Remembering what matters

spiritualityI had an interesting exercise, over the past week or so.

My hosting account got hacked, earlier this month, and my hosting provider shut down access to all of my websites.

So, I had to go back in, make copies of everything, and then clean out the directories.

At first, it seemed like a daunting task. And the thought of removing all the work of the past 10-15 years, seemed mammoth.

But I did it. I systematically went through all the sites, backed them up, then tore out everything I could, leaving almost nothing behind.

And in the end, what had seemed like a daunting, overwhelming task, turned out to be for the best.

Because I realized as I was working, that all those sites were a kind of busy-ness I had used to occupy my mind and keep my thoughts off my troubles, while my troubles piled up around me. They served a purpose, for sure — keeping me mentally engaged and interested in something outside myself. But in the end, they amounted to distractions, basically, and not much more.

I never did manage to take any of them further than just standing up websites, putting some info in place, and then going off to do something else that was more interesting. They were hobbies, really, which I told myself were supposed to become something bigger… or make me money… or become a business…

None of it ever panned out the way I hoped it would, but no surprises there. I never stuck with any of it long enough for it to get a foothold. Starting something real often takes constant work — almost non-stop work — for months and years on end. I thought I could do it, but constant fatigue pretty much killed that off.

In a way, I kind of scuttled my own armada of remote-controlled toy ships. I didn’t keep up with the security updates, and I ultimately disqualified myself from the game I thought I wanted to play. Turns out, I didn’t actually want to play that game of constant work and vigilance. I just wanted to play.

I wanted to explore. To discover. To try things — on my own — and not be interrupted by concerns about the everyday. I wanted to be a mad scientist of sorts… the kind of investigator who ventures into uncharted territory and finds what’s there before the rest of the world even has an inkling that there might be something “out there”.

I like to come up with new ideas and inventions and programs, I just don’t like to have to sell them to others. Heck, I don’t even like to have to explain them. I just want to invent and work with them. I like my solitude. I like my quiet. And when everybody is milling around clamoring to get a look at what you’re doing (or make a comment on it), that’s not exactly the quiet solitude I crave.

Ironically, the more solitude and quiet I have, the more productive I am. After I ripped out all those websites, I spent a fair amount of time going through old files and folders I had, and I rediscovered a bunch of notes I collected over the past couple of years about metaphysical subjects that used to fascinate me.

After my TBI in 2004, I lost the constant sense of spiritual connection that I’d had ever since I was a little kid. I felt both religious and spiritual, and when I was growing up, I was a very religious kid. I was really into studying the Bible and prayer and contemplation — when it came to religion, it was really the people who turned me off. I just couldn’t stand the hypocrisy of people who treated their “salvation” like it was a get-out-of-jail-free card that absolved them of all their weekly wrongdoings when they showed up to church on Sunday. I felt so strongly about what I considered a “misuse” of true faith, that I convinced myself that I was not a religious person — I was just spiritual.

But, in fact, I was deeply religious. Perhaps too religious for the everyday world.

After my fall in 2004, all that was wiped away. I lost a lot after that brain injury — my ability to read, stay focused, my emotional control, my ability to think clearly in stressful situations, executive function that let me make good decisions (that had been a bit lacking before my fall, but after, what little I had just flew out the window), and decent sleep/rest… to name a few.

But most notable to me now, is my loss of spirituality or religious feeling. At the time I lost it, it was the strangest thing — I felt as though I had never had it, in the first place, and I could not understand why anyone would even want it. I could remember feeling spiritually connected in the past, but it was like looking at an exhibit behind glass.  Very interesting… but irrelevant.

Now things are very different. A year or two ago, I started to have religious feelings again. I would have these incredible rushes of feeling like I was connected to Everything, and I would feel absolutely ecstatic. Sometimes, it would be almost painful… that bittersweet sense of being plugged into it all.  And sometimes it would be just a gentle rush that was a great comfort to me. And when I would look up Bible verses online or crack open one of the four Bibles I had from my childhood, I would get that same old sense of devotion and reverence I remembered from being a kid.

And I found myself starting to pray again.

It felt a little strange, but it made me feel better.

Anyway, looking through my notes and books I’d been studying, 15 years ago before my TBI in 2004, I suddenly remembered why they had meant so much to me. I realized why I’d kept them, despite feeling nothing for them, when I looked at them, for many years. I’ve had them on my bookshelves all this time, not sure if I was going to keep them, but not able to get rid of them. I couldn’t even box them up and put them in a safe place. I kept them on my bookshelf in “their place”.

I do feel something for those books and ideas, now. And I remember — not just mentally, but in my bones, so to speak — why those things mattered to me. Why they still do matter to me. The writing and research I did for so many years before my brain injury… that’s still with me. And the interest endures. It’s taken 11 years for it to come back around, but it’s there. I made a wild and massive detour — a bunch of detours — along the way, and some of those almost got me killed, but in the end, it’s enriched my understanding of who I am and where I fit into the world I inhabit.

And it makes me better able to feel compassion and patience for others who are working through their own difficulties.

Some of the things that used to matter so much to me… that went away… are back. I don’t know if it will endure. I don’t know if it will all dissolve in a matter of weeks, months, years, decades…. or if I’ll simply forget they exist (as I often do) and go back to that feeling of disconnection that has become so familiar.

But whatever happens later, right now I am connected to one of the threads that has made my life so incredibly meaningful ever since I was a little kid. And it feels pretty good.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

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