A recent conversation reminded me that we often have the emotional resources to persevere during a crisis. It is typically later, when the immediate threat passes that we tend to fall apart emotionally, or maybe finally allow ourselves to experience the emotions we had kept at bay. In an email last week to friends and family, I offered a blanket apology for not keeping up on relationships (or life, for that matter) since sustaining a mild traumatic brain injury in January of 2004. Realizing that the emotional aftermath comes, well, after, the trauma, I discover grace for all these messy feelings that now overwhelm me. I lost most of a YEAR of my life. I realized a lifelong dream when my first book came out, but I don't remember. I've done interviews and events, but I don't remember. I've met people, important people to me, but I don't remember. I shared my heart and my life with others, and they with me, but I don't remember. Everything from January 21, 2004 until sometime in November is lost in a fog that won't clear.
My speech therapist had me journal while I was off-work. I've journaled since high school, but this was different. These rambled writings record the events, but not the emotions, of my lost year. I hate that I feel like a spectator in the history of my own life, relying on others to tell me, through their eyes, where I've been and who I've become. Thus, the emotional flood and the unsettling question: who am I now?
Some very dear friends have walked with me closer that I realize, and I suppose others have simply wondered where I've been, why I'm gone, or maybe haven't wondered at all. As my health and mental endurance improve, it's humbling to see that life has gone along just fine without me and now I wrestle to figure out where I still fit in. Everything has changed. Friends have married, had children, moved away and moved on. My little church group that previously provided my everyday friendships has grown considerably, and those who knew me before are far outnumbered by those who've met me since. Those who were closest to me before are closer to others now. But perhaps the most unsettling realization is that I have changed. Formerly the uber-independent woman, I now realize that I need much more than I like to admit. Not just on a physical, please-drive-me-around, help-me-with-errands kind of a way, but on the much more vulnerable, emotional, please-love-me-because-God-created-me-to-be-a-relational-being kind of way. No longer do I want to conquer the world. I just want to make sense of my world.
I suppose on a spiritual level, I'm the same person: A created being in desperate need of her Creator Savior. But my priorities have changed, my goals have changed, my hopes have changed. Accomplishments and accolades aren't nearly as important as the contentment of commited relationships and knowing that I'm a priority to those whose relationships I have prioritized. In case I ever doubted, the physical is fleeting. There's a lot I've loved about my life. I've been able to do a lot of wonderful things: travel the world, write a book, pay off my debt, own a home, adopt a puppy...And while all those things are great, at the end of the day, I know what it is to need, and I don't want to be alone. I've made lists of to do and to have before feeling "ready" for marriage. I realize now that you will never be ready. You can never get all your ducks in a row because only God knows how many ducks there are. While chemistry and attraction has an important place, I realize that confidence in the security of a relationship depends more on character and a capacity to commit.
I can work and plan and prepare all I want to be the best friend, best wife I can possibly be, but ultimately, it's a matter of the heart. Will I choose to love when it isn't convenient, easy or attractive? And from the other side, will I choose to let myself receive love when I can't give anything in return, when I am the one who needs, when what I need is embarrassing to admit because it is so basic?
This stage of my healing has been the hardest. Before, I was unable to comprehend the seriousness of my injury. My emotions were up because ignorance was truly bliss. Now I know what I have lost and I grieve what I cannot get back. I struggle because now I can experience moments of life as it used to be and rather than celebrating those periods, I'm frustrated at their fleeting nature. I struggle because my desire to be fully recovered is not enough to make it so, and that One who can make it so continues to say, "Not yet," or, I fear, "Not again in this life."
If you are a person of faith, I covet your prayers:
* for ongoing healing, especially fully restored mental endurance to carry a full load at work, with reserves to be able to keep up with home, relationships and life.
* for a new vision for what God intends for me. The old vision has expired and I need desperately to discern His direction.
* for the ability to accept myself for who I am today and see myself through the loving eyes of my Father.
* for restored trust in the One who promises to provide good things--even in the midst of hard things.