So, I had my nap… woke up after an hour in a panic over a deadline I thought I had missed, then re-did the math and dates and realized I could go back to sleep. Crisis averted — and it was only a crisis invented by bad math and forgetfulness and fatigue. I woke up about an hour later, feeling like I was done with my rest… and I went out to the woods.
My home is pretty much surrounded by forest. There is town-owned land, and there are acres and acres of woods that neighbors keep wild. When I first moved to my house, I spent a LOT of time hiking the trails nearby, and it was a rare weekend that didn’t find me spending most of each Saturday and Sunday morning on trail and off. Summer and winter, I was out there, exploring, hiking up hill and down, cutting across sections of low undergrowth, finding where the deer wore their paths into the forest floor. There were streams and ponds along the way, and I’d stop now and then to just sit in the summer sun and take it all in.
Life was really, really good.
Then I fell. And I stopped hiking. I stopped exploring, I stopped getting up early and heading out to get my exercise and see the world I didn’t get to see inside my cubicle at work. I also stopped doing a lot of work around the house, and everything just sort of slowed down, got murky, got strange. I thought it was stress. I thought it was work. It was actually traumatic brain injury. And I just didn’t realize it till years later, when so much had gone to hell, and I was sliding towards the brink.
Over the past several years, I have meant to head back to the woods again – to get my exercise, to get out of the house, to get my mind off, well, everything. But the few times I’ve been out, I just haven’t felt it. I just haven’t had the same sense I once had of the openness, the freedom, the possibility. The relaxation. The peace in the midst of everything. Even though I was hiking the same trails in the same way, with the weather cooperating and the hours all to myself, it just wasn’t the same.
Thinking back, I believe a big part of the problem was that I was so sensitive to everything. I startled easily, and I had trouble with light and sound. Walking outside was such a gauntlet for me, and doing a lot of the things I used to do, like going to the beach — or walking in the woods — were suddenly all but impossible. I dreaded the thought of meeting anyone on my hikes. I had a hard time judging what they were saying to me or how they were acting towards me, and I was unsure about how to act with people. Something about me seemed to put them off, and although I thought I was being friendly, they always seemed to back away from me or avoid me. God, how I dreaded going outside into the world. I couldn’t figure out what, if anything was wrong with me, that I had such a hard time interacting with people.
And why was it so difficult to be outside, where I used to love to be?
Well, it took me a few years, but I finally got back in the game. I started walking outside again, although it wasn’t as regular as it had been. Maybe my preferences for how I spent my time changed. Maybe my interests changed. I know I was spending a lot more time working, so that cut into my outdoor time. But at least I was out again, out in the daylight, out on the roads, out in the wood. It was something.
Walking today, I was dogged by this sense that I haven’t done nearly enough of that kind of activity, lately. I’ve been working a lot, it’s true. But I still have time on the weekends to get out. I just haven’t done it. I haven’t taken the hour or so — even half hour — to walk down the road and back… or head back into the woods. I haven’t made the time, made space for it in my regular schedule, haven’t put other things on hold, while I tended to what I needed to tend to.
And I’ve been pretty hard on myself about it. I have to admit. I’ve been down on myself for not doing enough, for losing that part of my life, for not making more of an effort.
But today, as I hiked up the hill, the thought came to me, “Now is the time to forgive yourself.” It was clear as anything — I need to forgive myself. For all the things I’ve done that have had a bad effect on my family, myself, my finances, my future… I need to find a way to make peace with those things — what I’ve said, what I’ve done, what I’ve not said, what I’ve not done. It’s been weighing on me for so long — All those things that used to define me: my presence of mind, my calm, my centered-ness, my strength, my patience… that were lost after my fall. And with them went my self-respect, my self-control, my Self.Try as I might, I just couldn’t seem to keep it together, and I have faulted and blamed myself terribly for a long time, because of it.
As though it were all my fault. As though I were to blame.
Now, I know that TBI has a way of messing with you royally, turning you into someone you don’t recognize. But there has always been a part of me that’s believed that on some level, I was responsible for what was going on in my life. I probably felt that I was responsible for far more than I was capable of “owning”, for a number of years. But knowing that doesn’t change the thought in the back of my mind that I need to “own my sh*t” and take responsibility for what I’ve done.
I’ve done a lot that I’m not proud of, that’s for sure. And it’s terrible to think of.
But walking up that hill today, this thought came to me that no matter what, I just need to forgive myself. Forgive myself and move on. I need to wrap my head around the fact that that the things I’ve said and done, the things that have harmed myself and those around me, the things I’ve done that have hurt my well-being and personal situation… yes, I did them. And yes, they were wrong. But I’ve got to forgive myself, quit beating myself up, and move on to what’s next. Cut my losses. Cut loose from the guilt and shame and wounded pride and just live my life free of that burden. Be generous with myself, as I would with any other human being who came to me and said they’d done and said these terrible things. I would forgive them. I would understand them and show them compassion. I need to do the same for myself.
I don’t need to carry around that burden anymore, I realized. I don’t need to haul it around, like a bag of rusty old car parts clunking against each other and digging into my back. I’m not the same person I was, four years ago. I’m not even the same person I was two years ago. All the things I did and said, those things are behind me, and I don’t need to hang onto them, or believe I’m doing to do them again and again and again. All those good things in my life I thought I’d lost for good, some of them are starting to come back. And the more I work at things, the steadier I am, the longer I work at this, the better I can function. It’s not fast, it’s not easy, it’s not simple. But it can and does happen – things can and do improve. After all, I’m still here.
I’m tired again, so I’ll go to bed.