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I just want my brain back…

When your greatest fear becomes reality, what do you do?

I think, you have two choices. Allow this reality to define or refine you.

Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.- Isaiah 43:18-19

I just want my brain back...

I just want my brain back ... that's the thought that came out of my mouth in the car one Saturday morning just a couple weeks ago.
I was on the way home from small group with one of my best friends and we were digesting grief when I said, I just want my brain back.
Then the tears came.
It was in that moment that I realized just how off I had been feeling since Joe's passing. 
Off from who I once was. 
Who I once was as Joe's wife. 
Who I thought I was becoming as I aged. 
Who I thought I was as a mom. 
Who I thought I was as a business owner. 
Who I thought I was as a friend.
Who I thought I was in honestly every single area of my life. 
I have written a good bit about this brain of mine and how grief has effected it, but I didn't realize how tethered I still felt in all of those descriptions.  I've found great peace in releasing them as my identity, but still, they linger.  They hold on and beg me to revisit for a while. 
Who was I in all of these areas, and who am I now? 
'Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.' - Isaiah 43:18-19
This scripture has brought me great peace, and great conflict.  When I consider forget the former things, do not dwell on the past , my mind automatically wants to go to the thought of forgetting Joe.  I don't want to forget him.  I don't want his memory to be lost.  His stories, his funny quirks, his voice - all of it.  I want to remember him.  I want the life that we built together to have been for something. 
And it is - without question.  His memory lives on. 
But in the moment I knew he was gone, I had a decision to make: Do I hold onto all of that so much that I go with him, or Do I choose to live without him? 
The choice was simple, and excruciatingly hard.  This choice is one we all have to make when we lose someone we love.  This is not exclusive to a spouse.  This applies to any great loss, whether it be a spouse, or a parent, or a child, or a close friend ... we have a choice to stay stuck in who we were with that person, or live with that loss. 
Do we live well? 
How do we honor them, and continue to walk forward? 
What does it look like to carry that grief with us in this new version of living?
How heavy will we allow this grief load to be?
I realize more and more that I will carry this loss with me for the rest of my time here on earth.  I'll carry pieces of grief and loss always.  But, I don't want to carry a heavy load of grief always.  I want the grief load to lighten.  I want it to get to a point where even though I know it's there, it's something I can put in a carry on rather than checking it.   
I think some would say this is a romantic thought.  I think some will say that grief will always be with us, and the load will always be heavy - and perhaps for some, it always will.
I disagree. 
For my life, I see grief now as a load that will (and has) lightened.  I see this as something that I carry, and that has given me a different lens to filter life through.   
I see it as something that has shaped and molded me, eternally.
Grief has changed me. 
I am not the same Laura I was. 
I am softer and more compassionate in spirit.
I have a greater empathy for others in their struggles, especially the ones they don't talk about.
I crave and need an increasingly large amount of space for quiet and reflection.
I thrive on less clutter, and a simplified lifestyle.
I cherish those who are there on the days I struggle, and check in on me when they haven't heard from me in a while.
I have a desire to life bigger.
I love bigger. 
I (finally) know who I am, and the One who created me.
...and y'all, I love this new Laura.
I really love this version of me that loss has given me. 
I know I shared a reel with these words in it this past week, but I think it needs to be said over and over again.  I love this version of me. 
I realize that sounds weird, and will sound to some like I love that I lost Joe.
I don't.  It's not the choice I would have made for my life. 
But, when faced with a choice you didn't make, you do have a choice in how it effects all your days after. 
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.  He sure has.
I have found a peace I cannot explain; but God - and in this scripture, I think God is reminding us to not only dwell on the past but also to keep moving forward. 
I think he's asking us to embrace the new that the past cannot provide.  I think he wants us to look at the past and wink at is because it has shaped us into who we are now, and to look forward in great anticipation for everything the future will hold. 
He knows.  He knows it all, and wants us to trust that look forward knowing that even when there are trials, there can and will also be good that come from it. 
The choice is ours. 
Clinically speaking though, I found myself wanting to digest this in therapy. I found myself wanting to understand why this was so stinking hard.  So, I did. 
I told my therapist these same words - I just want my brain back. Can you help me get my brain back?
I don't know for certain, but I think she gets amused at some of the things I say.  She smiled and took a deep breath, and explained to me that the 'brain' I had when Joe was alive, is no longer able to get back. 
That brain no longer exists, because Joe no longer exists in human form. 
I'm just beginning to learn about neural pathways, and what that even is.  But as I listened to her explain this, I got it with a bit more clarity. 
The way my brain processed and lived with a spouse - with Joe - is different now because there is loss.  It's different now because he's gone.  It's unable to get back to that point because life has changed. 
Ouch again.  The ever present reminder that I have suffered a great loss. 
My brain is rewriting it's path. It is learning new things, without that person. It is taking the simplest of life's tasks and rewriting how it's done, because that person is no longer here.
A spouse - the one on earth who knows you so intimately - is suddenly gone. That path your brain has written over years, moments, seconds even with them - no longer knows that same path because you are flying solo - and it needs time to forge a new path.
This is a big reason why grief lingers.
We have so many paths we lives in our lives, and with each new path we encounter with this new normal, the brain has to essentially rewrite itself, redirect into a new path.
This takes time.
This takes new life experiences.
This takes literally teaching our brain how to walk again, down all of these new paths.
This is a full rewrite of our brain - without that person. (mind-blown, literally)
What a massive ripple effect loss creates in our lives. The loss that creates a ripple down to our core. Perhaps though, this is the point of life, and living it well.  So that we create these ripple effects long beyond our existence on earth. 
I've long liked to think that our lives live on after us.  That our story, is just a moment within so many larger stories.  That our time here, will have a lasting effect on generations to come. 
It's actually comforting to me to know that this ripple effect we create, will have a lasting effect on generations to come - so it's up to us to live it well. 
But also, I believe it's more than that.  I believe the point is to live it well for the greater purpose.  To live it in a way that points these generations back to the one true creator.  To point all of these stories back to the one that knew just how it would all play out, and honor that in all of our days - and in that honoring, we show others that yes, there is a life beyond our human existence.  There is a eternal life that is given freely, if we want it. 
I believe, that is the point of it all.
So yea, maybe I thought I wanted my brain back, but I'm rewriting that thought too. Even as a I write this out, I'm reminding myself that old brain is gone, and this new one is magnificent.