I’ve never been what most folks would describe as normal….Right from the get-go I was born a rebel, and I remain one to this day. Things change all the time in all areas of life…small changes that are easy to adapt to, medium changes that are challenging, and catastrophic changes that often bring trauma along as a traveling companion.
I’ve experienced plenty of all of the above in my lifetime. However, now that I am entering my elder years, I am finding that all the skills I’ve developed along the way are coming in very handy.
For example, I have had several concussions from riding accidents, and a traumatic brain injury from a car accident that resulted in a near death experience. As I enter my 70’s, I’m finding that my brain is very much like an aging computer. It operates more slowly, and skill sets I used to rely on are now sometimes dicey. My first indication was that what I typed was not always what I was thinking. There might be a different but similar word, or the spelling would be incorrect—and I’m a good speller. Like many people, I would walk in a room and forget why I was there, or misplace something I’d just had in my hand. Details slipped through my mind like water…
At first, I didn’t let these things bother me. I simply noticed, paused, and corrected. As they became more commonplace, however, I felt fear. I hugged it close to me, keeping silent about my anxiety. I knew better than that, however, so I decided to risk vulnerability, find my courage, take a deep breath, slow down, and be openly honest with folks who were with me about what was happening Especially with young people in retail stores and on the phone. I began to be proactive, stating right from the beginning that I was older, have had a TBI, and I could not process rapid speech. I asked them for their patience and to speak more slowly. I have to say I was amazed at the results. Wondrously, each and every one has heard me…not only slowing down their words, but shifting their energy from warp speed down to more normal ranges. Which for me immediately removed anxiety from the situation.
One day I was driving my big diesel truck in a small Pennsylvania village with high traffic volume, typical crazy Pennsylvania intersections and merging roads, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to get to my destination despite my GPS. Instead of allowing anxiety to be my co-pilot, I chose calm. I drove slowly (which was easy, since there was a lot of traffic), and I removed all inward pressure surrounding the need to get there perfectly.
I had not realized until this new phase of life began just how much pressure I put on myself to accomplish tasks perfectly and speedily. Speed has become such an essential part of our modern world. But it’s not natural…in Nature, things grow and operate slowly. Speed is available, but only for brief moments. Humans have somehow made that a priority, and it is incredibly hard on our nervous systems, hearts, minds, and souls. I don’t like pressure any more than a horse does…why do that to myself? I decided to ditch it, and now if I realize I’m feeling it, I pay attention. Why is it here? What is it telling me? Is it self-induced pressure, or am I feeling it from outside myself…and what can I do to release it?
I took a moment to congratulate myself when I found the parking lot and a convenient spot (even in the shade!) for my truck, Wavedancer. I found it easily and effortlessly, and I paused to absorb the glow that making it there successfully brought. I’ve spent a lifetime criticizing my body and brain—I’m enjoying praising it and being grateful these days!
I went into the building, had a moment of confusion because it didn’t look the same as the one time I was there before, and upon asking, discovered that it was indeed not the place I was seeking. That turned out to be in a similar looking building just across the street. The paved path wound through a glory of Spring beauty, and birds were voicing a joyful chorus. I found my destination, spoke honestly to the folks I met there, succeeded despite complications in purchasing what I had come for (the delightfully whimsical tea set pictured above), and successfully navigated my way back out of the lot and the village. Score!
The events of the whole day made me realize the Divine gifts of being out of synch…whether that is mental, emotional, or physical. The main prize is Slowing Down. Forced to do so, we have the opportunity to become aware of what so many others miss…the life that surrounds us in the natural world, the input we receive but have trained ourselves to automatically delete, and what we are feeling—both physically and emotionally. We are given the opportunity to become honest with ourselves and with others—a rarity these days, and much needed in our world. And as our ability to DO is changed, our ability to BE is enhanced. I am finding that if my left brain glitches, my right brain is quick to leap into the gap. I just have to become aware of the different input and pay attention.
These days when I find my brain not doing the old normal, I open the door for the new. I take a deep breath, rest a beat, call up self-compassion and patience, and either ask for help or allow new understanding to flow. I am finding that doing things habitually allows us to tune out of the now moment. The pauses when my brain glitches allow me to tune back in. With each challenge, I treat myself as a student, reminding myself of the steps needed to accomplish the needed task. Most importantly, no judgment! And then I enjoy the warm glow that always comes next. I can feel my brain relaxing, and new awareness coming to my aid. Love does consistently accomplish great things…including self-love in the small moments of daily life.