I’m glad 2016 is gone. Not for any dramatic reason, although there are plenty of those. For one simple reason – I’m tired of not knowing the year.
It doesn’t often come up in polite conversation. No one is like, “Hey, Kim, what year is it?”. Because people with normal functioning brains know, automatically and without a shadow of a doubt, what year it is. Even people with brains that are only limping along know what year it is. For me, however… knowing the year has been a serious challenge since my original head injury in January 2014.
2016 has been a particularly challenging. I don’t know why. It might have been the second bump on the head, the resulting crash and burn of my functioning on all levels, losing my job and the confusion of a new non-working identity. Or, it might just be chance, random brain injury weirdness. And really, in the end, does it matter why? No, it doesn’t. Not really. It just matters what is. And along with all the other strange little shortcomings and weird limitations, one of my things is I don’t remember the year.
Particularly 2016. Did I mention that? Ah yes, re-reading the above paragraphs, I did mention that. So, for all of 2016, my baseline response when I queried my brain on the year was “2015”. For at least the first half of the year, my brain was confident. 2015. Duh. As time passed, and more experiences piled up to separate me from my last proper 2015 year experience, my brain still offered that it was 2015, but was less sure, less positive. It was more like, “2015?”.
When that happened, some consideration was necessary. Hmmm, what year is it? Because one thing I’ve realized through this whole process of compensating for my limitations and trying to pass as normal… people get kinda freaked out if you don’t know the proper year. This is different for a few days before or after a new year… but by February, boy, you better be on the correct page or people will unconsciously label you as a bit looney.
As I said before, the saving grace is that people don’t ask the year. They just don’t; it’d be weird to ask someone what year it is. What people will ask is, “Do you know the date?”. And it’s competely fine if you don’t know it, because normal people wander around not knowing the date all the the time. So it’s fine not to know that. Ironically, since I keep a daily journal and because numbers are generally my friends, I often do know the date… plus or minus a few days. With a little bit of effort, I’m usually correct. It’s stored in my head as a number, almost a random number, floating in space “12/13” “1/9” “7/31”. I make a point to mention that it’s stored as a number because if you ask me the month, I don’t necessarily know that either.
These lacks don’t bother me. Not really. I’m often a very practical individual, and as problems go, not knowing the year barely impacts my life. It only bothers me because it is a sign of how far my brain still has to heal. And. It bothers me because I don’t want other people to worry, particularly Mary.
It’s only come up a few times with Mary. Perhaps once when I was joking about not knowing what year it is, or a day I was having particular trouble recalling the month. Mary would ask me in a falsely casual way, “Kim, what year is it?”. Her eyes would be worried, her face pulled into a slight frown. She tried to convey my answer didn’t matter to her, but the energy radiating from her body made it clear it did.
As I struggled to figure out the year – I’d take extra time to make sure I got it right – her face would get more and more grave. Tick tick tick. Her waiting, me struggling. Eventually, with enough time, I’d remember something significant that happened relatively recently – losing my job, getting approved for Disability – and know those things happened in 2016, so I’d get to the right answer. I’d say just as casually, “2016 of course” and leave it there. But we both know I failed on some level, because it took me too long, waaay to long, to come up with that answer. One second, five seconds to answer is normal. A good 45 seconds or a minute, my eyes looking back and forth as I shuffle through my mind trying to find the right answer… that is not.
I took the extra time because I knew the wrong answer would really worry her. I am confidently that my difficultly remembering the year doesn’t limit me from safely drive a car, weeding the garden unsupervised, and paying my bills. Really. But other people, healthy people, can’t know that. Before my injury, if someone told me they had trouble remembering the year but everything else was fine… well, I’d put an asterick next to their name in my head and add a note to my judgement of them *may not be mentally stable, or perhaps *not entirely here, or maybe *impaired, don’t trust. I’d still happily be friends with them, but perhaps I’d hesitate to lend them money or let them organize a trip.
If remembering the year is difficult, why does it matter that 2016 is gone? Good question. I told you that all of 2016 my brain defaulted to 2015. What I didn’t mention was that as the year wore on, and my brain got less sure of what year it was, there’d be some reasoning before coming to a final answer. The reasoning during the second half of 2016 went something like this:
- What year is it? 2015?
- No, that can’t be right… it’s later than that.
- Are you sure? Yes, definitely it’s later than 2015.
- What year is it?
- Blankness. I query my brain about the year and all I get is blankness, a foggy nothingness, a wall that doesn’t budge when I push against it. No help, no input, no answer.
- Reasoning steps in. Okay, it feels like a lot of time has passed. It definitely isn’t 2015. Well, I’ve been having this trouble for a while, and I don’t want to look like a fool and underestimate… so it must be 2017!
- Yes, 2017, that seems right. It’s 2017.
And so that is how my almost-immediate second default answer during 2016 became 2017. Because a lot of time has passed, so it must be 2017 by now, right?
And look at that, now it is! How great is that! All year, I’m going to be right. Every time I write something down, 2017 easily flows from my pen. Because my brain knew all along, it’s 2017. And now the world has aligned to make it true. For a year, anyway. Maybe by 2018, my brain will reestablish my internal clock and I will regularly know the correct year, without effort. Or then again, maybe not. Either way, I’ll keep sashaying down my path of healing. That is, really, all any of us can do.