(I’ve just read this over, and it feels unfinished, but that’s just where I am. I’m just trying to love and live the questions.)
I’ve been on this journey of rehab and recovery since the summer of 2011. There are times when I feel terribly discouraged as if I can’t go on, but what choice do I have? Those times usually come when I can’t sense any improvement, and my anxiety sort of hijacks my life; I’m so anxious I can barely put one foot in front of the other. But sometimes I get to a place in the road where I feel I’ve gained some insight about what has happened to me and begin to understand the challenges that lie ahead. In the last two weeks I have come to one of those times.
Here’s the insight that I feel like I have gained:
Since we all basically operate our lives using our brain as Command Central, anyone who suffers a brain injury, (and there are some injuries that are a whole lot worse than the one I suffered,) is challenged with a sense of their life feeling somewhat disoriented and unmanageable. “Life is harder than it was before,” is one way of saying that, and this creates anxiety. The mixture of disorientation and anxiety can lead to depression, and as my neurologist has said to me more than once – “Lex, everyone who suffers the kind of brain injury you suffered from your stroke has to deal with lots of anxiety and depression, and it is often the last thing they get past in their recovery. You have to be patient.” – but I’m not really the patient sort… Ann recently brought home Anne Lamont’s new book, “Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair” and I have enjoyed and benefited from reading certain passages in it. The most helpful one is where she told a class of children that when really horrible things happen in people’s lives, often the only thing you can do is sit with them and help them pass the time, suffering with them instead of trying to fix them. I realized that this would indeed be the most compassionate thing I could do for myself – to sit with and be with myself instead of racing ahead trying to find a way to get away from myself, either by thinking of some future fix or some past memory when I was better.
Abandoning myself when I’m feeling anxious and alone is not a compassionate thing to do, so I keep trying to remind myself that acceptance of exactly where I am and who I am, and being with that person, is the best strategy for me moving forward. There was also the following passage on the first page of the book – I am not sure what it means or how it applies to me but I am curious about it and it made me feel hopeful in some way – again I can’t explain why.
“I don’t know Who – or what – put the question. I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to someone – or Something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”
Lastly, I was recently talking with a friend about my attempt to cultivate a meditation practice – he asked me what type of meditation I was practicing and I told him I had no idea, but that I spent much of my time sitting and worrying that I was doing it wrong. He passed along this meditation teaching – he said, “the best meditation teacher I ever had told me this – when you lose focus, just begin again”. I like this, because it feels non-judgmental. I tell this to myself when I begin to race away from myself into the future, I tell myself to begin again, to sit with myself.
There is a golf parallel to this that is really uncanny, but I will save that for another post…