Thursday, May 26, 2011

the substance of me

I remember the moment I realized that I had an amazing brain that could reason.  I could put an idea into this contraption called my brain and I could manipulate it through the things I knew and then formulate new thoughts.  Amazing. 

I was five or six and I was instantly terrified of the power i had. Perhaps driven by survival instinct, my amazing brain instantly started telling me stories.  Scary stories, and over the next couple years I spent many waking hours in a living nightmare.  My mind told me that this whole world was a big experiment by some mad scientist and I was the specimen in the petri dish.  I believed that you were all computers and when I was not in the room you were watching me.  If anyone found out I knew about the power of my brain, or "the experiment" I would be killed.  I didn't know where I could tell the truth and often hid in my tiny closet and wrote notes on tiny pieces of paper. I remember once writing, "I hate my dad" and then freaking out because I did not know what to do with the piece of paper. 

Somehow I outgrew that fear.  My brain continued to serve in in what it determined to be my greatest good.  Over the years, my brain was effective at presenting information in such a way that truth was mutable--I could find the energy and story to make me always the right guy, in the right place, at the right time.  On the inside, my brain built protections around things that were better unexposed. I had a complex system of when, where, why, and what to share.  My secrets still stayed in little closets on little pieces of paper,somewhere deep in the confines of my brain.  

I started to accrue defining words. Activist. Teacher. Vegetarian.At some point in my life I got what I thought was an important job--I was responsible for 40 staff, had a million dollar budget, executive director, yadda yadda.  It is humbling to admit, but if I had a nickel for every time I said "40 staff," "executive director," or "million dollar budget," I could buy a pretty flashy car.  The complicated part is that I was really good at what I did.  I was even aware and mindful of ego and humility.

Last summer, I suffered a traumatic brain injury.  I lost words, memories, skills, and did not work for nearly three months.  I lived with the fear and the possibility of losing basic marking points of me that I thought defined me. I feared that i might stare at walls for the rest of my life.  I also spend an equal amount of time feeling how I was the same, whole me despite my short wired brain.  I realized the farce in everything I'd been defining as Colleen.  Colleen was the gooey mud at the center of me.  And that Colleen was always there, unchanged. In high or low places, fat, skinny, crawling on the ground, or backstage with rockstars. There I was, unchanged.  It took the TBI to recognize that I had defined myself by the things I had done. I realized it is easier to talk about the concrete things that are the substance of me than it is to simply appreciate the mud. 

In order for me to fully embody my truth, I gotta sweep out these old closets and properly dispose of the little notes, the secrets so full of shame that they had no where to go.  I've been carrying them too long.

And still today, my brain goes right into stories. . .As I write this post--my brain prods--people are going to jump to the conclusion that I am insane; what if this confirms what they have always thought?  Shouldn't I protect myself from the inevitable judgement?  Is this safe? How will exposure of truth harm me?

And then I soothe myself with the reminder that I know that I am okay. Staying present, and holding on to what matters to me is going to carry me.  Hiding myself hurts me more than anyone else.  Besides, if this ends up an insane rant clearly coming from someone who needs med adjustments--I got people that I trust to point it out to me.  And as for the rest of you, I offer the saying I have heard a thousand times before, "what you think is none of my business."

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