Since I can only work on my book in spurts, I’ve been trying to find some way to fill the rest of my time.  I’m working to improve my swimming but that’s not enough so I decided to learn Spanish. I’ve been using Rosetta Stone’s Spanish tapes and other resources.

Yesterday, I was sitting on my sofa, working on Spanish when the phone rang. It was TJ.   Something physically had happened to her and she needed someone to pick up her prescriptions since it was painful for her to drive.   She asked me.  I had already decided to work on a Palm Sunday blog post and my Spanish. I don’t do well with change. My heart sunk.  I didn’t want to turn her down but I knew she really needed help and I could do it.

As we talked something shifted in me and I wanted to help her. My immediate reaction to change is always negative. However, when I give it time, I often come around.  I had to go to her house, pick up the prescriptions, then go to the pharmacy downtown.

TJ’s neighborhood is very confusing. People without spatial orientation issues have trouble finding her house.  Plus for some odd reason the GPS leads to another address.  She did tell me where on the route I could begin using it though and I did.  I brought Sparky since he loves going to new places.  This is a picture of him in the car.

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Sparky makes a squealing, whining sound when he’s excited. I tried listening to the woman’s voice on the GPS as Sparky squealed.  It’s hard to explain what happens to my brain when I go in circles as I did then.  I feel spacy and unstable.  At one point, I noticed I was passing a water tower for the second time.  This GPS doesn’t say “recalculating” when you take a wrong turn. It automatically makes the change.  Sometimes this means circling back and going the same way again instead of back tracking to make the correction

Using my GPS, I found Asheville Discount Pharmacy downtown. TJ said I could park in the “no loading” zone with my flashers on and run in to get the prescription. Into the store with Sparky, I went. He loves new places and he’s a friendly and happy guy so of course everyone wanted to pet him.  When it was time to go back to TJ’s, the GPS took me a different way home.

The trip took me a long time. However, I felt good.  Lately I haven’t been pushing myself and it’s a fine line between pushing too much and not enough.   If I push too hard, I become exhausted.  If I don’t push hard enough, I get bored and depressed.  I felt good then but “rested my brain” a little before going to choir.

GPS

There was an article in the Feb. 5 issue of the New York Times about using GPS devices.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/is-gps-all-in-our-head.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Is%20GPS%20All%20in%20Our%20Heads?%20Julia%20Frankenstein&st=cse  Julia Frankenstein  is a psychologist and begins the article by suggesting that folks probably ask themselves,  “What did we ever do before GPS?”   She suggests we stop using them for when  we do, we don’t work our brains.  She writes, “The psychologist Eleanor A. Maguire and her colleagues at University College London found that spatial experience actually changes brain structures.  As taxi drivers learned the spatial layout of London,… the areas of the brain integrating spatial memories – increased.”

 On many of my driving excursions, I use a GPS.  Since I have no spatial orientation at all, this helps me.  However, the way I learn new information is through “errorless learning.” ( Jan. 18, 2011) Prior to owning a GPS, I always wrote down directions and used them every time. I used them less and less until I felt confident.  Then I stopped using them completely. .  Every time I drive from the the doggie daycare to the Y, I use my GPS but yesterday I decided not to use it.  I got there just fine but I did have to pay attention to my surroundings instead of listening to a voice telling me where to turn. I was working the neurons in my brain which is what must be done to strengthen them.

This commentary reminded me to, as my husband says ,”be mindful of the tension between using compensatory strategies versus exercising our brains to learn new info.”  This is a tough balance for me especially with spatial orientation issues.  Prior to my TBI, my sense-of-direction was poor and  I was always lost.  However, the feeling is different now.  I become upset and enter into a trance-like state.  I’ve  learned to take a few deep breaths and stop to get myself together but it is a horrible feeling.  I almost always have written directions when I use the GPS.  However , this article reminded me that I need to push myself away from using the GPS.  

