Monday, August 20, 2007

Brain Injured Bailey?

It's often said that dogs have the gift of empathy. Unfortunately for our dog, Bailey Grace, I have a head injury.

Bailey's had a rough couple of months. Earlier this year, I moved from Grand Rapids, MI to Canton, OH. Her world changed from a condo to herself most of the time and adopted grandparents next door who spoiled her at every chance, to a room in a house with an amazing family filled with three very fun loving children. Then a few months ago, Bailey moved in with Niels--a BOY!--so she could get used to her future daddy. Six members of Niels' family arrived from The Netherlands the week before our wedding. Bailey's Dutch lessons began in earnest! We had twelve guests (both English and Dutch speaking) the weekend of the wedding. The day before the wedding, Bailey played hostess to about 50 of our friends for a pre-wedding BBQ. We had an exchausted puppy on our hands! In fact, the morning of our wedding, when Niels woke up and called Bailey to take care of business--usually met with enthusiastic bouncing--she gave him a "You've GOT be kidding!" look. After the wedding, Niels and I took off on our honeymoon and left her with the Dutchies. The day before we came back, a friend from church stayed with her. Since we've been home, she's been especially clingy as she recuperates and trusts us when we say that we're not leaving her.

I think Bailey sustained a head injury of her own this weekend. She was coming back to the house after taking care of business and tried to jump up both stairs. The operative word there is tried. She smacked head first into the cement stair and then stares off for a moment or two. Then rest of the day, she walked very tentatively and avoided the stairs. Niels and I kept a close eye on her and kept her up so she couldn't snooze.

She's doing better now, but I still feel bad for our Bailey Boo.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Learning About Grace After The Fall

The last four years of my life have brought incredible change. Four years ago, I was a single woman, living in Grand Rapids, MI, pursuing my dream job and counting the days to the publication of my first book.

Everything changed on January 21, 2004. In the early afternoon, I decided to drive down the street to the local convenience store to pick up a few snacks. I had just started a new job, and wanted to work late that night to really dig into my new responsibilities. It was a blustery winter day, with a sheer sheet of ice under the fresh blanket of snow.

I don't know exactly what happened, but from what I've been able to piece together, I tripped on something just outside the door to the store. It may have been a sign blown down by the wind, it may have been the slick icy surface. I know I fell. I know I fell hard. I'm not sure if my head hit the curb or the column. I don't know if anyone saw me. I don't know if I lost consciousness, and if I did, for how long. I do know that life's questions are not always answered, and God is not obligated to answer our whys. Sometimes we're left to life with the mysterious unknown, and grace comes from embracing the aftermath of our unanswered questions. One thing I know: though I have very few memories from the year or so following that fall, I know that my life has never been--and never will be again--the same.

My book did release a few months later, but I don't remember much of the promotional activities that followed. I was on and off work for the next three years until my very patient employer helped me acknowledge that the progress I made wasn't enough to do the job I was hired to do. I have been unemployed since May of 2006.

In the years that followed my accident, I was under the care of a neurologist, neuropsychologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist and a special kind of opthalmologist. I've also taken various meds to help my brain function and focus.

Last summer, I hit the emotional rock bottom as I realized I could no longer afford the home I loved, could no longer thrive in the career that thrilled me, and could no longer pursue my passion for writing. In the aftermath of a painful breakup, I wondered if I would ever marry. I made the decision to move to a new city, a new place to heal and grow and embrace my new identity as someone living with a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).

I had friends in Canton, Ohio. I felt God nudging me in that direction, so I made plans to first make extended visits, and eventually make my move. I put my house for sale, sold as much as I could, and watched my savings account continue to drain.

I've often joked in the last four years that God literally had to knock my noggin to get my attention. From where I stand today, I can also see that He needed to disengage my head to be able to capture my heart. Without my own abilities to carry me, I was forced to rely on Him, often through accepting the help of others. It was a humbling lesson, but one that enabled me to accept His greatest gift to me in recent years: meeting and marrying my husband, Niels.

Niels and I have been married for two weeks now. While the financial stress of paying for a wedding, honeymoon and two homes--my condo is still for sale--is overwhelming at times, I am beyond blessed that I married a man who can support me on his income, and who encourages my continued healing and hope that I will be able to again pursue my writing career.

I started this blog as a way of chronicling my healing. I hope to go back to some of my journals, to try to makes sense of my senseless thoughts. The words don't come as easily as they did. The rhythm and flow are more stilted and hesitant. The moments of clarity are few and far between, but the distance between the fog and flow are narrowing. I am learning to see the beauty of unfinished work, and God's grace after The Fall.