Resting is a challenge. I never thought it would be – what, sitting around and staring out the window is difficult? Pah! Of course, I never expected to be in a situation where resting is what I’m suppose to be “doing” all of the time.
Resting is great, when there is the expectation of springing into action after a set period of time, coming back to the fight with even more energy and clarity and spirit. When resting successfully one day just means…well… another day of resting, it becomes a burden rather than a treat. It becomes hard to differentiate between one day and another. When Mary gets home at night, she asks me what I did during the day. Usually I give her a blank look, because I don’t really remember. Half or maybe three-quarters of that is my brain injury, the rest is the fact that I don’t “do” much. Usually if I did anything more significant than sleep, sit, or stand outside, it was to go to a doctor’s appointment or to maybe wash a few dishes. Certainly nothing earth shattering. Certainly nothing that makes me feel like I made a difference in the world. Certainly nothing to differentiate between yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
I feel my life dribble away, one minute at a time, with nothing to show for it.
I like to complete concrete tasks. See honey, I replaced the gasket and the sink isn’t leaking anymore. Look, I trimmed those bushes that blocked the window. Hey, I decided to put some new shelving up in the garage. At work, there are EPA reports or SHPO concurrence letters or hazardous waste inventories to complete. Discrete tasks that have a specific beginning and a specific end. Concrete tasks that have an end product that makes a difference in the world that I can see, feel, touch. That is satisfying. That is what I need in my life.
Brain injury does not lend itself to satisfaction. It really just doesn’t. Maybe I wake up foggy headed or confused or tired… or all three. I’d really love to settle down and read a book but today, for some reason, it’s making me nauseous to read. I’d like to check my email, but I have a headache and my head is buzzing and electronics will just make it worse. I’m too mentally slow in this moment to drive a car, so no adventuring. I can’t stand being outside because the sound of traffic is really bothering me at the moment. On and on and on, depending on the day.
So, what does one do when there is no mental energy to complete the task list, no physical energy to move about, and I’m damn tired of doing nothing? This is a conundrum that many brain injured people struggle with. Here are a few answers:
Coloring. It is soothing, sometimes fun. Let’s see what I can do with my $5 set of 36 colored pencils. Experiment, play, no deep thinking required. It held my interest for a few weeks at first, but recently it hasn’t been satisfying. There’s nothing I can “do” with the final product.
Shrinky Dinks. Now this is fun. For those who didn’t do this as kids, it involves outlining images on see-through plastic, coloring them, cutting them out, and baking them – making these shrunk, hard, durable little pieces of fun. This, for me, has been a keeper. Pusheen is a particular favorite.
The question is – how many hours can one really spend making shrinky-dinks? How many of them does one household really need? I know I’ll hit a limit eventually… so I try not to overdo it too quickly.
Crocheting. Pre-injury, I learned how to make scarfs. Since my original injury, every once in a while I’ve taken another stab at it. I don’t want to make scarves, but there are a million patterns out there, how hard can it be? Turns out, hard. Pre-injury, it would have been frustrating for about 5 or 10 minutes. Now, it’s frustrating for hours, days.
Reading “Ch 1, sc in first sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in each of next 21 sc (2 sc in next sc, sc in next 4 sc) 3 times, sc in each of next 17 sc, 2 sc in next sc”, etc, just doesn’t work for me.
I’m the sort of person who needs to mentally visualize and conceptually understand what is going on in order to follow instructions successfully. It quickly becomes overwhelming to me to hold a new patterns in my head, keep track of where I am in that pattern, and move forward with making it. And honestly, it takes too much brainpower for something I’m suppose to be able to do when I don’t have any brainpower.
And then, I met the Granny Square. A really fun, neat pattern that is simple and repetitive. Mary gave me a book that has the pattern with both written and visual instructions, which I referred to repeatedly while learning it. It took me several hours of frustration over multiple days to grasp it, but then I did. And now, as something “learned”, it is embedded in my brain and I no longer need to look at the pattern to make it. Success.
I quickly gathered all the yarn I have – alas, only three different types – and have started making granny squares with all of them. Mary contributed a ball of yarn she loves to my effort, and now I have six granny squares complete and one in progress.
Even grasping the pattern, I still make mistakes. I make too many double chains in a group (4 instead of 3), or my brain fatigues even more and I can’t figure out where I am in the pattern and have to set it aside. However, each day… or many days, I succeed in spending the 15-45 minutes I need to make a granny square. It is so nice to accomplish something, even something so small, something I can point to and say – yes, I made that today, that is what makes my tomorrow different from today, this small accomplishment.
What to do with all of them? Mary had a brilliant idea – how about I make a blanket? Yes! At first I was going to make each square the same size… but then I realized that would require determining the gauge of each yarn, and that is just too much for me now. Instead, I decided – what better way to symbolize the beautiful new pattern of my life than to make a patchwork blanket using all different yarns, all different sizes of squares?
A patchwork blanket to reflect the patchwork nature of my new life. Different, kinda wonky, but beautiful and functional.
Now, most days, I make progress towards my goal. That’s how life is suppose to be, isn’t it. One small step at a time to reach a larger goal in the future? Now I have an accomplishment and goal that makes sense to me, that I can touch and feel and that I will be able to physically use to keep warm some day. Having a task within my ability, having a goal to reach for… that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
Does anyone have unused quality yarn they’d like to send me?!? I’m looking for soft, or at least not scratchy yarn to crochet into granny squares to add to my dreamed-of patchwork blanket. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on facebook.