79: Love in the Right Place

79: Love in the Right Place

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries

Love in the Right Place

When we are no longer able to change a situation—we are challenged to change ourselves.

~Viktor E. Frankl

How I met her simply couldn’t have been a coincidence. My car was being worked on and, as is typical for those of us with traumatic brain injury, I lost track of time until somehow, from somewhere, the memory surfaced that I had a doctor’s appointment and now the car wasn’t ready to drive. I decided to hitchhike.

She was driving by with her black Lab Brittney and saw this man walking, thumb out and in need. She liked my face and had a good feeling about me so she offered me a ride. It was a very lucky day.

She wasn’t the only one who got a feeling that fateful day. Since my brain injury I have noticed that I “feel” people and their energy in a more spiritual and creative way. She exuded great energy and we talked so easily. I did make it to my doctor’s appointment, and when I got back home I wrote in my journal, “I met this girl today who taught me how to feel. She felt good.”

I had given her my card and she’d shared her phone number with me. But even though the impact she had on me was significant, I kept forgetting to call. She knew I had a brain injury and to my surprise I hadn’t blown it with her after all. A couple of weeks after we’d met she called me and invited me over for lunch. It was love then. It has been ever since.

As anyone who has loved a person with a TBI knows, it isn’t always easy. Most people want and need to look at the big picture of life. They easily see how things connect and are able to work through emotional issues and life events as a connected whole. That doesn’t work for me or for many of us with TBI—so I had to put our love, and the parts of it that arose, in a box.

This lovely woman in my life had four younger children and also an ex-husband who was seemingly unkind. The idea of someone being cruel to this wonderful woman in my life became a near obsession for me; I wanted to fix it or rectify it somehow but I couldn’t. I had to learn to deal with what had happened in the past for her or it was going to damage our relationship. I had to work hard at not getting overwhelmed. If something came up about the children’s father, I mentally put that information and event in its own box. I keep a lot of things in boxes. It’s a mindfulness thing where I need to look at something as a separate entity even though it’s part of something larger. It takes training. I learned to do it through meditation, which has been my saving grace.

Naturally, my new friend and I tried to have a typical relationship where our lives, time and living spaces were intertwined, but it went badly. I need my things in a certain place so it keeps me organized and less apt to forget. She needed more spontaneity in her quarters. It was hard, but the love was real. We finally came to terms with my need for my own space, separate from hers. Our spaces also each had to be in their own boxes for me to manage. Luckily she is okay with remaining connected but keeping separate places.

People with TBI may need to think inside the boxes to maintain emotional health and even love at times. And those who love us may need to learn to think outside of them.

~Pete Daigle

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