But we all can find ways to hang in there and find reasons to keep on – family or faith or work, or just curiosity to see what will happen the next day. Sometimes that’s the thing that keeps me going — I have such widespread memory issues that life literally feels like it’s all-new, from one day to the next. I’m fortunate that I’ve found people who can help with that. The most help comes from people who don’t judge me for forgetting, and who don’t treat me like I’m “retarded” or stupid or defective for forgetting things. I just tell myself, there is so much for me to pay attention to, right here and now, that my brain is too busy to think about things other than this moment.
To some it might sound disorienting and frightening, and in the past it has been for me. But I have found a way to make peace with it — and that is by really focusing on the present, focusing on the here-and-now, and getting everything out of this moment that I can. There are so many things that turn out differently than I plan — when people tell me to do a better job of planning my future, I just have to laugh (silently to myself), because they apparently don’t know what it’s like to forget simple, basic things… they must not know what it’s like to go from one day to the next being surprised by things that turn out totally different from what I’d planned, because I forgot or overlooked something.
I can’t blame them for not getting it, I just have to realize that their guidelines don’t necessarily work for me. And letting go of their guidelines and following my own, so I can have the best life humanly possible, has been a great help to me. Truly, it has. Instead of constantly focusing on the future and what my professional goals are and how I want to achieve this, that, and the other thing, I look at my life a day at a time, or a week at a time, and I focus on what will “feed” me and do more than just get me through. I look for the things that really bring joy to my life, the things that bring meaning and purpose and wholeness to my life and the lives of those around me. There is so much more to life than a handful of professional goals, the resume, the title, and all the ambition that goes with it. There is a lot of love and support that we can miss out on, if we are focused on “big picture” things to the exclusion of what’s in front of us.
Ironically, having my memory “shot” and having it end up like Swiss cheese has taught me this. I’ve had to let go of a lot of old ways of doing and thinking and planning — and I’ve had to learn to keep it simple and really give thanks for the good that’s right in front of me. I’ve also had to learn how to “forgive myself” for my shortcomings — they’re not my fault, but it feels like I’ve failed myself, my loved ones, my co-workers, when I cannot remember things, or things get out of whack because of something I’ve overlooked. My days and weeks are full of those kinds of experiences, so I’ve had to learn how to adjust and ask for help and apologize when I’ve screwed up.
Before I found out that TBIs were the culprit in my cognitive / behavioral / functional issues (no, it wasn’t lack of motivation or lack of willpower), I never asked for help, I never asked for directions, I never asked for clarification, and I certainly never apologized when I screwed up.
Now that’s pretty much impossible for me to do, because I see how that held me back. And I also see how no one has ever held it against me, when I’ve asked for assistance when I truly needed it, or I apologized when I was truly sorry for something I did (or didn’t do).
It is certainly a long row to hoe, that’s for sure. But one day at a time, one moment at a time, it all comes together. And when I focus on what I have – a quiet Sunday afternoon when I can just relax to the sound of raindrops falling… the love and support of family and friends… a home I’ve worked really hard for… enough health and strength to get me through the day, and enough motivation to keep building up my health and strength… then all the things I don’t have cannot rule my life anymore.
My mother used to sing a song about how “it depends on how you look at things…” When times get tough, I sing that song to myself, to remember. Because it’s true. So much really does depend our perspective.
I find it best to keep a positive outlook as best I can — just hang in there and keep going. Things get better — and even if the things themselves don’t get fixed, we learn new ways of working around them, and life goes on.
En-Joy yourself today!