Random Thoughts

I swim laps at the Y as well as take an intensive water aerobics class. This morning I was going to take the class but when I got to the Y, I decided to swim laps instead. I have a lot on my mind and my body needed to do some hard swimming. Plus, I didn’t want to talk to anyone or worry about hitting someone accidentally as happens in the class. I jumped in my lane and began saying my mantra as I swam: “God is here. God is here.” (see Feb. 16 ) I actually couldn’t remember why I had that mantra so I had to look back at my blog entries until I found the story buried in my post on disease. I need to figure out a way to keep track of where I write things since I often cannot remember the stories!

There is a television set in the locker room which drives me crazy since I cannot filter out noise (see May 9). Why do people feel they always need to have a television on? I never watch T.V. at home. We have one to watch DVDs on but right now, we have a picture leaning on it. We haven’t hung it on the wall yet so now it serves as a shield for our T.V. Whenever we want to watch a DVD we simply move the picture aside. Frankly, I like the looks of the picture better that the T.V screen!

I cannot carry on a conversation with someone with the T.V. noise in the background. When I visit someone in a nursing home or even their homes, I always have to ask them to turn it off because I can”t concentrate on what they are saying when it is on. I understand people who use hearing aids have the same problem. And it seems today T.V.’s are every where. There is even one in the post office so folks who wait in line have something with which to pay attention. I wonder when people have become afraid of their own thoughts?

I drove somewhere new today which meant I needed to use my GPS. I always like to have some idea of where I’m going so I don’t rely completely on it. Nevertheless, I become really spacey when I’m going to a new place. At least I’m prepared for it now so I kept telling myself, “Okay, remember you’re going to feel out-of-sorts until you find the place but you’ll find it so relax.” Fortunately I didn’t have a specific time when I had to arrive which took some stress off.

Spaciness

I’ve always had a reputation for getting lost. Oh I managed to get to where I was supposed to be for people depended on me. After all, when I was in my twenties I worked as a freelance violinist/violist in Kansas City. I played at wedding receptions, churches, restaurants, and other places all over the city and I was paid to play and be on time. I knew how to focus because I had to in order to perform even if I had driven all over the city to get there.

I’m reminded of this now especially since I have no spacial orientation. This means I have no sense of direction which is a direct result of my TBI. Being lost isn’t new to me but this “spaciness” is. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. This afternoon I went to the Blue Ridge Polymer Clay Guild of which I’m a member. We meet once a month to share ideas and tips on making various things out of polymer clay. The guild is full of very gifted folks who make incredible pieces. There are also folks like me who simply work in clay because it’s fun.

I keep a notebook with the directions to every place I go. Whenever I go somewhere, I pull out the directions and follow them. I’ve attended the guild for the past five or six years with the last five driving there from my current home. I haven’t attended since October because I had hand surgery. Even though I’m still not ready to use my hand, I wanted to attend today because it was a special day with many gifted artists attending and I wanted to be among them. Although I don’t consider myself a polymer clay artist – just someone who messes around with clay – I become energized when I’m around such creative energy.

I didn’t take my directions because I figured I knew where I was going. This was a mistake. I took the wrong highway going the wrong direction! I ended up driving several miles the wrong way before I could turn around. When I did turn around, I felt really spacey. I still wasn’t sure I was going the right way. I’m a safe driver when I’m “spacey” but if someone tries to talk to me then, I may seem drunk. I know folks who are brain injury survivors who’ve been walking down the road and have been stopped by the police because it appeared they were drunk. In fact they make necklaces with a label saying the wearer has a brain injury and may seem unfocused because of it.

When I managed to find the right road and realized I was heading the correct way, I took a few deep breaths to center myself. When I get “spacey” I focus on my breathing which helps me become more present in my body. I often take a few minutes before I do something to center myself. It seems I’m having to do this a lot lately but it really helps.

Do you have spatial orientation issues? This could be apparent in other ways besides driving. I always lose my way in a new building (I don’t go to large malls or even small ones for this reason) and it usually takes me many visits to a new place before I can find my way around. Feel free to comment here by clicking on “comment” or email me directly at tamara@indylink.org