Brain Damage


Here’s the thing:  I have a really good memory.  I mean, an excellent memory.  Not a great memory for facts or figures, but for anything relational.  That’s my framework and thus I always have somewhere to hang those memories.  My high school friends get a little frustrated that I can recount in detail what happened when they (sometimes) can’t remember the event I’m describing at all.  

Here’s the thing: my memory doesn’t work right now.  It’s working for skubula, and that truly frustrates me.  It feels like brain damage.  The only brain damage I’ve experienced directly is suffering concussions.  I remember nothing of my accident, for example.  It just isn’t in my memory bank.  Right now, neither are significant things people I love have told me.  I cannot stress enough how much this pisses me off.

Because here’s the thing:  Much of what I do works because I care about people and remember what they tell me.  I joke sometimes that I have no job skill, I’m just good at being friends. I’m only half joking.  All of my ministry, in every form it takes, relies on relationship, which in turn relies on my knowledge of the people in whom I invest.  

The worst example of what I’m describing:  a truly dear friend, a guy I’ve mentored for years and years, once closely, now as more of a peer and occasionally, told me his significant other was expecting and he was going to be a father.  That is huge news.  You might argue none bigger.  In fact, he told me way ahead when few others knew.  I was honored.  

And then I forgot.  

I forgot so completely that when he was describing his life, it threw me that he kept referring to his baby.  I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa–what?!?”  Which would be an appropriate response if I hadn’t been told the news.  

But I had.  

Now, I know several of you are lining up to tell me I’m getting old and this is a natural side effect.  I’m going to have an increasingly difficult time arguing against the first point, but I reject the second.  I’m not gradually having a harder time remembering things; at some point in the last 6 to 9 months, I just started dropping things, major things, with no warning.  Nope, don’t say “Yes, that’s how it works.” I’m not buying it.  

Here’s what I think, self-diagnosing as any good pastor/teacher/coach who knows little to nothing about how the brain functions must do:  some combination of grief, stress, and long-term impact of insomnia has monkey-wrenched my memory.  

Now, in order for this not to sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself–because believe me, I’m not doing self-pity, I’m angry–I know that A)I am not going through what people with serious brain damage do, B)most likely this will be temporary.  I’m fortunate and blessed in so many ways I couldn’t write a blog long enough to name them all, much less describe them.  I know that.  

But I feel strangely disabled right now.  I don’t know what to do with or about that (other than to vent about it on here, and pray…not in that order).  I have been isolating too much during our transition, and certainly this is one reason why.  It’s not just major relational things, of course.  It’s all the things.  Today I screwed up by forgetting what I told one of my kids I would do.  Kim will ask me to do something and I’ll forget she ever said it.  Yes, we’ve all forgotten to do something our spouse asked us to do.  But usually when this would happen to me before, there would be some glimmer that we’d had the conversation.  Now, like I said, it’s just a black hole there.  It’s like trying to remember when the Prado ran into me.  Nothing.  

I have no great conclusion about this, other than to repeat that I believe it will be temporary and, as with all such things, it teaches me empathy if I’ll accept the lesson.  I’m trying.  

Also, if you asked me to, you know, officiate your wedding or baptize your child or keep your darkest secret, you might want to remind me.  Except maybe the secret thing; you might be safe there.  


PS I am not a hypochondriac, probably the opposite, and no, I do not believe I have a brain cloud. 

PPS Bonus points if you can name the movie I just referenced there.  

5 thoughts on “Brain Damage

  1. Rich

    Hey I’m pretty sure this is all stress and transition related. You are back at an old but again new place, your friends in Nicaragua are in a difficult and even dangerous situations, your daughter has gone back there- I don’t know but knowing you it’s got to be hard being separated and feel helpless to keep them safe. At this point it’s not your job just continue to love and pray for them and plug into your new life (like helping the lady at the garage sale and spending time with your mom). As life gets back to normal I’m sure the memory and dropping etc will get back to normal too. Do things for Mike also – play Ultimate, disc golf, take a hike, go for a run etc. Love you Brother,

  2. Colleen

    Interesting and well-written post. I relate, although from different causes. Tim usually says something like “Remember you love CO and hate shopping?”

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