row where I park and then look for that landmark when I return. If it’s a complicated parking situation, I usually have to write down the landmark or I won’t remember it.
However, this morning I noticed how simple it was for me to do this. Many years ago, this wasn’t so simple and I often couldn’t find my car in a small parking lot. I mentally patted myself on the back for how much I have grown.
I’m glad this happened today because I’ve been remembering what I could do before my accident and feeling a bit melancholy about this. Whenever someone experiences a deep loss, the sad feelings never go away. They get more muted and appear less often but they’ll always hurt. I used to get a bit angry about this. “My TBI happened in 1996! Surely the pain of that will go away.”
Today I read Romans 8:26-27. I like the Inclusive Bible here: “The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness. For we don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit expresses our plea with groanings too deep for words. And God, who knows everything in our hearts, knows perfectly well what the Spirit is saying, because her intercessions for God’s holy people are made according to the mind of God.”
I don’t know how to pray about my feelings around my losses but Paul’s words remind me, that’s okay. I need to stop and make sure I let the Spirit flow through me. She knows what I cannot express and will help me find a way to express it. I only need to accept the richness that is my life. I still cannot thank God for my brain injury but I will stay open to what is in the future. My shopping trip this morning reminded me how far I have come. Who knows what the future holds?
I hate shopping. Even before my brain injury I hated it but at least I could spend several hours going to the various stores in the mall until I found what I was looking for. I would then continue my day by going to my other appointments. Now this is impossible. The lights and sounds drive me crazy and I can only stay for a short time before I must leave to “rest my brain.” I needed to get a few things and I’ve been putting it off since it’s so much trouble. Finally yesterday I decided to go to JCPenney which had everything I needed.
I like JCPenney because I can park right outside the door and not have to go into the mall. I’ve tried going to malls before but my spatial orientation challenges and sensitivity to light and sound makes this too hard. My first purchase was blue jeans. There was music playing and I almost took out my ear plugs which I always carry with me but I decided I would try and manage. Sometimes this is easier then attempting to ignore the stares when people see me wearing ear plugs! After rooming around trying to find the jeans – I always buy the same kind since they’re the only ones that seem to fit – I discovered they no longer carry them so I had to try on a few others. This meant more time in the bright light and loud sounds.
After settling on a pair, I moved on to the purses. They only had about a million so I began searching through them. At one point, I was mistaken for an employee because I had several purses strewn on the floor around me trying to see if they would carry what I needed. After settling on one purse from the million, I moved on to the belts. I felt a bit overstimulated but I wanted to get everything done. Again, they had blue, red, silver and every other color you could think of. I wanted a brown belt. Not a brown belt with rhinestones or with a decorated buckle – just a simple brown belt. I was almost ready to leave when I found one. I went to pay for my purchases and the only folks in JCPenney on a week day were all at the register paying. So of course, I had to wait in line.
My next challenge was trying to get out of the store. There’s only three floors but I couldn’t remember where I had parked. After describing to an employee what was by the door I entered, she gave me directions back to it. I managed to get to the correct floor but I turned the wrong way and ended up at the wrong door. I get lost a lot so I’m used to ending up in the wrong place. I turned around and walked the other way which took me to the correct door. After 1 1/2 hours, I was exhausted.
I recently read a blog post by Chris Glaser titled, “Do Progressive Christians Pray?” (99brattle.blogspot.com) In it he writes, “The Desert Fathers and Mothers believed prayer was not about changing God’s mind or heart but about their own transformation.” There have been times when I’ve been really lost – not just lost in a store – but lost driving in a city – when I’ve issued a plea to God “Oh please help me find my way home again!” Sometimes I even pray before I go somewhere, “Help me not get lost.”
I have a brain injury which means I have spatial orientation problems and God cannot take this away. But God can transform my own spirit so I can accept these challenges with grace. God can give me wisdom to go shopping at a time when the store isn’t busy. God can also guide me to go only when it is best for me. Of course, this means I have to set limits for myself which can be frustrating.
Not everyone with a brain injury has as much difficulty in stores as I do. Are stores hard for you? What things are difficult for you now? Feel free to comment or email me directly email@example.com
Public prayer is difficult for me. It used to just flow but since I don’t think on my feet anymore, it’s difficult for me to pray in front of others. For this reason, I always write my prayers down when I know I’m going to pray before a group. All this came back to my mind again since I led Sunday School this past Sunday. I wrote down an opening prayer and planned to ask someone to offer a closing one. When the time came, I changed my mind. It just seemed like as the leader, I needed to pray. So I gave it a whirl.
It went okay but I had a little difficulty with word finding. Brain injury survivors often have difficulty coming up with a word. When I was in rehab, I did all sorts of activities to help me with this. At first every day conversations were difficult. The word would be in my brain somewhere but I couldn’t find it. I became really paranoid and worried that folks would think I was not smart since I seemed to always forget words. It took a few years, but it got much better. I also learned how to describe the word and usually the other person could figure out what I was trying to say.
I’ve been visiting older people for some time now and I can relate to their frustration at not being able to think of a word since it always makes me mad when I have this difficulty. When we get older it is more difficult for us to remember words. I think for them it is complicated since they are near the end of their lives and have already experienced many losses and this is just one more. I view my difficulty as a gift in these situations since I have a glimpse into how they feel.
I always pray after a pastoral visit. Before it wasn’t a problem because I could sum up the visit and then pray about it. Summarizing something is very difficult now so I’ve learned to pull out one thing from the visit to include in my prayer. I also get tongue tied before a group which is what happened on Sunday. However I’ve learned that many of my challenges won’t get better unless I practice them over and over again. So I’ll keep at it.
Do you have word finding challenges? How have you handled them? What are your thoughts about public prayer? Feel free to comment here or email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org.