Today is Mary’s and my four year anniversary. Four years ago today, she and I met after work at Leddy Park for a picnic and conversation that lasted into the night. And we’ve been together ever since.
I won’t make any bones about it – it has been a rough four years. Only the first 1 1/2 years were before my injury. Hard to believe that sometime last year, we passed the tipping point between her knowing me before my brain injury, and after. It speaks to both of our dedicated natures that we have made it this far together.
Before my injury, Mary and I fought a lot. There was just something about the way each of us communicated to the other that felt like an insult, an attack, deeply rude – you name it. We both have great communication skills and are respectful – we don’t throw insults around, or anything crappy like that. It was almost like she was made to trigger every buried traumatic response in my mind… and I returned the favor. And then I hit my head, and I have never been the same since.
I won’t go over the next 2 years, because the less said about them the better. It was rough. Neither Mary nor I understood what was going on, why I couldn’t do what I expected to be able to do. My ability to control my temper disappeared, and when I was tired (all the time) I quickly was overwhelmed and felt like the world was ending. My guess is she spent a lot of time thinking I was an asshole. I spent a lot of time thinking she was mean and out to get me.
During all this we bought a house and moved into it. Neither of us had the energy to do more than get by at home, day after day. I couldn’t do any fix-it stuff, and Mary was chronically overextended and didn’t have the bandwidth to do the painting projects that I know would make her happier with our new environment. Our continued mutual discontent and conflict made each week, each month, a question of whether either of us wanted to stay and make it work.
And then a large metal can fell on my head in January 2016. That was the straw the broke this camel’s back. I crashed, and I crashed hard. I couldn’t compensate or hide my limitations anymore. Filling out the details of how my disability effected my life for SSDI was illuminating for both Mary and I. As we went through each part of the form, new perspective was found:
- Yes, I have to be careful and hold on to something if I close my eyes in the shower, because my balance sucks and I could easily slip and fall. I never mentioned that? Huh.
- I can’t read a book or write if you’re talking to me. I’m sure I told you I couldn’t talk then… that was why. Its been that way since my first injury.
- I didn’t make dinner because I can’t figure out how to make dinner. I mean, I can’t just “think” of something to do with tomatoes and ground beef — I have to have a recipe. I need help deciding what to make, and then I need step by step directions. The OT says it has something to do with executive functioning. Yah, I never mentioned it before because I didn’t understand it myself.
- Vacuuming, cleaning the cat boxes, sweeping, washing dishes can all give me a bad headache if I’m tired. I know I’ve told you my head hurt. Well, that’s what I mean. Hmmm… I guess maybe I never said that it was because doing those little tasks were too much.
On and on and on. A discovery for both of us. Her, regarding what was my experience. Me, acknowledging my experience.
And now it’s August, and our anniversary.
Something shifted between us in the last handful of months, something important and healing. Instead of different viewpoints meaning conflict and anger, we laugh and find a way to make it work. We are settling into our house, our land and making plans for the future, plans we both believe in. New plants for the perennial beds, a new (free) bench outside, new ideas for lighting and painting that will make our home even better.
I don’t know why things change – I expect it was a mix of things – but I am so glad they have.
Part of it is acceptance. Acceptance of who each of us is – foibles and all. Acceptance of the current situation, always changing. Mary sees my deeper nature and how my brain injury limits my ability to be an equal partner. I see the challenges Mary has to face and understand more completely what she needs and wants. We no longer take what the other says so damn personally.
Our garden is actually a symbol of how well we work together. We planned the garden together. We executed it together. We play to our strengths. Mary did most of the work of planting, because I run out of energy after a few minutes. It was her idea to mulch the heck out of it, so there wouldn’t be much weeding. Now, I do most of the plant tending, because repetitive small tasks are up my alley and I am happy to caretake living beings. Once I harvest things, Mary masterminds most of them getting processed into yummy sauces or pesto. Given our different strengths, Mary and I are a match made in heaven.
I am blessed to have such a strong, determined, loving woman in my life. We have both finally settled into this house, this land, this life. When I say Home Sweet Home, I mean it. There is nowhere I would rather be, and no one I’d rather share my time with.
Home Sweet Home. One positive outcome out of all of this head injury bullshit.
Home Sweet Home. Creating a deeper understanding and peace.
Home Sweet Home. Mary and I building a life, together.